One of the best things I did for my writing career was become an editor. Being an editor is similar to being a voracious reader, but really, it’s more active than that. Reading exposes you to a variety of writing styles, but getting the opportunity to play with unedited words on a page can teach you the subtleties of impactful writing.
Understandably, not everyone wants to go into editing; it’s demanding work to say the least. That’s why nurturing good relationships with editors will not only secure you work, but also teach you good habits and technique without going into the trade yourself. Editors are a valuable resource, so it’s important to start your relationship on the right foot, beginning with the pitch.
Start with a Killer Pitch.
The pitch you submit is, more often than not, your first impression with an editor. This is your sales effort, which is just as important as your writing skills. You need an editor to see the excitement and relevance of the topic you’re suggesting right away. Within a few short paragraphs, the editor’s reaction should be: Yes! I need to know more about this topic.
In addition to capturing the editor’s interest, the pitch should also convey confidence in your writing abilities and general fit with the publication’s style. Ensure that your writing style matches the publication’s by reading a few articles recently published by the editor. Crafting a quality pitch may seem like a lot of work, but just like a good cover letter, the pitch is necessary to get your foot in the door. When reading the pitch, the editor will get a quick understanding of your skill level, and if it looks like your writing will need too much editing work, they’ll pass up even the most interesting topics.
Got the Green Light? Time to Get Organized.
Once the editor gives you the go-ahead to start the article, write down all the information provided and keep a calendar with all deadlines in plain sight. With every new writer, an editor must take a leap of faith. Because you don’t work together in an office, the editor relies on the writer to follow all guidelines and deadlines without the gentle reminders a supervisor would provide. As a rule of thumb, try to submit articles the night before the deadline; you’ll be thanked for your punctuality.
Fresh Eyes Tell No Lies.
Submitting clean, error-free copy is important, and is especially crucial when submitting work to a new editor. Once acquainted with you, the editor will be full of hope and optimism that you could be the answer to their content needs, but if they spot a comma splice in your article’s introduction, their hearts will sink.
Avert disaster by having someone you trust peer review your work prior to submission. It can be quite shocking to spot a spelling error in an article you revised several times. Our eyes can become accustomed to the way we speak and often fill in gaps to create the speech we’re expecting while jumping from word to word. If you don’t have peer support, make sure to read your draft out loud; this will help uncover those “hidden errors” that our internal voices fill in.
Feedback is Your Friend, Not Foe.
Getting constructive feedback can be tough. The words look abrasive on the page, but remember, the editors that take the time to give you guidance see value in you. Getting an article published without receiving feedback is good for the ego, but it won’t make you a better writer in the long run.
Make Note of the Editor’s Style for Future Submissions.
After the publishing process is over, there’s one more step. Keep copies of your article before and after it was edited. This way, when you submit more articles in the future, you’ll be able to tailor your piece to the editor’s preferences. Does the publication use the Oxford comma? What format is preferred for writing numbers and capitalizing industry terms? Being mindful of these details will minimize editing time, and the faster a piece can be edited, the more likely the publication will contact you again for future work.