Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tips For Working With Editors -- On Your First Offer

When you receive a positive reply to your query letter from an editor who is new to you, aim for a long, happy relationship. Don't behave like a timid first date by overlooking a cardinal rule: 
  • Ascertain the word count
  • Know your deadline
  • Understand the expected fee 
If these have not been spelled out in correspondence, be professional and assume your responsibility--phone the editor and ask.
However, if in your excitement over a potential new sale you've skipped this ritual and wind up receiving a contract you can't accept, like I once did, all need not be lost. Pick up the phone and call the editor. 
  1. Don't rely on e-mail for negotiating. Always TALK to the editor who accepted your article\story. If necessary, call back until you connect; but leave on the editor's message machine if s/he is out of the office, only your name, phone number and the title of the article you're calling about.
  2. Always be polite and never phone until you are calm and have your viewpoint outlined succinctly.
  3. If a piece sent at the request of an editor is rejected, respond promptly, saying you are dismayed it didn't work out, but are pleased to offer [new idea] for consideration. Keep new idea short (maybe just potential definitive title.) E-mail is fine for this. 
  4. Wait a few days after the rejection notice, and then calmly follow-up by phoning the editor (with a SMILE ON YOUR FACE and confidence in your abilities in your mind ~~ because your voice transmits these) to inquire why the piece didn't come up to the editor's expectations.
  5. Keep your conversation brief and focused on the article.
  6. No matter the outcome, wish the editor a happy day and ring off. 
Exude confidence and be upbeat and positive. Remember, smile and the world smiles with you; cry and your cry alone. Never let 'em see you cry, especially on a "first date"!
What to do while awaiting a promised revised contract
Wait a week to ten days and then phone the editor. Ask if there's been a holdup for some reason. Even though I knew it didn't make sense, when the new contract I'd managed to negotiate didn't arrive promptly--within seven to ten days, I delayed and agonized, trying to convince myself that the editor was simply waiting to mail the contract along with the pre-publication review copy she'd agreed to in our negotiations.
Three weeks passed before I phoned to inquire, only to discover that the two editors who'd been involved in the article had not connected with each other while outside of their offices. Being busy people, the revised contract they'd agreed on dropped through the cracks instead of being mailed.
A phone call at the start could have prevented frustration for the editor and myself, and prevented my article from being dropped from the issue it had originally been slated for where it would have dovetailed with another article.
On your first date with an editor, present yourself as a writer who will not make the editor's tasks more difficult. Don't neglect your professional responsibilities. If you adopt that mindset, you're more likely to continue to land assignments.