As a freelance writer, you will undoubtedly encounter different types of editors along your path to success; some good, some bad and some downright horrifying. I’ve taken it upon myself to put together a handy-dandy field guide to identifying these editorial personalities in the wild.
Great Editor: This editor is a dream to work with. Good for you for finding one. Do your best to maintain a solid relationship with this elusive type of editor.
How to Identify One: The best editors are equally as good at editing as they are at mediating, going effortlessly between the client and the writer, maintaining a clear and concise chain of communication. A great editor understands the difficulties and stress that can come with being a freelancer and carrying multiple tight deadlines and is able to sympathize with the life of a freelancer while keeping you motivated and on schedule regarding deadlines and revisions. A great editor will assess the quality of your work and will offer honest feedback on how to improve. A great editor will recognize your specific talents as a writer and will recommend you to future clients. This is a relationship that can turn into a great investment in your career. A great editor Continue reading Editors: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly→
Ok. Maybe you shouldn’t ignore them, but most publications put out guidelines that are meant to give the writer a general idea of what they are looking for–and what they aren’t. That said, in some ways it can pay off to ignore them, or at the very least, be ready for changes in the grand scheme of things. Now I don’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to items such as tone and subject matter. You should. But some things can go off the map, and it helps to know what those might be. In that spirit, here are some things to think about when you query:
Response time. If there is anything in the guidelines that you should take with a grain of salt–this is it. Response time can mean almost anything. I have queried pubications that say they get back to you within a month, only to have them call me out of the blue four months later. You never know what is going on over there, and editors are really, really busy. Sometimes they’ll hang on to your idea and make a mental note to get back to you, only to get sidetracked by another project.
Word count. I never state how many words I can write on a given subject, because I prefer to let the editor tell me what he/she needs. Ad space can bump article placement up and down very easily, so the word counts can vary accordingly depending on how much room the publication has.
Editor’s name and contact info. If you don’t listen to anything else I’m writing here, be sure you do this one thing…double check the contact info given in the guidelines. Editors change so fast it will make your head spin. Call the publication and ask who to send a query to, and be sure to read the information back to the person that you speak with so you know you have it right.
Payment range. While this can give you a good idea of how much a publication will pay, it isn’t always set in stone. Sometimes the guidelines are outdated, which could mean you will make less…or more. Some mags have cut back on payment, while others are expanding. Be prepared for it to vary.
Now…even though I said the words, “ignore guidelines,” please note that you should follow what you read in terms of crafting a query. If they say that some departments are not open to freelancers, don’t send a query thinking that you can get around it. If you notice, much of what I have outlined above relates to the business end of things, not the editorial itself. If they say they don’t want personal experience articles, you aren’t likely to get in with a heartfelt account of your last camping trip to the mountains. In other words, follow direction, but be ready for bumps on the road along the way….
Ever wonder what it’s like on the other side of the desk? Here’s a little list of things you never knew about editors, written from my own personal experiences as one. I won’t presume to speak for others, but you can’t tell me some of these things aren’t common experience among my peers:
5. Sometimes we read queries, cover letters and resumes before coffee. On Mondays. Try to connect the dots here.
4. Stephen King on Harlan Ellison; “The man and his work have become so intertwined that it is impossible to pull them completely apart.” Editors get like that, too. Especially when reading the malformed prose of people on the Internet.
3. We make more than you. Sometimes. Did you know some editors actually look at their freelance staff with envious eyes because the freelances actually make more than the editors harassing them? Again, try to connect the dots here. Envy, jealousy, and then…we read your work. Are we LOOKING for an excuse to use our red pens? Sometimes, hell yeah. Continue reading Top 5 Things You Never Knew About Editors→
Written by the editors of Book Review, Paper Cuts is a blog about books and publishing. Here you’ll find things such as book reviews in podcast format, author interviews and other great tidbits. I love the NY Times; it’s a great paper, and this is one web feature I think is a good example of value-added content. A step in the right direction?
What’s a noob? A Noob is a newbie. A newcomer. Someone who hasn’t quite learned the basics yet. What’s wrong with being a noob? Nothing. What’s wrong with letting an editor THINK you’re a noob? EVERYTHING. You may be new, but you don’t have to make the mistakes your fellow newcomers will.
Be more competitive and edge out those other so-and-sos but taking heed to these five freelance writing noob mistakes. Some are so common you’ll want to bite your thumbs off in embarrassment for even coming CLOSE to making them. Only one directly pertains to dealing with editors, but at least one other one will give you a serious competitive edge in your writing. Many noobs fail to heed this advice to their peril. Don’t be one of them;
5. Admitting up front “I have no experience.” Never lead off a query letter by saying you have no publication experience. If you don’t have any experience, just DON’T MENTION IT. If the editor ASKS you for clips, THEN address the issue. If your query letter has caught someone’s eye, you have a much better chance if you let them ask rather than wave a big, red flag.
4. Spending a lot of money on writer’s market books. Books that have market information can be a GREAT help, and don’t think I am saying NOT to buy them. I am saying that you should make your purchases carefully and try to save your money. Use the library, do your research online and spend wisely. You will learn many things from all kinds of books. Don’t invest in resources to find markets until you know the game well enough to understand what size markets are right for you at this point in your career. Here’s THE SECRET about writer’s markets: If everybody knows about a particular market and it’s well represented in the writer’s market guides online and in print, how many thousands of queries do you think those poor editors get in a single day? That’s right, enough to paper the San Fernando Valley.
3. NOT buying a copy of the AP Style Guide and The Elements of Style. I have been writing since 1987, I am very nearly to the point of bringing in six figures a year from my writing and editing work and I train and mentor new/intermediate writers. And I still use these two books regularly. They are THE resources you need to improve your work no matter how long you’ve been playing the game. These two books are cheap and short, full of the best knowledge you can get about the actual mechanics of good writing. Continue reading Top Five Freelance Writing Noob Mistakes To Avoid→
It’s true–I’ve been pulled back into the dark side. I’m currently doing editor duties for as as-of-yet unannounced online publication/e-commerce site, basically setting up the editorial department from SCRATCH. What does that mean? For starters, I had to create all the company’s documents and policies for the editorial side—everything from freelance writing terms and conditions and training manuals all the way to “about this website”.
Then there’s the part I truly love about creating new websites—hiring new writers. I enjoy this process so much I forget to pee. Ahh, sarcasm. It just doesn’t work in print when you write it straight. I SHOULD have put down that I tuh-ruhhhhly loooo-huh-huh-hoooove hiring new writers. That would have conveyed my utter disgust with the whole process.
The thing I hate most about hiring new writers is the deluge of wildly inappropriate responses from the online “help wanted” ad. I figure this must be my karma, since I have fired off too many blind queries in my day–utterly wasting some poor editor’s time with poorly researched pitches to magazines that couldn’t care less. Yes, it is clear that I’m being punished for NOT reading at least two issues of a magazine before querying in the early days of my career.