August 30th, 2006

Do As One Particular Writer Did, Not as I Don't* (or didn't used to, anyway)

After an interesting encounter with a would-be magazine contributor yesterday, it occurred to me that—when I don my freelancer hat—I may have been approaching editors all wrong. But I don’t need to be hit over the head. I’m going to take these lessons to heart. And because I’m of a generous nature, I’m going to share my newfound knowledge with you.


Go right on in to your target editor’s office and plunk yourself down in front of the desk.

It is more difficult to say “no” to someone in person than it is to say “no” over the phone—and certainly more difficult than it is to say “no” via email. But I’m just too retiring an individual ever to have considered flying across the country to pop into the office of an editor whose will I’ve been trying to break—er, who I’ve been wanting to work with. Or I was too retiring an individual. I’m going to have to re-think my entire personality now.


Don’t bother to introduce yourself. Editors are smart—let them figure out who you are for themselves.

This is really integral to the success of the pop-in visit. After all, if you’re going to startle an editor by just showing up in her office, you might as well keep her off-balance by not explaining who you are or why you’re pulling up a chair.


Bonus points if you call her by a nickname. Super bonus points if it’s a nickname she doesn’t actually use.


Ask for an opinion of your submission. Be sure to flinch when you get it.

This is the crux of the pop-in visit. After all, if you’re a freelance writer stalking an editor, your goal is very likely to find out how you can insinuate yourself further into said editor’s life by becoming a regular contributor. So go ahead: ask the editor for her opinion of your most recent submission. (Bonus points if you did not actually send the submission to the editor, but to one of her colleagues who has nothing to do with editorial.)


It is very difficult to say “no” to someone face-to-face (see above), so no doubt it will be tough for the editor to declare that your submission is terrible. So when she says, ever so gently, that the idea is an interesting one but the piece just isn’t suitable for Fibromyalgia AWARE , you should definitely ask what you could do to make it suitable. (Don’t tell me you still haven’t gotten your subscription to this fabulous magazine? Don’t put it off an instant longer!)


When the editor offers a suggestion—something along the lines of, “Well, you might consider offering the reader an explanation of your teasing lede earlier than halfway through the piece,” you should definitely look stunned and horrified. Or at least flinch a little.


Be sure to ask for more suggestions. When the editor says something like, “You might consider revising so that it has multiple paragraphs, rather than just one,” have a comeback ready.


Just state flat out that you “don’t do grammar or spelling.”

Yes, like that one. Great comeback.


All right, people. Now we’re all privy to the secrets of successful freelancing. Let’s hit those travel websites, pick up some airline tickets, and start stalking.


* Just to clarify: I’m not bitter. Just wryly amused.