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Sunday, February 13, 2011

10 Ways to Make Your Editor Lose Your Number

Sure, I've already told you five things your editor would love to hear, and five ways to make your clients love you. Let's take a look at the flip side, and talk about 10 things that make editors crazy:

1. Miss your deadline. Worse yet, miss your deadline and go AWOL. That happened to an editor of mine--not only did the writer fail to turn in her assignment, she ignored my editor's (increasingly upset) emails and phone calls! If you must blow a deadline, let the editor know in advance, and come up with a plan to get the story done as soon as you can.
2. Pester him too much. You already know I'm believe in following up on queries and LOIs, but I do give potential clients and editors a chance to respond. And I typically limit my follow-up emails to one, two if I've written for the client before. Then I move on.
3. Argue/complain/bitch. You know what? I'm just a hired gun. My editor knows her publication and her audience better than I do. That's her job. So if she doesn't think my pitch will work for her magazine, or wants me to take another crack at the piece, I'll honor her decision without pitching a fit.
4. Fail to respond. Yeah, I know that editors take weeks or months to get back to you. But it's different when she's gotten in contact with you. You need to reply ASAP--or in 24 hours, if possible. No, it's not fair. But that's freelancing.
5. Make it personal. This is similar but not quite the same as #3. Say I ask for more money, and my editor tells me she can only pay writers $1.25/word and I was asking for $1.50/word. I may not be thrilled, but I'm not going to blame her for something that's likely out of her control.
6. Call her. Editors hate phone calls. They just do. (I do break this rule but only in rare instances.)
7. Forget what he wants. Check over your assignment letter (or your notes, if you don't have one) about what the piece was to contain before you turn it in. It looks dumb when you submit a story that's missing a sidebar you agreed to do, or that you went 300 words over word count because your "3" in 1,300 looked like a "6."
8. Do sloppy work. Proofread everything before you turn it in. Double-check the spellings of people's names, that you haven't confused "your" and "you're," and that you're not missing anything. Yes, I've turned in stories with errors--small ones. But when your stories are riddled with mistakes, you create more work for your editor--and trust me, he doesn't want or need it.
9. Forget to say "thank you." She's probably got dozens, maybe hundreds of writers who would love to work with her. Make sure she knows you appreciate her. (That's one of those 5 things!)
10. Gossip about her. Years ago, I was in NYC having coffee with an editor and she told me about a freelancer who had resisted her suggested edits--and wrote a scathing email to her friend about it. Except that said freelancer accidentally sent the email to the editor. That's a mighty big oops! And a really good reason for never putting anything negative in writing. You just never know who might see it.

While they may pay your bills, editors are people, too. (Really!) Treat them with respect, avoid driving them crazy, and you'll be rewarded with more work.

My local speaking gigs last week went great, and spiked a bunch of sales on my book for fledgling freelancers, Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money. Thank you to all who bought it, and let me know here if you have freelancing questions that aren't addressed in it or Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money.

And don't forget, this Wednesday, Februrary 16, I'll be in downtown Chicago speaking at CWIP's Freelance Edge program. Next week, Thursday, February 24, I'm presenting on "Six-Figure Freelancing" at the Off-Campus Writers Workshop in Winnetka. Hope to see some of my followers there!


  1. On #6, in which instances do you break this rule? And do editors hate all calls? I am just starting as a freelancer, and in order to find out which editor to send my query to, I will often call the publication and ask. In some cases, I get transferred directly to the editor in question. Of course, I try to be as professional and polite as possible and keep my call brief.

  2. I think calling a pub to find out the right editor is fine; I'm talking more about calling to actually pitch by phone or persistent phone follow-ups. (And I will call my "regular" clients occasionally; sometimes the situation warrants it.)

    Hope this helps...sounds like you're handling it exactly the right way, in my opinion. :)

  3. Great, thank you for your response and your blog. Also, I have "Six Figure Freelancing" and "Ready, Aim, Specialize". I haven't finished both yet, but I've definitely found what I have read so far to be very helpful.

  4. My pleasure. And glad you're finding both books helpful! :)