5 Ways to Keep Editors Coming Back for More
The sad truth is nobody pays you to send out queries. While good query skills are a must for any freelancer, constantly crafting new queries for new markets can negatively impact your bottom line.
The best way to keep query writing to a minimum (and keep the money rolling in) is to make editors love you. Do that and pretty soon you can get away with writing much shorter queries. Maybe you even get emails from your editors simply offering you assignments.
How do you make editors love you? Sadly, sucking up doesn’t work. Being helpful and professional does.
Here are some great ways of getting — and staying — in good with your highest paying editors.
1. Style match. Have you ever excitedly looked at a recently printed article of yours only to get annoyed that the editor changed your lede or messed with your perfect close? Stop complaining and learn from it.
Take a half an hour to check your manuscript against what actually gets printed and study the stylistic changes that were made. Next time you write for that magazine, you can save that editor some work by more closely matching that magazine’s tone of voice.
2. Over deliver. As an example, your contract didn’t ask for a sidebar. But you realize that all the material you cut to make your word count hangs together nicely. If it’s your first time working for this editor, throw it in for free and mention, “You didn’t ask for it, but I included a sidebar related to blah blah just in case you can use it.”
A little extra work goes a long way toward proving you’re great to work with and are looking for ways to be helpful. One note of caution, don’t over deliver on a specified word count! Saying, “Hey, you asked for 1200 words and I gave you 1800!” is not going to win the hearts of editors.
3. Give ideas for other writers. It sounds crazy to send ideas for stories you know an editor won’t assign to you. But when you get to know a publication, you know which of their sections are written by which staff.
One magazine I write for has a restaurant review column that is always written by the managing editor — the same one who assigns me work. I found a new restaurant just a bit off the beaten path and thought it might be a great fit for the column, so I shot her a quick email letting her know about it. I had nothing to gain from it — except a great working relationship.
4. Respond quickly, but not too quickly. Editors love knowing you’ll get back to them on a question right away. But sometimes rushing to respond doesn’t give you time to present your best self.
Recently I sent in a query and got a response from an editor saying she wanted a slightly different slant and asking if was I still interested. It was a yes or no question, but rushing to send back a “yes!” wasn’t adding any value, not to mention it would have sounded a bit desperate. So, I gave myself an extra twenty minutes and crafted a response that showed I understood the direction she wanted to go and gave an example that assured her I could go there. I still got back to her in under two hours and I got the assignment. Give yourself time to send the most helpful response possible.
5. Recruit your own copy editor. If you’re right up against a deadline and you’ve read your manuscript a dozen times in the last three hours, chances are your brain is filling in details about how it should read and you’re missing some typos. Ideally, you want a manuscript to sit for a few days so fresh eyes can pick out the mistakes. If this isn’t possible, or you know proofreading isn’t your strong suit, you need help.
Pick your most literate and detail oriented friend to copy edit for you. Bribe them with chocolate, booze, eggs from your chickens, anything that will work. My personal copy editor is my mother-in-law. She has sharp eyes, and one published book under her belt. It’s also a good idea to have that person review the details you were given for the assignment against your piece, so you can get feedback on whether or not you’ve fulfilled your duties.
You may have noticed the common theme running through these tips: writers who make an editor’s life easier get repeat assignments. Do you have any surefire tips to win the hearts of editors? Please share them in the comments below.
Sue Campbell is a freelance writer, journalist and blogger in Portland, Oregon. She avoids query writing whenever possible and raises chickens so she can use eggs as bribes. You can contact her at http://suecampbellpdx.com.