If you are a writer, chances are good that you already understand that relationships in this industry matter. If you want to write for print, this can actually be a subject that is even more vital.
When you write for an online publication it is fairly typical to never meet the person you are working with. Most contact is established via e-mail and subsequent information/instructions usually follow in the same manner. With print, this is not necessarily the case--especially if you start local as so many print writers do.
Getting clips usually means working for smaller publications in the beginning--such as newspapers, local magazines and possibly even writing PR or marketing collateral for area businesses. While this may not mean you meet the editor in person, they are often close by--giving you an opportunity to reach out and sit down with them face-to-face. Whenever you are able to do this; do it.
In the greater publishing world, editors bounce from one magazine to another with astonishing speed. You can get an article accepted by a newsstand publication and not have the same editor by the time you are done writing the piece. Sometimes you may even get a query accepted, only to find out that the new editor has decided they don't want to publish it after all. It's tough to keep up!
Local publications tend to retain their personnel a bit better. Sometimes the editor at a local magazine is also the publisher or owner. Those who work at a newspaper may leave to go to another, but not at the pace of people who work for larger magazines. It can be well worth your time to cultivate these relationships a bit so that you become the "go to" gal or guy.
Now this doesn't mean you have to take the editor out for a fancy lunch, but I would encourage you to try for a cup of coffee. Don't just drop by their office with a last-minute invite either--feel them out about their schedule and see if they have interest before going for "the ask". Keep it casual and close to where they work if at all possible, and by all means, pick up the check. After all, if the time spent results in regular work, it will be well worth it.
Here are a few solid ways to build a relationship with a local editor without being too pushy--and yes, I've done them all:
- Send a quick e-mail every month or two just saying hello and reminding the editor you are available for assignments. Include a little banter, such as asking them how they are doing and commenting on the weather. In other words, be polite--don't just ask for work.
- Remember them during the holidays and on or around their birthday if you know when it is. If you don't know their birthday, put that on your "to do" list.
- Send a brief note regarding something you wrote for the publication. For example, "I picked up the latest issue of My Local Magazine and was really pleased with the way my article on local shopping looked. Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to write it for you." Keep it simple and sincere.
- Send pitches on a regular basis so that your name stays fresh in the editor's mind.
Do you have any tips for establishing or maintaining a good relationship with the editors at your local publications? Feel free to share!