What to Do When Your Editor Leaves By Jeanette Hurt

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I couldn’t have been more excited when my query made its way through the slush pile last fall to be accepted by an editor at Budget Travel. I was even more elated when that same editor accepted my second query on the spot a week later. That this editor took the time to send me a hand-written note, praising my writing prowess on the first story, was icing on the cake.

I was all set, to paraphrase Casablanca, to begin a beautiful writer-editor friendship. I was just in the middle of preparing a flurry of new queries for this editor when I received the dreaded news. As soon as he finished editing my second story, he would be moving on to other things, things that didn’t include Budget Travel. I wouldn’t have been as disappointed if this editor had transferred to a different magazine, as I could have followed him there, but he was leaving to become a freelancer so where did that leave me?

Instead of wallowing in self-pity and bemoaning my luck, I thanked him for his work on my two stories, and I promptly asked him who his replacement would be. He gave me a name of someone who would be accepting queries in the interim, and I sent that editor the five new queries I had written.

When that editor apparently ignored my emails, I re-sent him the same queries via snail mail, enclosing each one in a separate envelope. Not a week later, I received an answer, only to discover that the section I had pitched was being discontinued. He did, however, agree to consider them for other sections.

Though none of those queries were ultimately accepted, this new editor did include me in a mass email to regular contributors, seeking suggestions for a “best of” story they were planning. I pitched him four ideas, and he accepted one of them, giving me my biggest assignment yet from Budget Travel. Not only that, through my initial assignment from him, we began a regular correspondence, and we’re now in the middle of discussing a possible, full-length feature.

Although it can seem like the end of the road when your editor leaves, especially if you’re a new freelancer for a magazine, with a little persistence and patience, you can transform that dead end into a through street. In my case, sending queries and then re-sending the same queries caught my new editor’s attention, even if they didn’t result in a sold article. Although querying a new editor can seem at times as if you’re pitching to an entirely new magazine, that’s not the case. Your previous work does serve as an introduction, and if you keep sending your new editor ideas, you’re likely to nab an assignment or two.

The main thing is not to get discouraged, and instead, to see the situation as a opportunity. Recently, I had a similar situation arise with one of the local publications I write for when my editor of Milwaukee Home left for a permanent maternity leave. I introduced myself to the new editor, and I sent her the queries I had already planned. She’s excited about my ideas, and it is, indeed, the start of a beautiful new friendship.

Jeanette Hurt is a freelance writer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She writes about travel, homes, food, dogs, art and interesting people for Midwest Airlines, Wisconsin Trails, Midwest Living, Lake and other publications. She can be reached at jhurt (at) execpc.com.