How to Be a Writer That Editors Want to Work With Again and Again
Getting one piece accepted is great, but becoming a regular contributor is even better
Each of us has something that makes us feel like a real writer — maybe it’s seeing your byline in a newspaper or on a popular site, or saying that you’re a writer when asked what your occupation is, or for many of us, it’s seeing a wire transfer come into your bank account and knowing that it’s a payment for your writing.
Another validation that you’re a working writer is getting consistent assignments such as doing a series of articles for a specific publication as a regular contributor, having a weekly or monthly column, or best of all, having an editor reach out to you and ask you to write a piece for them without you having to pitch first.
An editor isn’t going to approach you unless there’s already a relationship in place, and they know that they can trust you to come through with the desired piece by the deadline they’ve given you.
Editors don’t take chances on people unless they have some sort of insurance or guarantee that they’re going to deliver.
One of my first consistent writing jobs came from one piece.
I read a news article about a woman who had married one of her cats, and I thought about how I could never do that since my cat would make a terrible husband. I wrote the piece up and sent it to a popular women’s site.
My piece ended up with one of the editors, Michelle, who loved it and published it. After that, Michelle became my contact person and we developed a great working relationship. When she left that site to go to another more prestigious, site, she brought me with her.
For a couple of years, I was a regular contributor to both sites which not only gave me a ton of clips, but it helped me to improve as a writer, and get more confident in my abilities.
As a professional writer, you want those repeat customers — that’s how you build your portfolio and your business. But you have to prove to an editor that you can professionally handle repeat assignments, or they’re not going to use your services more than once.
You want to build a reputation for being somebody who’s good at their job, doesn’t cause unnecessary problems, and is enjoyable to work with.
How do you establish a relationship with an editor?
You want them to associate you with a quality product and someone who does their job well and is easy to get along with.
Think of every piece you write as an audition.
You can’t rely on past performances — you must prove yourself every time. Make sure that you’ve gone through your article several times looking for errors before you turn it in.
Give them what they asked for.
Make sure that you’ve written the piece that was agreed on. If while you’re writing it, you come up with another fabulous idea that’s not what you said you’d write.
You have two choices; either you talk to your editor about the new direction you want to go, or you write the piece you pitched and save that idea for another piece or venue.
Be consistent with your submissions.
You’ve made sure that your article has no typos, misspellings, and is formatted correctly. Don’t forget to make sure that the tone, style, and voice of the piece match the venue.
It’s common sense not to include swear words, fart jokes, or inappropriate comments in a piece for a family media outlet or a newspaper that has a serious tone.
Make sure that all your facts are correct and that you can back them up. Never fudge the truth or steal someone else’s writing — that not only breaks the writer’s code but it’s illegal and can get you some serious trouble.
Respect your editor’s time.
The time for questions is before you start writing your article. If you have a question that’s crucial to your piece and you’ve already started writing, then it’s okay to ask your editor but don’t bombard them with questions — they’ve already got enough to do without having to hold your hand while you’re writing.
You might get the answers that you seek by asking every question that comes into your head but you risk annoying your editor and making them reconsider working with you again.
Don’t be more trouble than you’re worth in your editor’s mind.
Be prompt with turning in your piece.
If you’re given a deadline, make sure you get your piece in by then. If there’s an emergency or something prevents you from delivering it on time, ask for an extension, but don’t make a habit of always turning in your pieces late.
Don’t fight every edit.
There has to be some give and take in a writer/editor relationship. If you feel strongly about an edit, then say something. What you don’t want to do is act as if every suggestion, every cut, and every request to use a different word is a slap in your face.
Accept feedback with grace.
It feels great when you get some recognition for a job well done but it can be more challenging to take criticism and negative feedback. However, when you’re a professional writer, it’s part of the package.
Instead of reacting right away to a negative note, take a few breaths and consider if your editor’s point of view. Is that paragraph necessary or did your thoughts come across muddy and unfocused? Should you have taken another pass at your article before turning it in?
If you don’t trust your editor to make your piece better, then you may want to terminate your association with them before things become toxic and ruin your working relationship.
Be likeable but still respectful.
Don’t assume that you’re friends with your editors— you’re colleagues. Just because you follow them on Instagram or Twitter, it doesn’t mean that you know their life or that they’re interested in yours. If they want to know more about you, let them ask. Don’t volunteer information that’s too personal or it will make them uncomfortable.
Don’t make your editor regret hiring you in the first place. Make it so they look forward to working with you on an ongoing basis and building a relationship that will benefit you both.
In the end, be the kind of co-worker that you’d want on your team — someone who’s reliable, easy to work with, and who delivers the best product with little or no extra drama.