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Monday, February 6, 2006

How To Make An Editor Love You

I recently gave you some advice on feature writing but while lying awake one morning, I suddenly realised there were a couple of points I hadn't stated explicitly. I'm going to remedy that lack right now, and keep it relatively short and sweet. There are three ways to make an editor love you:

Meet the deadline

This is crucial. If you submit work late, you mess up the editor's schedule. Most editors only let you do that once before marking you down as a waste of time. If you're particularly well known in your field, you just might get away with it, but don't be complacent. The editor will be looking around for someone equally good who is reliable. Obviously, there are circumstances in which editors might be prepared to be lenient. If you're interviewing a major figure who has suddenly left the country on business, then there's not much you can do about it. Severe illness or bereavement will also count. If this happens, tell the editor in plenty of time so s/he can fill the gap you've left. The editor will appreciate your thoughtfulness and your understanding of the production process.

Meet the brief

If an editor commissions you to write a particular article or type of article, don't submit something completely different. S/he may have built a whole magazine or section of magazine around your article and s/he won't be pleased if you mess up her arrangements. So, if you've been asked to do something specific, do it - and you're likely to be asked to do more in the future. Now, we all know that writing evolves, so it is perfectly acceptable to ring or email the editor (well before your deadline) to explain that the article is turning out slightly differently than expected and to discuss ways of proceeding. Once you've agreed on on revised parameters, then turn in what you've agreed (on time).

Get in style

Make sure that the style and tone of your article is appropriate for your audience. The closer you come to getting this right, the more likely an editor is to think of you the next time there's a commission available. Remember to spell check your work - and remember to double check on the spell-check. Spell-check programmes do NOT catch all errors ('form' for 'from' is an example) so proofreading is essential. Keep your work error-free and you're likely to get hired again.

So those are my top tips for pleasing an editor. There are other things you can do, of course, such as having appropriate ideas for content and providing added value with your articles (in the form of material for sidebars or photos, for example), but the three areas I've listed are the ones that, in my opinion, editors will care about most.

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