It's been awhile since I've written any tips for writers, so I wanted to try to give some insight into a sticky issue: Authors ask me all the time why they don't get another writing assignment after completing one.
If you ask an editor this directly, you are unlikely to get a good response. People avoid conflict. They don't want to hurt someone's feelings. If you're like me, you vascillate between providing constructive help and fearing a barrage of swearing, either on the phone or via email. (Yep, it's happened.)
In the interests of shedding some insight, I've decided to talk about it in general terms. Editors, like in most professions, want freelancers to make their jobs easier. The people who get rehired are the ones who need editors the least. The best insight comes from the last project you had with the company. Some questions to ponder:
If there were project guidelines, did you follow those guidelines? Note especially if there was a specific chapter structure or even sample text in the guidelines. Sometimes, you might think you have a better approach and you turn in something that you feel is great, but it doesn't match the guidelines. Did the editor then follow up asking for a major revision to better match the guidelines? That's a bad sign. We are not necessarily saying what you wrote is bad. It just didn't match what we asked for and needed. (Hence, more work for us to get what we need.)
Even if you followed guidelines, did the editor send you revisions two or more times? It may seem harsh, but remember that the fewer comments we have to make, the less work we have to do, the less stressed we are.
Say you had fewer that two revisions. But, when you got back the book for review in layout, did the text change significantly? One of two things is at play. The editor prefers to rewrite rather than give comments. Or the editor did not think giving another round of revision would net results. Either way, the manuscript did not meet expectations.
Lastly, and this is the hardest one to determine, did you wow the editor? Many authors turn in serviceable manuscripts that meet guidelines but just don't shine. Work within those aforementioned guidelines to make the best manuscript you can. What word choices would make it stand out? What perfect example could you choose to elucidate a concept?
As I was looking around to see what others had to say on the subject, I came across this post from Walt Kania at The Freelancery blog. It points out the subconscious gut feelings that lead to decisions.
I hope this post doesn't sound overly harsh. Work-for-hire writing can be a tricky business and anyone can have a bad experience. I hope this may help in future writing endeavors.
Gillia Olson, Assistant Editorial Director