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A new approach from the editors

Many thanks for all your feedback in the “Quality or Quantity” debate, below. Taking on board those comments, and bearing in mind the need to set standards high, increase the number of guides on the site, and keep editorial costs under control, we have decided on a new approach to approving and editing guides:

a) Those guides which we would have immediately accepted for publication under the current system (about 30 per cent of those submitted), we will continue to edit in the same way. One of the editors will also rate each guide (normally with a score of 4 or 5 out of 5), and add a comment explaining why they liked it.

b) Those which we are currently sending back to the writers for minor revisions will now be published on the site immediately. The editor will add a comment explaining why they think the guide needs improving, and give it a rating (probably of 2 or 3 out of 5). We hope that the writers of these guides will take those comments on board and revise the guide accordingly.

We think that this will mean that at least 50 per cent of all guides submitted will now be published. (Those guides which we feel are not of a sufficiently high standard to be published will continue to be returned to the writer with private feedback from the editor.)  We also plan to revise the rating system so that guides can be marked out of 10 rather than out of 5, though this will take longer to introduce.

We hope that this new approach will ensure that we can continue to maintain our quality standards (a vital selling point for the site), but also make our editing process more transparent. This will make it easier for the readers and the writing community to judge whether or not we are adding value to the guides. If you don’t agree with our ratings, you will be able to comment for yourselves!

We hope to introduce the new system during next week (beginning September 28).

Community comments (34)

Hi Nick

While positive feedback is appreciated, I think some of the editorial comment I have found on the site (and not just on my own posts) could have been better considered before being posted on a public forum. Having worked as an editor at the high end of the creative industry I fully realise that its important to get the best out of a writer, but I really don't think making crushing comments is the best way, especially when many of the writers are not professional hacks like myself, but enthusiastic amateurs. Talent needs to be encouraged not squashed.

That's my opinion

Simon

Hi Nick

I've recently submitted my first guide (I actually only intended to save it as it was not finished but submitted by mistake) Although incomplete it was published and rated an overall 3. I have since responded to the editors comments and finished the guide.
Will the rating be re-assessed or does the original rating stand?
Many thanks

Hi Nick

I've recently submitted my first guide (I actually only intended to save it as it was not finished but submitted by mistake) Although incomplete it was published and rated an overall 3. I have since responded to the editors comments and finished the guide.
Will the rating be re-assessed or does the original rating stand?
Many thanks

Hi Nick
I just want to reiterate Tracy Johnson's comment [ posted 30/09/09] concerning lack of responses to the contact link. I too have sent three emails via the "contact us" link in the last couple of months, about a problem uploading the photos [ no problem with the hotels links I hasten to add!]. Still no response.
In desperation I have submitted my article without photos and have heard nothing in weeks. I really need help on how to get these photos into the finished article, especially as I have some superb shots to share!
Having read through the above comments from other writers, I appreciate you have been inundated, but surely a response to keep your writers happy and give the amateurs amongst us some confidence to persevere with the site, would be paramount. I truly believe that once the glitches are sorted, this is an excellent idea for a site, but don't put us all off by ignoring us.........please!
Could someone please just keep me posted because I have another couple of articles almost ready for submission, but am naturally reluctant at present.

I'm sorry Fiona, I don't know what's happened here. But I have found your guide - submitted on September 21 - and it will be edited next week. Some of our replies to comments are getting caught by spam filters, but someone will look into it on Monday morning for you.

HEY GUYS - You need to fix your comments section as well - they dont even load in order of submission

Hi Nick,
Would it be possible to let writers know how long the queue is and when their guides are expected to be reviewed? I've had one guide sitting in the editors' inbox for five weeks. I have another ready to be submitted but have been waiting for feedback on the other one before sending it... They are both great winter sun destinations, which adds to the frustration!
Thanks,
Jon

Hi Jon
Just to let you know I've now had a chance to read your guide - if you click on the History tab on that story, you'll find the feedback I've just left for you. Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you - Andrew and I have had a fairly daunting backlog of articles to work through but now that we have some new editorial hands on board, things are moving along nicely and we're catching up fast!
Best,
Suzanne

Jon,

Thank you for your patience. We have a hell of a lot of guides to get through, but we are in the middle of a concerted push to eradicate the backlog. I hope you will hear back this week, and if not, then definitely next week.

best

Nick

I was relieved to read here that someone else had trouble adding the hotels, not just me. I thought I was being stupid, every time I clicked to add one, I lost everything I had previously laboriously uploaded and prepared, after the third go I just despaired and just left the hotels in the text body.

Now I notice in that piece - which is still awaiting approval - someone has actually added the hotels as links which is great. Presumably before long the piece will appear on site - I certainly hope so as I re-wrote the piece taking all suggestions on board.

I find the feedback really comprehensive and useful, like others my aim is to earn something - anything! - from a travel piece, and my view is, that anything in my "rejected" pile from submitting for publication could go on here - I am disappointed not to have the prospect of such comprehensive comments again in fact - criticism in such a constructive way is hard to come by. I am constantly being published (serendipities in Wanderlust mag, Guardian tips, Amazon Vine reviewer etc) - I am just gagging for some kind of recognition in the form of payment, am I being too demanding/unreasonable!!!???

Yes, apologies about the hotel bug. As Nick points out below there is a known issue with Chrome. But, to make matters worse, on Friday we discovered IE7 was doing the same thing... pub lunch cancelled! Needless to say, the IT guys are doing their IT wizardry and there should be a fix going live soon. Updates on progress will be posted here... simonseeks.com/report-bug

Hi Richard,
As you're doing a few responses, do you think you could take a look at my post below from last week regarding an article that seems to have been overlooked. It was submitted in July and I've yet to have any response, positive or negative. Many thanks

Martin,

Two emails have been sent out to you, including one in response to your post below. I fear they may have been caught by spam filters... In any case, I'm pleased to say that your guide is on the list for editing next week. Apologies for the delay.

Hi Nick,
Many thanks for the reply, that's great. I didn't receive any emails in my inbox or junk mail - but I'll get tweaking with those spam filters! Cheers

Maybe once youre already a 'writer' on Simonseeks you should get higher up the slush pile?

Worth asking Tracy! At least your're not staff; ours get pushed right to the bottom of the pile!!!

Some good news for you though... I was sat next to two new trainee editors last week and they really are motoring through the backlog, easing the pressure on our two experienced editors who have been busy uploading more than 1,500 guides between them.

hi Richard - it seems like you guys are having a major prob down there that you should maybe own up to. I told you weeks ago about the problem with loading hotels - I dont bother now with any cross-promotion until it gets sorted.
Two of my guides were part of that 'glitch' you had. Loaded at the same time - one has been posted for weeks, the other has been waiting nearly two months.
I guess this should demonstrate to you the answer to your quality versus quantity debate - If it takes you two months to read through articles - what customer is going to wade through the muck? There's trip advisor for people with lots of opinions - and I thought SS would be a quality forum - surely with your desire to sell writing seminars, the quality must be visible to your potential trainees

I've had a lot of help just by reading the comments on the latest guides. Have altered the quide I'm working on to fit the criteria I'm on day 10 today of my first submission - glad I looked at the blog and now know it may well be a longer wait. Agree you should change the 'up to 10 working days,' even if just for a while. I have so enjoyed the experience so far, and just hope my nerves hold out!

Maybe you ought to change the timeline on the site - it still says currently 10 days for approval but mine have been held up for more than a month.
I have also sent two emails through the contact link asking why the facility for adding a hotel doesnt work but have had no reply. I should get the fundamentals working before changing them

Tracy - I'm sorry about the delays; we have been inundated with guides and have just recruited four new copy editors to help us clear the backlog and get back on target as soon as possible. We don't have a record of your emails, but there is a bug relating to adding hotels in Google Crome, so it may be worth trying a different browser.

Hi Nick,
Would it be possible to let writers know how long the queue is and when their guides are expected to be reviewed? I've had one guide sitting in the editors' inbox for five weeks. I have another ready to be submitted but have been waiting for feedback on the other one before sending it... They are both great winter sun destinations, which adds to the frustration!
Thanks,
Jon

Speedier publishing of submitted articles is critical.

I have two published articles, and two stalled in what must be a very long queue (submitted in August and early September).

After initial rejection, followed by a minor re-write I got an Email saying my Cyprus story (A million miles from Stressville had been approved for publication.Several weeks have paased and I have heard no more, could you give me some indication of the current status of my story.

Thanks
Russell Andrews

Russell - we had a glitch in the email system which sent out a batch of incorrect emails and it seems one of these went to you. Currently your guide seems to be still in your domain - you need to resubmit it by changing the status to "Send for approval". Thanks

Apologies for using this section to make a general enquiry, as I know that is not the intention of a 'comments' feature, but I was wondering if you could tell me the status of an article I submitted about Baden, Switzerland over 8 weeks ago now. I have had no feedback whatsoever as yet, despite also contacting you over email. It seems you have received it okay as you have linked through the hotel recommendations and added the new map feature, but it has yet to go live and I've had no word from an editor personally. I know you have a large volume of articles to get through, but 2 months seems a long time, and I wonder if it has somehow been missed? Many thanks

This sounds promising but I have one concern: in the case of guides that are published but given a low rating; will editors revise their review (and rating) if the writer follows their recommendations? If so, what kind of time delay would you expect before the revised rating appeared on the site? It would be very confusing to have guides on the site where the editors’ comments did not correspond with the content or quality of the guide. Maybe a clear notification indicating that the guide had been updated since the review was written and perhaps a fast-track re-review process is needed too…

Hi Jon,

What we are suggesting is that, if the writer makes changes, they then add a comment to the editor's rating indicating what they have done. The readers will see that immediately and the editor will be alerted to it and be able to re-read the guide, hopefully within just a few days. If appropriate, then I think the rating could then be reviewed. Other readers could, of course, add their own ratings and comments too. In the end, an editor's opinion is just that - an opinion. What matters is what the readers think.

Hi Nick,
Unfortunately that isn't happening in all cases. I've had one editor who has reviewed her rating of a guide (Borneo goes boutique: a five-star island retreat in Sabah) in light of revisions I made. It was really helpful to know how the revisions were perceived by the editor.
Another has never responded to my reply; this is frustrating as I really would like to know why she didn't find the guide 'truly inspiring'. As far as I can tell, she has never revisited the guide (Sabah: mountain high to ocean deep in Malaysian Borneo). I even tried deleting and re-posting my reply to try and elicit a response but to no avail!
I've tried to make the guide more inspirational but such a vague comment and no subsequent feedback do not leave me feeling 'truly inspired' about writing for Simonseeks.

Jon, you have to be realistic about what we can do from an editorial point of view, and bear in mind that we have 650 writers using the site now, and over 1,500 guides uploaded with many more going live each day. we will try to re-read amended guides and review a rating "if appropriate". We won't be able to engage in a continuing debate about them. Jeanette gave you a four-star rating for your guide - which is pretty high. Another user has also rated it with four stars. As I have said, editors can never be the final arbiters, it is the readers who matter. I think in this case the system seems to have worked pretty well - let's wait and see what other readers think about your revisions.

Nick, thanks for your reply. I agree that expecting a continuing debate with editors would be unrealistic but if a guide can be improved it would be helpful to be given specifics. Similarly, constant re-rating of guides would be unrealistic but if changes are made surely that warrants a second glance from the editor.

Jon, you have to be realistic about what we can do from an editorial point of view, and bear in mind that we have 650 writers using the site now, and over 1,500 guides uploaded with many more going live each day. we will try to re-read amended guides and review a rating "if appropriate". We won't be able to engage in a continuing debate about themr. Jeanette gave you a four-star rating for your guide - which is pretty high. Another user has also rated it with four stars. As I have said, editors can never be the final arbiters, it is the readers who matter. I think in this case the system seems to have worked pretty well - let's wait and see what other readers think about your revisions.

Hi Nick,
With the new system up and running, I have found reading the editors' comments on recently approved guides really useful - they offer an invaluable insight into your criteria. But now I'm dying to know what they thought of my own latest guide... I wish that queue wasn't so long!

Nick,
this seems a very positive way forward for all parties. I have two question regarding point b)
will the editors rating and comments be in the public domain? and will the rating reflect the accuracy of the guide or the quality of the script?
Thanks

Hi Kathy,

Yes - the guide will be published like any other, with the editor's rating and comment attached to it. The idea is that readers will be free to agree or disagree with our judgments, and add their own ratings. And if the writer feels the comments are helpful, he or she can make changes to the guide accordingly.

The ratings and comments might reflect just one, or several aspects depending on what we felt were the strengths or weaknesses of the guide - accuracy, length, structure, style, grammar, presentation are all things to take into account.