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?