Freelance Blog + success

Improving Writer-Editor Relationships

Last week, I attended a MediaBistro seminar on working with editors. It was easily the best course I've taken in a long time and one that every writer and editor should be required to attend. The instructor is an editor at Body + Soul, so she brought along extra copies of the October issue to hand out (gotta love instructors who bring samples!). After each student took one, there were still extras, so I brought home two copies: one for me and one for a lucky blog reader. First person to email me gets the extra copy (and yes, I'll mail internationally if needed). UPDATE: Steph Auteri has claimed the mag with her lightning fast response. Sorry!Now, I won't spill all her secrets (you'll have to take the seminar for the complete version), but here are a few of the most interesting points raised during the seminar.Not having to query is the ultimate goal. A couple of students lamented that they don't have much experience writing queries, because editors usually come to them with assignments. What a conundrum, right? Now, you can't always wait for editors to seek you out, but as the instructor pointed out, building a strong enough relationship and reputation that editors want to work with you is the key to long-term freelance success. Sometimes I get so consumed by querying that I forget this. I used to have a couple of editors who did this, but they've either left the publishing world or I've outgrown the publication. I think the best way to approach this is to seek out publications that consistently use freelancers (instead of the once-in-a-blue moon essay or feature article) and that cater to your niche.Asking for a column right off the bat is like proposing marriage on a first date. This would seem to contradict the previous statement, because every writer wants a column so they have a consistent, guaranteed presence in a publication without querying. But the thing is, giving a writer a column (or even a plum feature assignment) requires a certain degree of trust, just like inviting someone into your home or vowing to spend the rest of your life with someone. Until the editor knows they can trust to deliver consistently and on time, you probably aren't going to get a column or become a contributing editor. In most cases, the editor asks the writer, not the other way around.Just because an editor heavily edits doesn't mean she hated it. Like most writers, I can be a little possessive of my words, especially when it's a personal essay. But I will admit that often an editor's tweaks help make the piece even more poignant, powerful, etc. I can think of one instance where the editor rearranged a few pargraphs (without changing any words) and the finished article flowed so much better. I sometimes read the piece I submitted side-by-side with the published article so I can see exactly what was changed and make sure that next time, I nail the voice that the editor wants. Some editors, like the one who taught the course, want to see both versions so they know what level of writer they're dealing with and whether that writer can handle heavy editing if needed.Flickr photo by Nic's event

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