Wednesday, 9 July 2008

How to get published on the Op-Ed pages

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this decision to publish this letter yesterday.

A despondent writer
Dear opinion page editors:
I'm waiting to hear from you regarding my unsolicited submission on my experiences as an expatriate American living in Thailand.

In my wilder moments, I have imagined my little screed being circulated among your top editors, possibly even to the publisher, conceivably even to Pope Benedict XVI, President Bush and Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary general.

I have fantasized about their reactions: universal cries of joy, wonder and amazement at my scintillating insights enshrined in crystalline prose. I have entertained the pleasant delusion that you were waiting till you could nominate me for the Pulitzer Prize before finally informing me that you planned to publish it on your front page, and syndicate it to a dozen other publications, thereby making me world-famous and fantastically rich.

But in my sober moments, a little voice tells me that it is not to be, and that your lack of response is due merely to an oversight.

So go ahead. Crush my ego, destroy my soul. Tell me you're not going to publish it. I am waiting.

S. Tsow, Bangkok

It appeared last Tuesday, and I was thinking if this publication would make Mr or Ms. Tsow feel better. Clearly it was well enough written in the view of the IHT editors to publish it, but I wonder if they also sent him/her a reply about his/her op-ed piece. I am sure they did.

Having dealt with these pages, and been published on them, my sense is that they are deluged with submissions, and only efficiently get back to those that appeal to them. I could be wrong. Is this letter a way of telling all people who submit what to expect?

One thing I do know is that there used to be a persistent complaint about the quality of English used by non-mother tongue speakers (who am I to speak of this on this bang it out and publish without proofing blog?), and that due to the lack of editorial resources, and the problem of timeliness, there simply isn't time to contact writers with good ideas and credentials and work with them to knock their pieces into shape.

So my advice would be to do what authors have to do these days to get published: deliver a manuscript that is near-perfect and ready to go, or don't bother. It seems editors, be they books or newspapers (more understandable) don't have the time these days to edit what people have taken the time to write.

All that said, in my experience I received a very nice phone call from a very affable IHT guy, who walked me through my piece, made one minor clarification in the editing, and it was published. But it did take them a while to get back to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read the 'little screed' several times, and each time I had to smile from ear to ear. Bad news is hard to avoid, good news is sometimes hard to find. Perhaps the editors wanted us to find it in the last place we would expect it. This was a time-out, an almost overlooked oasis.
Eduard Hoenkamp, the Netherlands.