(disclaimer: I have a great crew of writers and every week, I’m thankful that I have them as part of my team. What lies below are general comments and most certainly not directed at any of them. If I was referring to my writers, we’d be talking in person, not here.)
Early in my career, I met a few editors who made my life hell. They were mean. They were nasty. I think some even had green skin and horns.
Now 20 years into my career, I realize that those editors taught me rock solid, core journalism values. (And for the record, many more editors were patient. A special few were also a lot of fun to be around and were wonderful mentors).
Now that I’ve “crossed over” to the editor’s side, I sometimes wonder if I may be growing my own set of horns.
Good freelance writers are hard to find so when we find you, we want to keep you. To keep our horns from growing, here’s a Top 10 List of how to make love to your editor (figuratively speaking, of course):
10. File on time. Stuff happens, I know that. I have family and friends and pets too. Sources go on vacation, get tied up in meetings, don’t return calls — it happens. If you’re working on an assignment for me and something comes up, let me know as soon as you can. Don’t wait until deadline.
9. Check your facts. We’re human and we all make mistakes, but it’s your job as a journalist to get the facts and figures in your story right. Your reputation, my reputation and the publication’s reputation is on the line.
8. Ask me for my style guide. If I don’t have one, I’ll let you know if there are specific rules for you to follow.
7. Stick to the word count. I only have so much space and I assigned you a specific word count for a reason. If I ask for 800 words, don’t file 873 words — or 542 words. And if you do file a story that’s 873, don’t add a note like, “I’ve trimmed as much as I can, maybe you can do something more…”
6. Do suggest a sidebar. If you have some quick facts that can easily be made into a sidebar, I’m open to suggestions.
5. Every story should be your best story. I know some topics actually hurt when you’re writing the story. I’ve written them too. But I’ve assigned this story to you because it’s a topic I want to publish — and you accepted. I expect your best work.
4. Check your spelling. ‘Nuff said.
3. Follow up, but don’t pester. Many editors get hundreds of email a day and, I’m sorry, but I sometimes lose your pitch. Check with me, I don’t mind.
2. Tell me how to reach you. Add a signature on your email. You should do this anyways if you’re a freelance writer, but if I have a question for you, I don’t want to go sifting through business cards to find your phone number. And make sure you have voice mail.
1. Send a real pitch. Don’t send me a three day conference agenda and ask if I’m interested in a story. Focus. Craft. Sell.