I’ve worked with more than 200 magazine editors in my ten years as a freelance travel journalist.
Most of these editors have been good at their jobs, and our interactions were smooth and efficient.
But, a few editors were clearly in over their heads. They were disorganized. They lost emails. They didn’t respond to writer’s emails in a timely manner. And they certainly didn’t seem to understand the basic concept that good writers who supply them with a continual supply of queries and articles should be nurtured and cultivated.
Hang out long enough with other freelancers and you’ll hear plenty of other horror stories about substandard editors.
Here are a few stories about the shenanigans of less-than-professional editors that have happened to me or my colleagues:
– An editor I once worked with made the mistake of boasting to me that he would commission articles from writers but, “if I don’t like their article, well, I just won’t publish it”. There was no opportunity for the writer to rewrite his or her article; just immediate rejection.
– One of my freelance colleagues has had three publications harvest her queries for in-house stories. Embittered by these blatant rip-offs, she says that editors who encourage her to “feel free to pitch more stories” are “insidious parasites”.
– Other travel writers complain about editors that make unnecessary unprofessional comments about their pitch or writing style. Interestingly, the one time that happened to me, the editor quickly disappeared soon afterwards, to “pursue other opportunities”. (Hopefully not with other magazines!)
I’m fortunate that only two editors have ever not paid me for my work. But several other editors have been late in paying.
Sometimes we get the better of these “robber baron” deadbeat editors. One national communications magazine that continually stalled my requests for payment and took two years to pay me for several articles folded shortly thereafter. What goes around comes around!
But, here’s the best part of that story: that same magazine had a short Front-of-Book piece about the new BBC HQ tour in London. I took that idea and turned it into an assignment for a rival magazine. I got a free tour of the new BBC HQ, made $300 for my efforts, and got to see my feature story in the competitor’s magazine. Oh, the irony!
Don’t be disheartened. The good news is that most magazine editors are professional.
While you’re reading this list, please bear in mind that not all expert editors perform all these actions. However, if the editors you’re working with do several of these things, you’re in good hands. Editors who execute several of these tasks is most likely competent.
Some indicators that the editor you’re working with is a pro:
Good Editors . . .
- Issue contracts to their writers
- Ask you for invoices.
- Pay in a timely manner.
- Call or email you with assignments.
- Respond quickly to emails.
- Email to let you know when your article will be published.
- Let you have a look at the galley of your article before publication,
- Send you a hard copy and/or a PDF of your article after publication.
- Don’t cheat you or delay the payment they promised.
- Give you quick feedback on your story, when needed.
- Is clear about what they expect in rewrites.
- Are friendly, yet professional when dealing with you.
What Can Freelancers Learn From this?
There are some unscrupulous and incompetent editors out there. Finding out who they are is part of the freelance writing deal. So, don’t take it personally. After scanning through the list of magazines I’ve been published in, I note that, interestingly, the ones screwed me have all folded. There is some sort of literary karmic justice!
Don’t let a negative experience with one editor deter you from pitching print magazines. Just take the “bad” magazine off your distribution list, move on, and keep pitching.
Inexperienced writers must learn to recognize the warning signs and signals of a poor editor and know when to walk away from them. And, conversely, to know when they’re on a good thing with an editor and nurture this relationship.
Have you worked with some really bad (or good) editors? Share your story!
About the Author:
Roy Stevenson produces a free weekly newsletter for aspiring travel writers. It’s considered one of the most informative e-zines in the travel writing business.
Subscribe here: http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/pitchtravelwrite-ezine.html 
Roy has published seven eBooks on selling and marketing freelance travel articles. (See right sidebar)
He operates a personalized coaching business for novice travel writers, and every one of his 60+ novice writers has been published in print or online media. Many have scored cool press trips using their assignments as collateral. (http://www.pitchtravelwrite.com/coaching-for-travel-writers.html )
Roy offers Travel Writing & Marketing Master Classes, which will next be held in Seattle, Washington State, U.S.A April 27-29, 2018.