Monday, April 06, 2009

Question of the day: Was it difficult to create relationships with editors at magazines, and thus, create work through said relationships?

Hmmm, well, I guess it depends on your definition of difficult. :) The reason I say this is because creating these relationships is sort of like establishing your freelance career: they happen over time and eventually snowball, but there are a lot of factors that are going to contribute to your success (or lack thereof).

The first thing you have to remember is that you're going to have to be persistent. If you don't hear back (which you likely won't) from a query, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. If you have other ideas for an editor if she passes on your initial query, send them, send them, send them! Too many aspiring mag writers give up on an editor, and while sure, sometimes you should, many times, you shouldn't. You have to keep pitching until you find something that sticks.

From there, once you land the assignment, you need to nail it. By that I mean that you need to consider her instructions and deliver what you promised you would. Without careless fact-checking errors and typos and all of those easily-correctable mistakes that look sloppy. Your job as a writer is not just to hand in a great piece but also to help make your editor's job easier. Yes, I know this sounds sycophantic, but I don't mean you have to turn yourself into a slobbering servant, but yeah, you need to ensure that the piece really is the very best that you could make it.

After that, you need to be amenable to reasonable edits. These days, yeah, I hear about some ridiculous requests for revisions and no, you are not a doormat, but I consider two rounds of revisions fair game (this is just my opinion, of course), and even if the questions and red-lining are driving you crazy, that's part of the deal, and you'd be wise not to let your editor know. When I was really in the thick of my mag writing, I really did pride myself on the fact that there was very little editors could or would ask of me that I couldn't get done. And I think they knew this, which is part of the reason I was a go-to writer. (I am not talking about those last-minute 10PM "we need a total overhaul by tomorrow" requests, which I perhaps would conveniently not reply to until a reasonable hour the next morning. I'm talking about what I considered fair requests even if they were annoying and pains in the ass.)

Finally, I made it a point to be friendly with my editors. Not everyone is comfortable with this, but for me, it was only natural. I knew about their kids, I knew about their outside interests. And I really think it benefited me - not in a selfish way, like I was learning about their lives only to land work - but because it made our collective experience working together a hell of a lot more fun and enjoyable. You're a lot less likely to get irritated with an editor (or conversely, a writer) if you genuinely like her, and I really did (and do) like the majority of my editors, and I think they felt the same way. We enjoyed working together, partially for the reasons mentioned above (i.e, I worked my tail off for them) and partially because we had something in common other than the 750 words we were working on together.

So, all in all, was it hard? As you can see, yes and no. I also found that if I did good work for one editor, she was always happy to refer me to another, and from there, an entire network of business contacts AND friendships have been built. But it takes time and hard work. But yeah, it's entirely doable, in my opinion.

What about you guys out there? Easy or hard to build those relationship?


Cynthia Ramnarace said...

Great post, Allison. I agree with you on each point. Building relationships is the key to repeat business, and repeat business is essential to boosting your hourly rate.

p.s. I saw this post because you tweeted about it. The power of Twitter!

Lisa Bakewell said...

Great post, Allison! I think everything that you said is true. Building and maintaining those great editor relationships is key to a successful freelance career. Thanks for the reminder to touch base with some of my editors that I haven't "talked" to in awhile.