Question of the day: I have a question about big-time magazines...Last year I got an FOB assignment from one of my dream publications. Obviously, I was thrilled, and worked my booty off to make a good impression, do what the editor wanted, etc. It seemed like all went well. But when the article came out, it looked 80% different than the piece I sent in. The editor hadn't asked for any rewrites. I guess I'm wondering...is this normal? Should I be discouraged or just chalk it up to the editing process? I'd like to send the editor more ideas, but am a bit hesitant to do so. Do you have any advice/thoughts on this?
Ah, yes, I have so been there, done that. You file a piece that you think is perfect, receive positive feedback, and then voila, rush to the newsstand when it comes out, only to find that it's nearly unrecognizable! And your stomach drops because you think it must suck.
The surprising truth of the matter is that often times, it doesn't mean a darn thing. Some magazines and editors - and the only way to get a feel for this is really through repeat work - are very, very, very into making it look like "their" mag, with "their" voice, in "their" format. These types of mags tend to edit just about everything, even from long-term writers.
That said, certainly, there are some editors who want their writers to nail the voice, etc, right out of the gate, so that they have less work to do (fair enough request), so sure, at times, this could be an indication that she wasn't pleased with the work. But, given that she didn't ask for revisions, I wouldn't necessarily infer that in this instance. It could be that once they had the info that you drafted, they envisioned the piece differently or as a box, not a narrative, etc, and it was just easier for her to repackage it. There are a lot of reasons why she might have changed it.
I think the best thing to do is simply to keep pitching her. If she assigns you something else, I'd just chalk it up to her/the mag's style and not give it a second thought. You could also easily send her an email and say, "Hey, I just wanted to be sure that you were satisfied with this, given that the published version was so different." I HAVE done this with one editor in the past, and she was totally pleased with my work (and I've since gone on to work with her many, many times) but had to make some changes to it for reasons that were out of my hands.
So don't be discouraged...this isn't a big red flag...and definitely, you can investigate and find out more. Anyone else out there been in this situation? What did it mean in your case?