Monday, October 15, 2012

How to Make Editors Like You

Hopefully there will come a time in your freelance writing career when you begin to develop relationships with editors.  For clarity: professional relationships, not elicit ones.  That's just not fair.  One goal of most freelancers is for editors to start coming to them with ideas so the freelancer doesn't spend all of his/her time writing queries that may or may not even generate interest (see last week's post on getting your dog to write your query letters). 

Yes, the best way to get editors to start asking you for articles, stories, whatever it is that you're writing, is to actually write good, er, well.  Funnily enough, however, writing well may only get you so far if the rest of your package (your professional skills, nothing else  - why is this post sounding more and more perverted?) is unprofessional.  In short, it doesn't matter if you're the next Hemingway or Pulitzer journalist if you can't meet deadlines and are a general jerk to deal with.  People just don't put up with that crap, especially if you're new to the publication.

Here are some quick tips on how to make your editors like you:

1. Follow up on your promises. 

If you say you'll find some awesome photographs to go with your fascinating article on sarcoid skin tumors in horses, get those pictures.  If you say you'll be able to get three professional sources for your article on how to house-train your miniature horse, then do it.  Broken promises from writers disappoint and mislead people and greatly shake your credibility as a writer.  They make editors wonder: if she can't get <whatever it is you failed to deliver>, is she really going to deliver the article?

2. Respond in a timely manner.

Freelancing is a business and should be treated as such.  Respond to questions in a timely, courteous, succinct manner.  Avoid social media vernacular such as "LOL" and "U".  Sound professional - an email response is still a writing sample.  This doesn't mean spend hours crafting a response to a "Do you think you could write this by Monday" type of question.  It does mean proofread at least once and also make sure you're actually answering the question that was asked.  Writer availability is a great asset.  If an editor has to choose between two writers and the only difference between them is Writer A always answers her emails and Writer B is just impossible to get in touch with, Writer A's got the job, no contest. 

3. Be honest.

Yes, in a query letter or in an elevator speech you need to make yourself sound good.  But, like, not necessarily Pulitzer Prize-winning good.  Unless of course you've actually won one.  Then, yes, you should probably mention that.  But for the rest of us, be honest about the nitty-gritty.  This means your experience (writing and real-world job, hobbies, etc.), your credentials, your writing abilities, and your time commitments.

4. Don't over-sell yourself.

This sort of ties in with #3 above.  Basically, if you've agreed to write a 5000 word essay on the intricate workings of the NYSE, you better deliver.  It's tempting in a query to over-inflate an article idea and if you can get an interview with the President, well, good for you!  Just keep in mind that you'll be creating a lot of stress for yourself if you really don't know that much about the NYSE, or the President.

5. Treat all publications equally.

Writers know not every magazine or website or literary journal has the best readership or nicest staff or most efficient payroll, but do not play favorites.  As you are starting off as a freelancer, every publication that pays you (and is reputable and fits your writing goals, etc. etc.) should be treated equally and professionally by you.  Every piece of work you turn in to an editor should shine.  It's especially tempting to get sloppy with web writing, perhaps because usually it's viewed as a less-formal format than print publications, but it's still your writing being showcased.  If you find yourself repeatedly slouching on the job for a particular publication, stop working for them.  It's clear you don't enjoy the work so don't waste your time.  Focus on other publications or projects instead.

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