Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Art of Giving

It's that time of year where I'm struggling to come up with something other than a Starbucks gift card to send to a few select editors. Sigh. I hate shopping for my own family, let alone editors whom I've never met in person. Do you have any idea what editors want? (Yes, I know, you don't have to send them anything, but....) What are some of their fave gifts? Least favorites? What do they want us writers to know?

Okay, I wish that I had time to survey my editors, but with looming deadlines and a looming uterus, I'm going to stick to my own advice here. If I find myself with some extra time once I wrap up my work but before the baby arrives, I'll definitely take a survey. That said, I think they'd be embarrassed to 'fess up because all of them say (and I believe them) that this is a very nice but unnecessary step in keeping up writer-editor relations, so I don't know if they'd want to gloat over their favorite loot.

I'm sure that there are plenty of you guys reading this question and panicking, thinking, "Holy F, I'm supposed to send my editors a gift??? WTF?? How did I not know this and do I look bad for never having sent one?" So first of all, stop sweating it. As I mentioned above, gifts are a nice cherry on top, but certainly not required, and you'll hardly be blackballed if you don't give one.

That said, do I send them? Yes. They're my way of saying, "I realize you have a choice of airlines to fly, and thanks so much for choosing ours." Only swap out "airlines" for "writers," and swap out "ours" for "me." The thing of it is, that I AM truly grateful every single damn time that an editor sends work my way. I'm flattered and surprised and just really appreciative (and no, I'm not just saying this - I mean it 1000 times over), and while I always thank them when they do send me an assignment, this is my small way of saying "thanks once again."

What do I send? It depends on how well I know the editor, but generally, I keep it pretty simple since the holidays are crazy enough to begin with. Yes, the Starbucks card is a good stand-by. You might be sick of it, but I do know that editors appreciate it. I had one editor tell a colleague (who then told me) that every time she went to Starbucks and used the card, she thought of me. So clearly, in that sense, it's not only getting good use, but it's also a smart marketing tool. I'm also a big fan of Sephora gift cards: I've gotten a lot of raving thank-you notes from editors who enjoy being able to essentially treat themselves to a freebie lipstick. Amazon gift cards are also a smart route: you can buy anything on Amazon these days, so you know your editor will find something to suit his or her tastes. Of course, there are more personal gifts too: something for a pregnant mom, a hat for a rabid sports fan, etc. Truthfully, I think that in all of these cases, it really is the thought that counts - simply taking a second to acknowledge your editor, whether it's with a more generic gift card or with a personalized present, is what matters.

By the way, I have had a few editors return gifts in the past because their company's policy dictated that they had to. Don't be offended if this happens.

How much should you spend? I'm pretty sure that a lot of companies have requirements as to how expensive a gift can be in order for an editor to accept it (or regretfully turn it down), and I very vaguely recall that there's an IRS write-off limit that mandates you spend less than approx $25 (or in that ballpark), so I usually spend about $20 per editor. Can it add up? YES. But is it an investment that almost always pays off? Double yes. Not only do I often receive assignments from them (again, which isn't the point but isn't a bad result either), I really do believe that little things like these can bolster a relationship.

Finally, if you don't have the money to spend, don't worry about it! A nice holiday card with a "thank you for thinking of me this past year" is equally effective. Again, it's about the message, not the money. As every writer knows, sometimes it's just nice to feel appreciated, and editors are no different.

So...what have you guys given in the past? Favorite gifts to give?


Anonymous said...

I haven't given this, but just came across it this morning, and thought I'd share it with ya'll.

Mastercard is now offering personalized gift cards in increments as low as $10.

I thought this was a GREAT idea -- like the Amex gift cards but new so not overdone.


Dawn said...

Last year I sent Regal Cinemas certificates. I'm not sure yet about this year, but I love the Sephora idea!

Anonymous said...

Great thread! I've been thinking about what to get editors this year and I needed some "fresh" ideas.

I sent Starbucks cards last year and got great responses.

I'm curious to see what others have to say.


Trish Ryan said...

Great point about the simple gifts (Starbucks, Amazon) being the best. I'd rather give something I KNOW an editor will use than some bizarre thing that will make them say, "I wish she'd have just sent the $20!" (Not that I've ever received a gift like that or anything...never...)

Judi Ketteler said...

I actually made some little purses for some of my editors at the shelter publications I write for (it seemed appropriate since I write about design and craftiness and the like). Most of them actually called me to thank me because they were so excited about it! It didn't cost hardly anything to make b/c I used scrap fabric I already had, but it did take time.

If you're at all into being crafty and have an extra time (like any of us really do, I know), a simple handmade gift can be great. But I know that's not always possible. I go the giftcard route for my other editors b/c then they can spend the $ on what they truly want, versus me sending them candy, etc.

Oh, and I usually have a formula for who I send gifts to versus just cards (like if I made more than xx dollars from that editor, i'll send a gift, but if I've only worked for them once or twice, I might just send a card).

Great thread, Allison!


Princess Scientist said...

So what's the opinion on baked goods? Do you worry about dieters, wheat allergies, or hungry receptionists (this happened at a company I worked for). I was thinking of just doing some baking, but I just see pitfalls there...

Anonymous said...

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate...

Anonymous said...

I am a firm believer that you can never go wrong with Starbucks gift cards. The Sephora gift cards are a great idea too! I hate to shop, but I will admit that I love to browse through that store.


Anonymous said...

No idea what to give an editor, but you could give a little girl...