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Seven Ways to Create Chemistry With Editors and Earn More Cash
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Have you ever gone on a first date that felt forced? You know, where somebody is trying way too hard to impress. A guy who recites his entire resume credentials before the appetizer arrives. Or a woman who wears a sexy dress and stilettos to a baseball game. Or maybe a braggart that insists on letting you know how lucky you are to be the “flavor of the month.”

Well, sometimes the same tendency occurs when we're trying to put our best foot forward to cultivate a relationship with editors. We try too hard. I accidentally discovered this interesting dynamic awhile ago, when I sent work to a new editor whom I was both impressed and intimidated by. His reputation preceded him.

After I sent it, I got that pit-of-the-stomach realization that he probably wouldn't call. In my submission, I used big words to impress him with how “erudite” I was. I rambled because I was a bit nervous. And I ended up coming across like a teenager with a bad crush, instead of the polished professional that I usually am. Ouch.

Perhaps it's happened to you too. If so, there's good news and there's bad. The good news is that rejection in publishing, just like personal relationships can make you stronger and wiser, if you heed the important lessons. And the more you learn, the more you earn. The bad news is that realistically speaking you may not “make magic” with every editor you encounter.

But here are a few ways to increase the likelihood of it happening, regardless of your genre or level of angst:

  1. Pay attention to the targeted editor's “needs”. Don't be selfish. Read the publication's website guidelines, the “about” section, the editor's Bio and the fine print to garner important clues and to get the big picture. Don't assume that because you've been around that you know the ropes.
  2. Be yourself. Stay true to your style of expression, belief system, and creative strengths. You may not always get the gig, but at least you'll respect yourself in the morning.

  3. Make a good first impression by submitting work that is error free and engaging. Don't rely on spell check as a sole screening method (better safe than sorry).

  4. Recognize that a little humor is almost always acceptable and appreciated—whether it's in your cover letter or your interview covered. However, make sure it's tasteful and applicable.

  5. Show, don't tell. It's sometimes tempting to name drop regarding all the important people in the industry we know, or the impressive publications in which we've been featured.( In fact, that's the reason that clips are often requested). Still, the best way to seal the deal and connect with a new editor is to show through your great writing why he should work with you now, and why you'd be an asset to have among his stable of writers. Never rest on your laurels.

  6. Understand that love at first sight won't always happen. Sometimes it takes time for interest to ignite. For example, earlier this summer, I discovered a publication that was highly regarded and ranked, and that I was determined to get into. I was smitten. I carefully crafted a piece and excitedly sent it off to the editor. It was rejected. Shortly after, I got a second wind and submitted a second piece. It was rejected. And so was the third piece. After four attempts, I'm not sure if I wore this editor down, or simply won him over, but he hired me! And it's been magical ever since. Of course it goes without saying that you shouldn't make a nuisance of yourself; but don't give up prematurely either. Sometimes relationships and situations take time to cultivate. Stay the course.

  7. Remember that good manners go a long way. Think of it as electronic “chivalry”. Words and expressions like “thank you”, “please”, and “may I” in your letters of introduction or queries, help to brand you as a professional, foster a warm, fuzzy feeling, and give the impression that you're someone with whom it would be potentially easy to work. This creates a win-win situation for everyone. After all, this is no time to be a diva; especially if you'd like encore performances.

Follow these seven tips to woo editors, build rapport, and your bank account. And above all, “never let 'em see you sweat.”

© Copyright 2011, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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