Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Talk (and Listen) to an Editor

by Priscilla Y. Huff

I have been a freelance writer and author for a long time, and one axiom that I have learned (and still have to remind myself) is how to talk and listen to an editor. Here are some tips:

1) Editors are ALWAYS on deadline, so keep all your communications with them succinct and to the point.

2) NEVER ASSUME any details of an assignment’s specs. Check with your editor if you are not sure of any part of your assignment. It is a bit crass, but a former day job boss of mine wrote the word “assume” on a piece of paper for me when I made a mistake with a project without checking with her first. She broke it down explaining (that): “It (assume) makes an a@# out of u and me.”

3) Deliver what she asked: An article that is on time with the correct word length, quotes and facts checked, photos the right size for publication, sidebars; and one that is proofread for wording and grammar. Daily re-read your assignment’s specs to be certain you are including all that your editor has stipulated.

4) Your assignment is not over until it is printed: Many times, I submitted an article, only to be contacted by the editor a couple of weeks later when the editor was then going over it for publication and had some questions. Be ready to revise or answer her questions and that she has your contact information if she wants to reach you.

5) Make it easy to get paid. Submit an invoice and include your address or online payment information; your contact information; and what rights you are selling. Editors may “assume” you are selling ALL your rights to a piece when you are not or vice-versa.

When it doubt about any part of your assignment, ask; even editors with whom you have worked with previously. Your editor will appreciate it. When editors are happy with writers, they tend to give more assignments to those writers who really DO listen and make their jobs easier.

For Further Reading:

Writer's Digest Handbook of Making Money Freelance Writing
Writer's Digest Magazine Article:“Tips for Dealing with Your Editor” by guide, Allena Tapia


  1. Thank you so kindly for the link to I think that if writer's have editorial skill, it might benefit them to sit in the editors shoes a bit, too, and take on some editorial work. . . just for perspective.

  2. Hey, I don't see a subscribe function for your blog, SGH, only for your comments....

  3. Hey Allena--I think you can sign up as a "follower" and you should get notices of updated posts, etc. Thanks for commenting!