When To Fire Your Editor By Barbra Annino

Most seasoned freelancers know the rules on keeping an editor happy. Read the guidelines, never exceed the word count, Meet deadlines and go the extra mile. But what if you do all that and you still get treated like something that stuck to her shoe?

Then it’s time to fire your editor.

I say “fire” because, as freelancers, we have the luxury of choosing the people we work with. True, we can’t all be choosy about every assignment, but we can draw the line somewhere. That line is different for everyone. Some won’t work with an editor that demands constant re-writes, some drop an editor for paying too late or not at all (although that’s often the publisher’s fault). For me it was being called a liar.

On The Road To Splitsville

I keep strict records, check facts and turn assignments in early. So when I was questioned about a fact for a particular piece, I was surprised, not only because of the curtness of the editor’s note, but because she said to make sure all information in another piece I had submitted was correct. I was being wrongfully accused of sloppy work and I had completed three assignments for this woman without issue.

The article in question had been printed and was in her possession, so she could have checked herself, but I copied the paragraph from my original document and emailed it, reminding her “I never said that. What I said wasÖ.

She agreed and promptly responded with a “that’s right” (not an apology) and called the guy who brought the “error” to her attention a “jerk”. Had that been the only incident, I wouldn’t be writing this.

End Of The Line

She also misplaced files and accused me of not sending them. I keep every sent mail, so I forwarded originals back to her. Two weeks after turning in another assignment ahead of the due date, I received an email requesting the photos. “It is way past deadline,” she said. I responded by reminding her I sent them with the article. But, always wanting to please an editor, I simply forwarded the original email, text, attachments and all. She responded by stating they weren’t there the first time. I was flabbergasted.

I tried to phone her to no avail and after a few emails of “yes they were” – “no they weren’t” I had had enough. I wrote that I always did a good job and that I felt that warranted respect. I thanked her for the opportunity and wished her well. Then I walked away with my clips and my dignity.

The Fork In The Road

Cutting ties with an editor is a scary, but if you consider a few factors, you may realize that needy editors take up more time than they’re worth, time that could be spent working for higher paying markets and organized professionals.

Money: Does this editor pay you top dollar for her demands on your time? In my case this was a topic I enjoyed writing about, but the $70 for 600 words, photos, and putting up with her false accusations and disorganization wasn’t worth it.

Clips: Do you have clips from this market? Do you want to pursue this niche? If the market doesn’t coincide with your long-term goals then you have nothing to lose if you drop it. If it does, remember that editors change hands and you may be able to work with her replacement in the future.

Style: Does your personality clash with your editor’s? Some people don’t mesh. If you sense that the editor doesn’t appreciate your style or vice-versa, than moving on may save you a lot of grief.

Attitude: Some people are forgetful. If the editor needs a little help and is gracious, by all means stick with her. She’ll reward your efforts in the long run. Other people are just difficult. If she never admits when she’s wrong and is abusive, run away.

Parting Words

I can’t stress enough to always save emails and leave respectfully. Saving emails provides proof that you did your job correctly and peace of mind when you’re accused of mistakes. If your email system can’t hold the data load, then print out the notes and file away. And even though you may be tempted to chew her up and spit her out, leave on good terms with the editor. Don’t curse or name-call. Choose your words carefully and thank her for the opportunity. Not only will you save your reputation (editors may talk to other editors), but you’ll feel better having taken the high road.

Barbra Annino is a freelance writer who specializes in food and drink, travel, and home and garden topics. She has produced numerous articles for magazines such as Chicago Bride, Go World Travel and Anew.