L.A. Editors Get Tips on Successful Freelance Relationships

Both sides of the editor-writer relationship were addressed at the Los Angeles chapter’s Sept. 24 dinner meeting.

By Len Diamond, Los Angeles Chapter At-Large Board Member


 

Bill Bush told editors to “spell out what’s needed, and then let the writer know the degree of leeway” he or she has to move beyond the assignment.

As editor-in-chief of Physicalmagazine and a former freelance writer, Bill Bush is amply qualified to give advice how editors and freelance writers can develop a good working relationship.

His presentation at the September Los Angeles chapter ASBPE meeting stressed the responsibility of editors to clarify, and in fact “pre-edit,” articles as they assign them.

When he first solicits an article from a freelancer, Bush makes sure to include these points:

  • A statement of the topic, made explicit with title suggestions.
  • Word count (almost always given as a range, sidebars included).
  • The dollar amount of the payment, and the terms of payment (always “on acceptance”).
  • Due date—typically a month-and-a-half hence—with an indication of wiggle room, if any.

To forestall the lazy writer, there’s this advice that came out of the Q&A session: Require the writer to submit questions he or she would ask of the experts that the editor has supplied. It not only signals the enterprise (or lack of enterprise) the writer brings to the project but can also be a good indicator of how well he or she grasps the assignment.

Bush is patient in his approach to new writers. He advises editors to judge on clips (even unpublished ones and not to worry that they might have been heavily edited (you’ll find out on the first assignment). If a previously unknown writer shows promise on a first assignment, Bush will work with him or her, maybe even line-edit the piece himself. A good writer, he expects, will improve on the second assignment.

Bush strongly advocates reading articles as soon as they’re received. If something needs tweaking, the writer will have time to fix it; and if it’s OK as is, the writer will appreciate knowing it.

The entire evening, in fact, was one a writer could appreciate as well. Here is an editor who’s been a freelancer and acknowledges that there can be editors who “don’t know what they want until they don’t see it.”

Look for an expanded version of this article in an upcoming issue of ASBPEs national newsletter. To see more photos from the event, go to our Yahoo! Groups page at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lachapasbpe and click on “Photos.” And be sure to join the L.A. Chapter Yahoo! Group to keep informed of upcoming meetings and share information with fellow editors!