29 August 2011

+JMJ+

Writing Diary, Entry #28

"Know your audience," writers are told. To which I now add, "Know your editor, too." Your editor may actually know your audience better than you do and be able to guide you.

When I started writing, I didn't meet my editors in person. All communication was done through e-mail: I liked it that way,and they seemed to prefer it, too. (Ah, technology!) Then I became a contributor to a magazine with an editor-in-chief who is all about the face-to-face meeting and the personal touch. Although I wrote my first article for her in my usual "blind" fashion, we met in person very soon afterwards . . . and it made all the difference in the world.

Contacts are everything in the media business. Cultivating them is a necessary skill. My first editor (Fully Booked Zine) knew most of her other writers "in real life" (as we still say, despite living so much of our own lives online, because it's good to cling to sanity). I'll bet only those who "cold called" her like I did--and then never bothered to meet her--were eventually forgotten. Which was fair enough: why remember me when she gets contacted by new writers every month?

In contrast, my second editor (Atlas TV Guide), whom I've been working with for two years (Buy the September 2011 edition!!!), insists on meeting all of her writers . . . and let me tell you how that has worked out for this one.

Now, this isn't really a post about getting your editor to love you so that he never drops you--although that's a great benefit, too. I'd say the best thing about knowing my editor and feeling like part of her team is that I submit better articles. And by "better," I mean "editor-proof."

During that first meeting, over mostly light chit-chat, I managed to learn her standards, her expectations, and most ineffably, her style. She didn't make any of these explicit at all; I just picked them up during that first meeting, and kept learning more every time I visited her office to pick up my cheque. So now I can write what I know she will like . . . and I believe she edits my work as she knows I would like to be edited--which is not at all (LOL!), barring necessary trims for word count, which are my fault, anyway.

Now I have a third editor to deal with, the editor-in-chief of MOD magazine. It's another Atlas publication, and her office is right beside my second editor's (who had obviously recommended me), so I naively assumed they would edit my stuff in the same way. So I wrote the first assigned book review with my second editor in mind . . . and one month later, faced that controversial word swap that I wrote about in Writing Diary, Entry #27.

I could have sidestepped that so easily, without even thinking about it, had she and I had our first meeting before I had to write that review. Not to get all post hoc ergo propter hoc on you, but this disconnect (or just a neutral failure to connect) between writer and editor is now linked in my mind to the difference between my submitted copy and the version published in her magazine.

Since that time, I have met her, got a sense of her as a boss, and figured out how to "editor-proof" everything I write for her. I will bet anything that the second book review I've submitted will be published looking very like its own self. You'll be able to read it in the September 2011 issue of MOD.

5 comments:

Kev D. said...

Sound advice, interesting stuff... Thanks!

love the girls said...

Interesting.

I depend on voice inflection, body language and facial expressions when problem solving for a client, and still it's very difficult to discern the actual problems that need to be solved as well as understanding the best means of solving them.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Kev -- You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by. =) I'm sorry it took me so long to acknowledge your comment.

LTG -- I think most people depend on the same non-verbal cues to get quality work done for someone. It's a whole other sort of literacy, if you don't mind my saying so. =)

love the girls said...

Enbrethiel writes : "It's a whole other sort of literacy"

But I had never considered before that as a writer since you don't have those to work with to explain yourself that you would be far more adept at communicating with an editor solely by the written word.

At first blush my thought was, well of course you have to meet your editors, but as a writer it didn't have the same necessity for you.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Having thought about how my first e-mail "conversations" with all my editors have gone, I wonder whether writers actually use less words in communication than most people--including ourselves--think we do.

If you don't count the 500- to 1,000-word article that gets submitted at the end, I really think we do "talk" much less.