In my recent post about Just in Time learning, I mentioned that, “If you’re published or submitting regularly and getting personal feedback, you might want to learn about building relationships with editors.”
One writer in our Mentors for Rent Facebook Group (if you’re not a member, why not?) asked for more info about that particular topic. So, I’m going to offer a few tips here. Note–this is not how to find editors to submit a particular manuscript to. This advice is mostly for people who are either published or are actively attending writing events and submitting their work (and hopefully receiving personal feedback on their manuscripts, even if they are rejections) or who, one way or another, have had an initial contact with an editor.
Send an editor a personal note. Whether you met an editor at a conference because you volunteered, or you received a personal rejection letter with notes about what worked/didn’t work in your manuscript, or you paid for a critique at a conference, or you met an editor at a signing of another writer’s book–there’s almost no bad time to follow up with a personal, handwritten note. One in which you do NOT submit a manuscript or ask for anything. Simple does the trick. “Thanks so much for your recent personal feedback on my manuscript, XYZ. I appreciate your time, and I hope to send you something in the future that works better for you.” Or, “It was lovely to meet you at NCTE recently when I stopped by my writer friend XYZ’s signing of ABC. I hope our paths cross again.” Editors rarely receive personal notes, and they are some of the most hardworking people I know!
Keep up on social media. This does NOT mean you need to Like every word they post, Retweet every Tweet, etc. In fact, that can quickly get creepy. Instead, once a week or every couple of weeks, on their blog or Twitter account or whatever platform you’re on with them, make a quick comment. But try to provide something more than just a Like or “Cool!” A sentence or two that shows your connection to whatever they posted is great.
Keep up with their accomplishments/interests. It’s nice for an editor to hear from people who are not looking for something in return. Don’t forget to give them a shout-out or a nice word occasionally totally unrelated to the manuscript(s) you’ve sent them. Did an editor you know slightly edit a book that just won an award? Tweet it out: Congratulations to @thiseditor for awesome #ALA award for NOT MY BOOK. Did you hear an editor speak and she mentioned an interest in Egyptian archaeology? Share that cool Smithsonian Magazine article and tag her in it. For editors, writers can probably seem like bloodsuckers sometimes, since we tend to only be in touch when we want something. Sharing the editor’s work and her other writers’ work is a nice way to show support and admiration.
Use the holidays as an excuse to touch base. Even if you don’t have a manuscript that’s just right for a particular editor you’re hoping to work with someday, drop her a holiday card and wish her a wonderful year. Better yet, do it at another time of year when editors aren’t quite as crazy busy. I just got a lovely Valentine from a writer friend, and it makes me wish I had made some kind of card (with a fun poem on it, perhaps) to send out to the 8-10 editors I know to varying degrees and submit manuscripts to on a fairly regular basis.
Invite them to drinks. This is tricky, and you always want to give them an easy out. But if you’re attending an event (in your own town or somewhere else) and an editor you have had some personal correspondence with is going to be there, you could offer to take them out for drinks or coffee. Explain that you know they have a busy schedule, but you’d love to say hi in person if they’re available.
Touch base in person whenever the opportunity presents itself. Even if drinks don’t work out, always attend events knowing which editors you (somewhat) know who will likely be there. Review which manuscripts you’ve sent them so that you can refresh their memory. Assume they won’t have any idea who you are, and be delighted if they do! Stop by vendor booths at big conferences like ALA and NCTE and ask if the editor you know is at the conference. If she is, return when she’ll be in the booth, introduce yourself in person, say hi, remind her of who you are, and tell her you just wanted to meet her and that you hope she’s having an excellent time at the convention. Don’t take up a lot of her time, as her schedule is probably packed from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. If she’s at the conference but not at the booth when you can drop by, leave a business card with a nice note on the back–“Just dropped by to say hi. Hope your NCTE is going wonderfully!”
Really, those are the basics. You don’t need to get super fancy. It’s just about expressing interest and touching base every so often. And about not attaching your name to a request EVERY single time. Now. If you’ll excuse me, I’m realizing I need to catch up on a little of this myself!