Magazine Writing AdviceMagazine, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

Working with Magazine Editors

Editors can be a fastidious lot, particularly when it comes to maintaining a professional relationship with writers. For starters, editors are—by nature—perfectionists in many things, particularly in language and communication. If you have poor communication skills, odds are that you're not making a good living out of freelance writing for magazines. However, even some of the best communicators end up going toe-to-toe with unsatisfied editors who demand more than the writer can give. In those cases, and when building your career as a freelance writer, it's best to know some good strategies in dealing with editors, including the particularly demanding ones.

Return emails/calls/texts promptly

Even if the editor took three weeks to get back to you regarding your query, be sure to immediately return his or her communication as quickly as you possibly can. Editors like to know that when they are working on tight publishing deadlines, a writer can be "on call" and ready to help at last-minute notice. This kind of promptness and dependability will certainly get you noticed and keep you on the magazine's freelance payroll.

Don't submit work with a lot of grammar/spelling mistakes

Even though a magazine has its own copyeditors, any writing that you submit will mean extra work for others if it includes a lot of spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Beyond that, it simply looks unprofessional on your part. A writer's first talent should be with language, including the rules of that language. If you aren't naturally gifted in this area, hire a copyeditor or proofreader to do it for you before you submit it to the magazine. It will increase an editor's respect for you as a writer and as a professional.

Help out when the magazine is in a crunch and needs someone to cover a story last-minute

This is a big one. As a freelance writer, it's easy to dream about seeing your name in the by-line of some great journalistic effort or feature article; however, it's not so easy to cover an event that anyone could write about—or worse, to write for a section that isn't given a by-line at all. All writers want the features and few want the other parts of a magazine, but the editor is responsible for pulling the entire publication together and will likely need your help in completing some of the less exciting work required to do so. If you are there for him or her in a crunch, you'll become a valuable asset to the magazine and to the editor, personally. This helps increase your chances of landing more feature articles and more recommendations from that editor to other publications or editors seeking freelancers.

Don't pester them

It's tempting to continue attempting to contact an editor when you haven't heard from him or her within a few weeks about an article query or idea. And we've all heard that persistence pays off—so why not be persistent about it? While this might be true in some facets of the publishing industry, it usually doesn't hold water for the magazine industry.

Magazine and newspaper editors are busy, especially at certain points of the week or month when the publication's deadlines must be met. During these times, editors do well to keep their head above water to get that week's publication to the newsstands on time, or that month's publication to the printer's on time. They certainly don't have the time to answer queries or deal with freelancers who are "persistent" about future article ideas. If you continue to contact them over the same query or idea multiple times, odds are you will be turned down when the editor finally has time to check his or her messages or email. If you've sent out a query, wait a bit. If the editor is a professional, which most of them are, he or she will get back with you at their convenience—and have a much more positive attitude about doing so.

Don't send an article or idea to several editors at once

This is a big mistake in the publishing industry, whether you are querying magazine editors, newspaper editors or book publishers. Many are friends with other editors of other publications and word gets around if you are the type of writer who does this. Only query one at a time and wait to hear back before sending your idea to another editor. If the editor has not responded within a reasonable amount of time (usually a month is considered reasonable in this industry), then write or call once to ensure that the editor received the query. At this point, you can politely request permission to query other editors if he or she is not interested in your article or idea.

Keep your communication short and professional

Although it might be tempting to write long query letters or emails detailing the extent of your knowledge and expertise on a particular subject, don't. As previously mentioned, editors are busy and simply don't have the time to read through multiple emails from overly verbose writers. The short communiques are the ones that are more likely to get their attention quickly.

With the right amount of patience, professionalism and ability, writers who manage to work well with editors will be rewarded for their attempts. In the business of freelance writing for magazines, once you establish yourself as a writer that is easy to work with, dependable and not a nuisance, editors are likely to send more assignments your way because you make their lives easier. Make their lives more difficult and you've very likely to never hear from them again.

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