How to Annoy Editors

Last summer, I posted an article, “How to Get Your Thought Leadership Published in Harvard Business Review and Forbes,” boasting a bit of our record in helping our clients get their articles published in those aforementioned journals and sharing some of our secrets for doing so. A secret I did not share was not to bother editors after you’ve submitted an article. Now, that may seem a small thing, but it can have big consequences and you ought not to do it. It never produces positive results, and it can poison the well for future submissions.

Editors do not like being managed. That’s usually why they gave up writing and became editors. So, sending them emails, phoning, and pestering them when they sit on a submission and don’t respond for, say, a week or two, is a mistake and may guarantee that your article will never see the light of day outside your own website.

As you know, publishing on your own website is an underwhelming experience – for both your subject matter experts and your prospective readers or clients, unlike, say, publishing in Harvard Business Review, or Sloan Management Review, Forbes, Information Week, or any publication that’s not yours. Why? Because everyone knows there’s no barrier to publishing your own material. Anyone can do that… and does. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. But when you publish in a third-party journal, your article has impressed an editor, and the people who read it know that and are similarly impressed. That’s what thought leadership content marketing is about: impressing people so they call your firm to speak with the author whose expertise has impressed an editor at a publication they trust.

If an editor has had your article for longer than a month, and you’re getting heat from your author (“What’s up with the article I worked on for so long, Fred?), or your boss (“Cindy, what have we gotten for all that money we spent on that article?”), you will be sorely tempted to email this editor who is (surely unintentionally) making your life miserable. And, after a month, it is permissible to drop the editor an email saying something like, “Just checking to see if you’ve had a chance to look at that article I sent you last month about the Internet of Things.”

And it’s also okay – even recommended – to resend the original article at that time. Things do go missing. Perhaps your article has.

But one reminder is all you get. After that, you should acknowledge the obvious: your article isn’t going to run at that publication.

Now, you could write that editor off, but that also would be a mistake. Editors are always busy, and your article may simply have conflicted with another in the pipeline. An editor who ignores a submission may not be polite, but he or she may not ignore the next one, and that’s what matters, not your feelings.

So, hide your feelings wherever you put the uncomfortable ones and move on.

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