Things You Should Never Say to an Editor

Deni & Duck II

(Kate Flora writers: My editor, Deni Dietz, is a tough, no-nonsense editor who is willing to go the extra mile for writers when their books show promise. Sometimes though, aspiring writers go too far, as the queries below illustrate)

Wearing my Senior Editor hat—which looks suspiciously like a Denver Broncos cap—I thought I’d share some of my wonkier queries.

First… the “perhaps you should consider spell-check” queries.

1]    I’ll even gaurantee that my novel would sell as much copies (if not more) than those previously published by your company. I will even buy a number of books myself.

2]    I am certain this novel has potential. it’s not just me that’s saying this, it’s a number of people who have got to read the novel for the first time who loved it to bits, including a mature profeesor in English, which had seen many manuscirpts and done tons of proof reading in his days.

3]    Where once her unyeilding selfishness is veiled by the customs of tradition, her determined hostile spirit is LAID BEAR in her northern prison.

Next, my favorite “couldn’t help LOL-ing” queries.

1]    What goes through your mind when you discover your father, who you thought was just a successful business man, turns out to be a major HEROINE dealer?

2]    The HEROIN is confronted with the decades old cold case.

3]    She was rumored to be the real HAIR to the kingdom.

4]    God wakes up with amnesia, to begin the discovery of who she is and what has happened only to stumble on an incredible truth that changes everything she thought she knew about herself. With slapstick humour and keen insight into the irony of her predicament, God pieces together the traces of her past, from her childhood when she believed she was a cat, to her psychiatric sessions with a mysterious Russian émigré. My book is the love child from Franz Kafka and Alain Robbe-Grillet and I’ve sent it to tens of publishers. Interested?

5]    May I submit for your consideration my first novel, a manuscript of 130,000 words. It is the story of an artist whose best friend is a giant walnut tree—to the humiliation of his progressively hostile daughter.  Attempting to do the big leafy guy in with an ax, during a storm, she is crushed and killed under a fallen limb. Depressed and filled with guilt, Matthew experiences a religious conversion and an unexpected relationship.

Third, “I hope you’ll read my manuscript despite my dumb query” query.

1]    I have turned down two offers to have my book published because I won’t do marketing.

2]    (The typo is his!) It would take me over 3 hours to re-format my manuscript per the subsmission guidelines.  I am an attorney and that would be quite a chunk of my time, and my time is valuable.

3]    Please note that my book is NOT a “mystery.” It is researched historical fiction. Also the manuscript contains some “gaelic” spellings, not many, but those should not be put through a homogenizing process for mass appeal.

4]    The book covers middle age angst and naughty youth and needs to be pitched chameleon like to varying readerships emphasising what for each of then would be the particular selling points. The book would need to be perused by ultra busy people so the first few chapters have been written in a magazine style that allows it to be put down and picked up again. The cover of the book is probably the most significant selling item. This I believe should exude the idea of wealth and fame playing somewhat to the cliche of popular culture. In terms of the market it should sell for under five pounds, a price which the reading shopper would readily place in the shopping trolley as a non-extravagant purchase.

5]    (From a really moronic writer’s brief query-synopsis): He had to maintain what his boss considered to be a businesslike appearance for the sake of the law firm. And with a tight-fisted Jew for his boss Kevin knew better than to expect any other attitude.”

Next, the “I feel your angst, but…” queries.

1]    My book has never been published. I did send a query to Alicia Condon at Kensington Publishing and she rejected it because I kill off the heroine.

2]    (Writer’s response after I sent her formatting guidelines and asked for a one-page synopsis) Does this mean you are accepting my manuscript for publication once I fill out all these forms?  I did send you a five-page synopsis. Do I need to redo my manuscript according to your guidelines?  If so, fine, but I may need some time to do this since changing font sizes, margins, etc. may affect the layout of the book.

3]    Demi Deitz (note misspelling of first as well as last name!) I am unpublished but an ex newspaper feature writer, so while I have experience writing I am new as to how to get my book considered by a publisher.  I have tried to get an agent but to no avail. My book is a Psychological novel. It is the story of a woman’s plunge into madness and is based largely on my mother’s very sad life. Right now I only have a hardcopy of my book, but if you are at all interested I will gladly put it into the computer, although this would take me some time.

4]    I expect you’ll turn this down, but I won’t take it personally

5]    (I guess she’s never heard of the Harry Potter books, The Hunger Games, The Book Thief, et al) This is a just-under 16,000-word shirt-pocket version of a novel. Very handy for your readers to take on the subway, bus or to stick into their purse or knapsack.  These days, kids like “small”.  It intimidates them less!

6]    I hope you will read the entire manuscript since, in my own opinion, it starts very slowly and I have not yet, even after several re-writes, found a way to get around this. I have been told Part two is better than Part One.

7]    I have completed my first book. I am looking for a publisher and I am having trouble finding someone to take me seriously.

8]    If I format, I’ll have to proof the whole manuscript.”

9]    **Please note** Writing is a recreational pass time, along with traveling and caring for elderly parents.

10]    Please let me know when we can meet. Next week would be ideal as I will be off my meds!

And finally, my favorite response to a rejection (I usually state why I’m turning the submission down)  — “Thanks for the quick clear reply. Good to hear from a human for a change” — and my favorite LOL synopsis: “Not to give too much away but the lead character goes from bottom to top to bottom again and it’s quite the rollercoaster ride along the way.”


Denise [Deni] Dietz, bestselling author and Senior Editor for Five Star Mysteries, hid her mom’s hardcover GWTW inside her third grade reader. Caught red-handed, she hid her dad’s Perry Mason paperbacks instead. Deni is the author of the bestselling Diet Club Mysteries. Also, Footprints in the Butter, co-starring Hitchcock the Dog, and a dozen other novels. As Mary Ellen Dennis, Deni penned Heaven’s Thunder, circa 1893 – 1923, with an emphasis on Colorado’s silent film industry, and The Landlord’s Black-eyed Daughter, a paranormal history-mystery-romance. Deni’s Annie and the Grateful Dead is the first story in a recent anthology, The Sound and the Furry. Grateful Dead is a “pop culture cat,” and 100% of the anthology’s profits will be donated to IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare). Learn more about Deni at



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28 Responses to Things You Should Never Say to an Editor

  1. Deni, thanks for the laughs on a Monday morning! (or should I say, “mourning?”)

  2. Gram says:

    Wonderful new author for my t-b-r list. Thanks

  3. Lea Wait says:

    Love it! And “hurrah!” to Deni and all the other editors out there!

  4. Barb Ross says:

    Hi Deni

    Welcome! It’s so wonderful to have you here. Thanks for a good laugh on a Monday morning.

    Five Star, by the way is a wonderful, Maine-based publisher. They published my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman and I was lucky enough to visit their beautiful offices in Waterville. Yay, for Maine businesses.

  5. Deni Dietz says:

    Thanks for your comments, Vicki, Gram and Lea, and LOL Vicki’s “mourning.”

  6. Deni Dietz says:

    Thanks for your comment, Barb. The Death of an Ambitious Woman was a terrific book.

  7. Alice Duncan says:

    Oy, Deni! I’m glad you get to vet those 🙂

  8. jennymilch says:

    Oh my, I needed a laugh today, Deni and Kate…thank you! These are too awful not to be true. You couldn’t make them up. I mean, *I* could. But that’s because of what an excellent writer I am. I hope you will take the time to read my equally excellent ms even though nobody but my mom think it’s excellent but my mom is really smart…Sorry, couldn’t stop myself.

    This is my favorite: **Please note** Writing is a recreational pass time, along with traveling and caring for elderly parents.

    Pass time indeed!

  9. Terry Shames says:

    What a hoot! Thanks for sharing them. Priceless.

  10. MCWriTers says:

    Kate Flora:

    On the bright side of editors and writers, Susan Oleksiw, whose wonderful Anita Rey series is also published by Five Star, posted this rejection letter on Facebook the other day….

    Susan Oleksiw: I just received a very humane rejection letter. I think I’ll keep this one.

    Thank you for sending us “How to Fold a Spinnaker”. We appreciate the chance to read it. Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but we’re going to have to turn your piece away into the cold. Sometimes we’ve already got a similar piece, sometimes we’ve seen a few too many like it lately, and sometimes we’re just in a bad mood and feel better taking it out on you.

  11. Marni Graff says:

    Deni, thanks for the laugh in the middle of my day! Writers who want to be taken seriously: take note of what NOT to do~

  12. Pat Browning says:

    Almost fell off my chair laughing. Hard to believe some writers are so clueless. Thanks for starting my day off with something so funny. I needed that!

  13. Ellen Larson says:

    Ah, this brings back happy memories. Me submitting to you. You provisionally accepting me. Me replying “You read it!” You fighting tooth and nail. Particularly nail. The world is a better place with Deni Dietz in it. That is all.

  14. Janis Bolster says:

    Oh, does this list ring a familiar bell, but it’s easier to fall off the chair laughing when I’m not the editor on the receiving end. Thanks for sharing these gems. I especially like the lawyer whose time is valuable.

  15. Kate Flora says:

    Back when I was an editor at Level Best Books, where we had a 5000 word submissions limit, an author sent us a 7,500 word story and said that he didn’t think it should be cut, as he liked it the way it was, but if we wanted to publish it, he would “consider” doing some cutting. Needless to say, his story didn’t get read. Yes, we are all very attached to our work, but with agents and editors so swamped with submissions, refusing to follow the rules is a surefire way to ensure that your work doesn’t get read.
    We also asked for each writer to put certain information in the upper lefthand corner of the first page. One writer took the time to tell us we were wrong and it should go on the right hand side.

  16. Mark says:

    Those same authors must have self-published when you rejected them. Some of the appeals to review a book at Amazon I’ve gotten over the years are just as bad if not worse.

  17. Lil Gluckstern says:

    Wonderful. I can’t get over how clue less people are, and the sheer (as they say in my end of the world) chutzpah. So thank you for the laughs, and thank you for The Sound and the Furry. I thought it was delightful, and I really liked GD.

  18. Oh, my, these are wonderful flubs. Thanks for giving me a giggle or two today.

  19. As soon as I saw the link on the SinC group, I knew this post would be good for a few chuckles just when I needed them. A fun post, Deni.

  20. John Clark says:

    It was a pleasure to meet you at the Crime Bake. Thanks for a gaggle of chuckles today. I worked with a fellow ages ago who got excited every time the State of Maine settled a contract with state employees because he knew he was going to get a radioactive paycheck.

  21. It’s frightening how clueless some people are. These replies would be funnier if they were neither true nor so very common. Heaven help the reading public when they discover self-publishing!

  22. Just as funny on Tuesday. Thanks, Deni. 🙂

  23. thelma straw says:

    These are terrific! What a way to start the day!!! Thanks for sharing and spreading the laughs… I can see an article here, also, maybe for WD? Thelma Straw in Manhattan

  24. Oh, my, what a thing to read just when I am busy reformatting my ms to send to Deni! Makes me want to go back to the beginning and check it all once again, even though I’m almost finished. Guess I’ll take the extra day and make that “one more pass” because I don’t want to see myself in a future article.

    You’ve got me ROFLing on this Tuesday morning.

  25. Deni, thanks for taking the time to share all this with us. (Meeting Deni and getting to know her during several conferences has been one of life’s pleasures!) Radine

  26. LD Masterson says:

    I followed this over from the SinC mail group and I’m so glad I did. Thanks, Deni, for my best laugh of the day.

  27. Great fun! Especially loved the guy who thanked you for being human. I feel that way when I get lost in some company’s voice mail.

  28. sandy gardner says:

    wonderful! more, please!

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