Freelance writers and editors often are portrayed as having an adversarial relationship. The long suffering writer has to bow down to the editor – supreme being of a publication. The editor has unfair demands and a fickle finger. One minute you’re in, the next you’re a kill fee.
On the other side, editors are rumored to be workaholics who have so much to balance and not enough time to do it. They are besieged by freelancers who keep spelling the editor’s name wrong and while mass pitching 1000 word/$5 per word pieces. They juggle writers who miss deadlines and who those who can’t tell the difference between a lede and a monologue. Chronically busy, they try their best to shoot off quick, kind notices of rejection or acceptance, but get harassed about the time they took to respond or the brevity of the response.
In actuality, the relationship between freelancer and editor is symbiotic, built on trust, mutual respect and often, long developed friendship. When this favorable and friendly relationship comes to a professional end the results can be mixed.
Editors switch publications, leave the business or take off for their own ventures almost monthly. One of the reasons why writing veterans tell newbies to check and double check an editor’s name and position is because by the time the publication comes out, especially in magazines, the editor listed could no longer be there.
So how do you deal with the new bloke that has filled your beloved editor’s shoes? With respect and courtesy. While surely your previous editor has filled them in on the great writers in the stable, you don’t have the same ‘star quality’ you once held with your friend. The new editor is not looking for a new BFF, they just want to get in, get settled and bring their vision to the job.
1. Be Open.
The vision the new editor has may include writers they’ve worked with at other publications. I can’t tell you how many times an editor of mine’s has moved only to call me up for a gig at their new publication. If you start seeing new bylines, don’t get your nose out of joint, just be prepared. Your steady gig with X Magazine may dry up or at least slow up some. Be prepared to show your stuff in any articles you have with the new editor and start looking to line up something else in case things don’t work out well.
2. Be Nice.
The first time you contact the editor it should be a quick hello and introduction. Don’t treat them like a visitor. Don’t treat them like the enemy. When you do contact them with a query, you can refer to a previous piece you did for the magazine, but only if it is relavent to the current query.
One thing editors hate is for writers to act as if they are entitled to continue to write for the publication simply because they are a “regular.”
3. Be Professional.
Your editor friend may understand your risky deadline behavior or doesn’t mind when you call them ‘homie,’ but your new editor may not appreciate you getting too familiar too soon. They don’t know how you always turn in a fab article at 5 p.m. on deadline day, they might freak at noon.
Be mindful of push back. Your new editor will have a different style and approach to their job. A professional takes critique and uses it to produce work the editor wants. A dork will take a critique, read criticism into it and whine about how the other editor LOVED when they did x, y, and z. And yes, I said dork.
Relationships are great in the writing world. They open doors and present opportunities, they are also in a constant state of flux – at least professionally. Being adaptable is what sets the professionals apart from the hobbyists.
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