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Writers, Editors, and Mind Control

I’m in the process of wooing some new markets for my work. The process is time consuming, frustrating (at times) and ultimately uncertain. So I feel completely justified in doing the dance of joy anytime I place a piece in a new-to-me market. Trust me, that new market smell? It never really wears off, no matter how many sales you make.

But I digress…

Anybody here remember the song “Make New Friends”?

Make new friends, but keep the old,
One is silver and the other gold.

New markets are great, but repeat business is better. It takes less time and legwork to sell ideas to editors you’ve already worked for. The key is making those editors think happy thoughts in association with your name.

Now, before you hit amazon.com and start searching for Mind Control for Dummies, let me save you some time and tell you it doesn’t exist. Yet. (It’s on my to-do list, I swear!) Controlling the minds (and hearts) of editors doesn’t require a self-help book. Here are five tricks for making editors love you.

1. Think like a buyer.
Before you send out your query, read it with a buyer’s eye. Have you covered all the bases? If you were going to buy the piece you are proposing, would you have enough information? Does it accurately describe the product?

2. Deliver what they ordered.
Imagine this: You’ve placed an order at a drive-thru, dashed home, opened the bag, and discovered that half of your order is missing or wrong. Chances are good that you do not feel happy-happy, joy-joy emotions toward the restaurant. Guess what? The same thing applies to writing. If an editor requests something based on your query, write the piece you pitched, exactly as you pitched it. Oh, and deliver it on time.

3. Get over the “Top Secret” mentality.
If an editor has questions or wants more information, share. Sometimes, even when you think you’ve covered all the bases in your pitch, the editor will still need a little extra convincing. This does not mean they are out to steal your ideas. It means that instead of rejecting you out of hand, you have a second chance to close the deal. The best way to do this is to be as detailed as possible when answering any questions. Avoid the urge to hide behind a potted palm and whisper secret handshake phrases like “The monkey types at midnight.”

4. Repeat after me: “Change is good.”
Unless an editor is changing your words in a way that compromises the meaning behind them, be agreeable to edits. The editor’s job is to make the work that appears in his publication look as good as possible. Think of it like the old Vidal Sassoon slogan: “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.” Let go of those golden words and do it with a positive attitude. I promise you, the writers who fight edits are writers that editors don’t work with again.

5. Don’t spam the editor.
Telemarketers make me crazy. I have decided they speak English, but they don’t hear it. You tell them no, and they hear, “Please tell me more!” I hate to be rude to people, but this is one way to get me to hang up mid-sentence.

The same applies to writers. Cultivate a relationship with editors that you’ve worked with by sending regular pitches their way, but don’t make a pest of yourself. If they reject a pitch, let it go. Spend your time developing a bigger, better, stronger, faster concept for the next pitch. You want them to look forward to hearing from you, not automatically reach for the delete key when they spot your e-mail address in their in-box.

Stick with these five tips and you’ll be on your way to controlling the hearts and minds of your editors. No hypnosis necessary.


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