You frequently see articles for writers on how to be more accommodating for editors. However, here are some hints on how editors can attract great writers!
1. Communicate openly. You can inform, direct and invest in writers, not by doing their work for them, but by taking away the need to guess their way to success or to figure everything out for themselves in some kind of hit or miss fashion. Provide everything the writer needs up-front, in an orderly, assignment fashion, so you and the writer won’t have to waste time re-writing the piece at a later date.
2. Don’t be cold when sending rejections. When queries are rejected, you can appreciate the effort the writer has expended to try to work for you. You can, therefore, in the very least, offer an explanation rather than a form rejection letter, or a personal note penned on the form rejection letter. If the writer is professional and a possible future contributor, why not suggest a lead in to future work? If you think their query and idea are good, but just not the right fit for your publication, why not tell them this fact and encourage them to submit it elsewhere? Writers receive so much negative correspondence (rejections) that even one positive note can make their entire month. Why not make a writer smile today?
3. Be approachable. You can help writers by adding notes to rejections as to why an idea might not work, along with some ideas they might want to try querying about in the future. Sharing a sample of a past article you were pleased with along with your writer’s guidelines can help writers hit the mark.
4. Be professional and ethical. Professionalism is demonstrated in many ways, through ethics, openness and honesty. You’re “the boss” and can guide the relationship so that things turn out in a way that is best for everyone concerned…without being terribly blunt. Remember your manners. Don’t say anything by email that you wouldn’t say to the writer if he or she were sitting in your office.
5. Say thank you! You can congratulate writers for work done well with a thank-you by e-mail, phone or even a card by mail. I have received all of these and find that they empower me toward continued good work. Send seasonal cards from the whole gang in editorial, personally signed. I received one of these from a web hosting publication once and it really made me feel like part of the team.
6. Don’t be afraid to say “wait” instead of “no”. If you’re busy, you can let writers know when you’re on deadline and tell them how much you would appreciate a query in a week or two rather than right now.
7. Don’t raise false expectations. If a writer just isn’t what you’re looking for, be forthcoming with this information in a kind and considerate manner. You don’t want them to waste time querying you in the future…and you don’t want them to waste your time doing so either. Writers prefer honesty to false praise.
8. Have a good sense of humor!
9. Assign future and/or ongoing articles to writers who have done a good job, and recommend them to your colleagues at other magazines!
10. Don’t nickel and dime your writers! Editors should look at the big picture and be generous. Rather than splitting hairs (and nickels and dimes), you should pay a writer a fair wage for the work they do. Remember, you get what you pay for. And if you skimp on your editorial content, you’ll find that your content is of a lower quality than your higher-paying competitors (which then affects your circulation and your advertising income).
11. Don’t be greedy with rights. Demanding rights that you don’t need or that hurt the writer unnecessarily is greedy and wrong. You should ask writers only for those rights that you need and plan to use immediately. Where you don’t need them, the writer certainly will for reprints and other income opportunities.
These are all things that editors can do to attract good, reliable writers who will serve them and them publication faithfully and consistently for years to come. In treating writers fairly and with compassion, you not only serve writers, but you also serve yourself.
David Geer holds a BA in Psychology from Lake Erie College. A computer technician by trade, David is now a full-time freelance writer. His specialties include technology (IT, wireless, Nanotechnology and general technology), features, research, PR writing, speeches, Web hosting, fitness, How to, general interest, psychology, music and creative writing. His clips include Laptop magazine, Computer Buyer’s Guide and Handbook, Wireless Business & Technology, Smart Computing, Hostingtech magazine, Geek.com, WritersWeekly.com and PR Fuel. David Geer’s editorial opinion has been solicited by Alex Lightman for Brave New Unwired World (Wiley). David is also a volunteer editor for Netscape’s Open Directory Project. His professional home on the Web can be found at http://geercom.com.