Relationship advice for writers and editors

How to work together smoothly

How do you let your editor know you appreciate all they do for you without sounding like a suck-up? —Anonymous

Awww, this question is so sweet! If you’re producing good work, you have good ideas, and you’re on good terms with your editor, then saying thank you is never sucking up.

Editors work behind the scenes, so there’s not a lot of public glory associated with the job (at least for everyone below the editor in chief level). I’m willing to bet your editor doesn’t get a lot of sincere and enthusiastic thank-you notes, so don’t be shy about expressing your gratitude. Think of it as telling your boyfriend you love him. Come to think of it, the editor-writer dynamic has more than a few things in common with romance.

On that note, some additional advice for a healthy, happy editor/writer relationship:

—Be respectful, day in and day out. File copy and reply to emails on time. Apologize profusely when you don’t. Don’t reverse track changes without discussing first. Don’t make up sources or lie. (Duhhh. But worth repeating.) Also, share the burden. This is a collaboration. You should both be bringing ideas to the table—and not just the overall story ideas, but thoughts on best sources to include and angles to take. You work together.

—Trust each other. You have to come to the editing process with the assumption that you both want the best possible piece. You may have differences of opinion on how to get there, but you can’t assume that the other person wants to steamroll you. Good collaborations require faith in each other.

—Never hit “reply” while angry. When a piece gets killed after you stayed up all night working on a draft, or on the flip side, when you get a round of edits that make you see red, don’t respond right away. Walk away from the computer, talk to a friend, do whatever you need to do to blow off steam. Then come back and reply calmly and rationally. Remember, this is a relationship you want to preserve. If you poison it now, every interaction you have in the future will be that much harder.

—Be open and honest. Is the fee just too low? The deadline too tight? Is the draft completely unworkable? Don’t be rude, but be straight with each other about it. Editors are slow to respond because they’re juggling email from dozens of writers. They’ve got tight budgets and tough pageview metrics. Writers also juggle several assignments at once, usually. They’re at the mercy of sources who aren’t always quick to call back. And they do lots of work up front for a check that comes months later, if at all. Always try to have empathy.

—Say only nice things behind her back. You’re now part of each other’s professional network. If you love working with someone, tell other journalists about it. Spreading good professional gossip is one of the best ways to thank her for her work. And if she isn’t the best? Keep it to yourself unless someone explicitly asks you. It’s a small world.

—Celebrate your anniversary. Every three to six months, check in on the big picture. How’s your process? Are there any ways to smooth it out? Are you both happy with the product? What trafficked and what didn’t? Look back on your greatest hits and your wince-inducing misses, and set some goals for the future.

And what if you’re single and looking for a new editor relationship? The next question is for you….

I attended a professional event the other day with an older crowd, and I got several requests for a business card. I haven’t had one for a while, so I told them just to Google me, since I’m easily searchable (as every working journalist should be). Is this weird? Or do freelance journalists still need cards? Even when I do have them, they mostly collect dust. —Nona

It’s a nice gesture to have a business card; it makes it easy for people to remember you without making note of your name. But yeah, everyone should know to just Google you, baby.

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Ann Friedman is a magazine editor who loves the internet. She lives in Los Angeles Tags: #Realtalk