When you should to Contact the Editor

Although for several editors, the less contact you make, the happier they’ll be, there will most likely be times whenever you certainly should name the editor.

Clarification: If you get the assignment and don’t understand something, ask the editor. For example, I received an email from an editor to accept a query of mine, but she asked me to write the article from the perspective of a newsletter editor. I was pretty sure she has just dashed off the e-mail quickly and had truly meant that I should write the article for newsletter editors, not necessarily writing in first-person as one myself, but rather than make assumptions, I wrote to check.

A Change of Direction: Call when you find something that might change the direction of your article. Let’s say your assignment was to write an article about how married women are healthier than single women. But along the way, all of the research you turn up shows that married women visit doctors more, take more sick days, have more heart attacks, and so on. Now’s the time to call your editor and tell her that a new angle may be in order. Of course, if you pitched the article in the first place, you are risking looking quite stupid (you should have done preliminary research before ever pitching it), but it’s probably better than having the story fall apart in fact-checking right before it’s scheduled to be published. If it was something that she assigned, she might have other research to show you, or she might be apt to let you take the other angle you’ve found.

Deadline Extensions: If you’re going to be late for your deadline, inform your editor. I’m amazed by the number of editors who complain that freelance writers fail to meet deadlines. With all the competition out there, how could writers possibly not take their assignments seriously? Literally thousands of other writers are out there eager to take the place of any writer obtaining published, so how could anyone be so sloppy as to turn in an article late without permission?

Asking your editor a few questions here or there is expected; just do not use the editor as a crutch, teacher, or mentor. That’s not the editor’s job. You are being paid to be the expert here. You ought to be able to get a feel rapidly for which editors prefer to become more involved and which ones would somewhat not be contacted much.

When an editor compliments me on my work, in addition to the fact that my head swells a great three inches in diameter, I also pay careful attention: Precisely what is it that I’ve done right?

Accessibility: Easy to read and understand. Not because my writing is “dumbed down,” but rather, simply because it is conversational. It takes some practice to learn how you can present facts and analysis in a conversational manner. Rather than writing with your editor or a vast audience of readers in thoughts, it helps me to imagine I’m writing an email to a friend. A extremely well-thought out and organized email, mind you, but an email nonetheless.

Make a Dry Subject Fun: Discover stories behind the stories. Surprise readers by making a fact-filled article entertaining.

Fact or Fiction: Along these same lines, some of the best nonfiction articles read more like condensed novels. They are stuffed with sensory description and “scenes” to draw the reader into the story. We hear the “show, don’t tell” rule for fiction, but many nonfiction writers overlook this.

Ask: As frequently as feasible, instead of lecturing your reader, show him. Work to let him get drawn into your story the exact same way you’d want him to obtain wrapped up in your novel or short fiction.

Show the editor that you can make her job easier and that you’re there for her whenever she needs you and she’s likely to call on you again and again.

Kyle’s website, Webworldarticles.com, allows articles to be submitted for free; it contains information on issues of general interest.