We freelance writers thrive with quality, long-lasting relationships with editors. So we need to know how to keep them happy so they keep hiring us, and we also need to know what to do if one of our favorites leaves her position with the company.
I’m taking the perspective of a freelance writer who creates supplements and ancillaries for college-level textbooks, which is my main specialty. However, you can easily adapt this advice to your own particular niches.
5 Ways to Make Your Editor Love You
1. Ask for what you need before you need it
Examples for a textbook supplement writer like me include the old edition of the textbook or the specific supplement I’m working on (like an instructor’s manual), photocopies of page proofs, or PDF files of page proofs. Sometimes editors are off for the day, or they are in meetings, on vacation, or out sick, so don’t assume they can provide you materials immediately.
2. Be available for e-mail or phone communication
If you are going on vacation or will be otherwise unavailable for two or more business days, let your editor know, especially if you are in a crucial period of the project where prompt communication is essential. This means using a vacation response for your email, and perhaps also changing your outgoing message on your voice mail, if your editor calls you often.
3. Answer all e-mails and phone calls within a reasonable time frame
This doesn’t mean you drop what you’re doing when an e-mail pops into your in-box; it does mean that you check e-mail two or three times a day and respond promptly to time-sensitive messages. Whenever I can I answer an email as soon as I see it in my inbox. If I need to think about my reply, I save it as new so it will catch my eye the next time I check email.
4. Listen to suggestions with an open mind…
and with a desire to keep her happy and to do a great job on the project. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Remember, she’s answerable to her bosses, and it’s her company that’s paying you.
5. Always be pleasant…
both in writing and in person. Take the time to be personal, to inquire about how the editor is doing. And also make sure you do the small social things in communication that can make a difference, like signing off an email with “Warmest regards” or “Yours” or “Kindest regards” — the small things that can make a big difference.
So now that we know how to stay on an editor’s good side, what do we do when she leaves the company? It’s rare that an she remains at the same job for more than a few years. The longest I worked with one editor was eight years, and some only last a few months in the position.
4 Ways to Deal with Changes in Editors
1. Maintain Good Relationships
Rapid turnover is a very important reason for maintaining good relationships and good communication. If an editor you work for leaves her post, you want to know about it, and you want her to recommend you highly to her replacement. I’ve been very fortunate in my textbook supplement writing career that most of my best clients have gone out of their way to promote me to their successors.
2. Do This When An Editor Leaves
When you find out an editor is leaving or getting promoted, ask for the name, title, phone number, and e-mail address of her successor, and ask her to sing your praises to her replacement.
Contact the new person a week or so after the transition. I usually do so by e-mail. Mention the work you have done previously for the company, and say that you are very interested in continuing a mutually beneficial working relationship.
Send your writing samples and a link to your LinkedIn profile, along with your main qualifications, just like you would do when seeking projects from a new editor.
3. Find Out Where Your Editor Is Going
Frequently she’ll leave one company or magazine and then take a position with a similar company or magazine. This means your writing services may still be needed. Stay in touch and continue to ask for work. Don’t hesitate to ask for her new work email, or her personal email. LinkedIn is another good way to keep track of such important people (and you can usually contact them through LinkedIn using InMail or the actual email address).
4. Be Nice to Everyone
Make it your policy to always be polite, friendly, and professional with everyone you work with. Some people may not seem very important to you, but those people may eventually take your editor’s job, or move higher up in the company and be in a position to help you.
For example, the lowest person on the college textbook publishing totem pole is the editorial assistant. I’m usually working with this person’s boss, typically an assistant editor or associate editor. However, the editorial assistant position is the starting place for most people working in publishing. With the frequent turnover of personnel at textbook publishers, there is a real chance that this person at the bottom of the hierarchy will eventually be promoted and then be the one deciding whether or not to hire me.
What do you do to maintain good relationships with editors? And what do you do when they leave for another position?