Editor Etiquette

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Showing gratitude for hard-working writers is an important part of an editor's job.
One of the many ways I make a living in the publishing industry is to work as a contract editor for a bi-monthly parenting magazine. For this job, I wear hats of all types. I assign articles, write copy, edit articles once they are turned in, proofread the layout two to three times, assign photography, and write all photo captions. It’s a lot of work, and I have to be completely honest and admit that I sometimes have a hard time juggling the little details that keep the process running smoothly.

While at the gym the other day (why do I always get my best ideas while exercising?) the idea of “editor etiquette” came to me. As a freelance writer, there are certain qualities that keep me working with the same editors over and over. But on the flip side, am I the type of editor writers want to work with as well?

Each year, I make a list of professional writing goals for the coming year. This year, I also want to add a few goals to make myself a better magazine editor, such as these:

1. Confirm receipt of articles as soon as they hit my inbox. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I am guilty of receiving articles, immediately proofreading and saving them to the current issue folder and then moving on. There are times when I’ve had conscientious writers e-mail me a few days later asking if I had received their articles because they hadn’t heard from me. All it takes is a simple “Thank you!” reply e-mail to set a writer’s mind at ease.
2. Make your expectations clear. When I assign an article, I let the writer know what type of word count I’m looking for, whether it is a service article, essay, profile, or interview, how many and what type of sources are needed, and deadline. Also, if the publication you work for has a style guide, send a copy of it to the writer so he can format the article properly before turning it in to you.
3. Be appreciative. If a writer outlines an extensive article pitch, express your appreciation and follow through with an assignment. If you think a writer turned in a well-researched piece, let her know. If she turned it in well before deadline with everything you asked for and more, send her a special note of thanks. Small gestures go a long way when developing professional relationships.
4. Follow up appropriately. When you send an article assignment to a writer, don't assume he has accepted the piece until you get a response. These days, everyone has multiple e-mail addresses and freelance writers could be traveling or have your assignment hoisted by a spam filter. Don't wait until the production deadline to check in with a writer you haven't spoken to in weeks.
5. Stay on top of invoicing. Invoicing is one of those little details that can easily fall through the cracks for me. I am responsible for getting invoices from my writers, submitting them for payment once an issue has gone to press, and then following up if a writer doesn’t receive payment. Making sure you do everything in your power to make sure a writer gets paid in full and on time is probably one of the most professional courtesies you can extend.

All of the above might seem minor, but they can quickly add up to make you  come across as an organized editor who is always on the ball or a flaky one. As one of my colleagues said when I asked about editor etiquette on Facebook, “I think it’s important to let writers/art directors how much you appreciate what they do. I also think it’s wise to explain to writers exactly what you're looking for in a story.”

If you are an editor of any kind, what do you think are the most important qualities you can offer? And if you are a freelance writer, how do your editors go above and beyond the call of duty?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor of Little Ones Magazine. She also works as a blog tour manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Right now she is currently booking tours for children’s author Fiona Ingram’s book The Search for the Stone of Excalibur and Myrna J. Smith’s memoir God and Other Men: Religion, Romance, and the Search for Self-Love. Contact her at renee@wow-womenonwriting.com if you’re interested in hosting either of these two authors.


Cathy C. Hall said...

I'm well aware that editors are busy folks so I don't expect personal responses but gosh, I sure love it when an editor takes the time to express a "Job well done!" or a "No, thanks, this time but try me again."

(And P.S. Your quote reminded me of this favorite of mine: “Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
― A.A. Milne
I think Christopher Robin said that to Pooh. :-)

Happy New Year, Renee!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--Dream editors go easy with their red pen. By that, I mean they don't change the sound of my voice with their revisions/editing.

It sounds like you are a wonderful editor.

Renee Roberson said...

@Cathy, that quote is rather "Pooh" like, isn't it? I love it! Personally, the biggest compliment an editor can give me is to assign me work regularly!

@Sioux, I consider myself a gentle editor with magazine articles and essays. I always tell people I might fix grammatical and style errors, or reorganize paragraphs or change a headline, but I definitely try to leave a writer's voice intact. For me, I love when an editor mixes constructive criticism in my fiction writing with what they like about the work, too. It's nice to have a good balance of both!

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

I love this topic. I addressed it in a former blog post at my site. Unfortunately, not all editors adhere to the things you've mentioned. Which brings to mind a relevant quote: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice." :-)

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