How to Land Writing Gigs When Meeting Editors

Author:
Publish date:

Last fall, author and journalist John Moir redeemed part of his grand prize from WD’s 78th Annual Writing Competition when he traveled to New York City, where his escort from the WD editorial team had arranged for Moir to meet with his wish list of editors from The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Audubon and The New York Times (where Moir scored himself an assignment on the spot).

But you don’t need to win a competition to rope the kind of one-on-one meeting that can bolster your writing career—periodical and book editors are available at conferences and other events, and sometimes all it takes to set something up is an e-mail. So we asked Moir to share what he learned about getting the most out of meetings with editors.

  1. Do your homework. Before your meeting, see what you can find on the Internet about the editor’s background, interests and the type of stories she typically handles. Many editors are also writers, and their articles can offer a window into their passions. When I met with a New York Times editor, he’d had an article in that day’s edition about the science of spicy foods. Because I’d read the piece that morning, it provided me with a natural icebreaker and paved the way for a discussion about what types of ideas he was looking for. In addition, always read recent issues (or familiarize yourself with a publisher’s list) to see where your work might best fit, and research the submission guidelines in resources such as Writer’s Market or on the Web.
  2. Prepare your pitch. You don’t have to pitch in person at the meeting—you might just use it as a general opportunity to learn about how you can break in—but if you do, organize your ideas like a traditional news story, with the most important information in the lede. A good pitch is short and pithy. Aim for under a minute; 30 seconds is even better. Write it out, memorize it, and when the time comes, deliver it s-l-o-w-l-y to allow the editor time to absorb the idea. Pause. Give the editor a chance to respond. Be prepared to expand on your idea.
  3. Think like an editor. Before the meeting, take a moment to imagine that you’re the editor listening to your pitch, and try to anticipate his questions. Why are you the best person to write this? How will you get the information you need? What type of reader will enjoy your piece? If there are any obvious stumbling blocks to completing the work (e.g., obtaining a key interview), head off the editor’s questions by addressing those issues upfront.
  4. Listen. While preparation is the foundation for a successful meeting, don’t get locked into a monologue. You’re not just here to talk; you’re here to learn. Interact in the moment. Use your preparation for support, but not as a fixed script. Listen closely to what the editor tells you and respond in kind.
  5. Make a connection. Beyond merely pitching an idea, aim to begin building a working relationship with the editor. Find out what suggestions she has for future opportunities or pitches. At the same time, weave into the conversation your own experience and writing interests.

When the meeting is over, present the editor with your business card. Even better, leave a folder containing a short bio and a sample of your work. In return, be sure to ask for the editor’s business card or contact information. When you get home—even if you didn’t close a deal—send the editor an e-mail letting him know how much you appreciated his time.

This article was written by John Moir.

Don’t hurt your chances of getting published by not sending agents what they want. Consider:
Guide To Query Letters

Z2703queryletter_thumb.jpg

Become a WD VIP and Save 10% on this book:
Get a 1-year pass to WritersMarket.com, a 1-year subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine and 10% off all WritersDigestShop.com orders! Click here to join.


Also check out these items from the Writer’s Digest’s collection:
Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Beginnings, Middles & Ends

Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Scene & Structure

Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Description
Writer’s Digest Elements Of Writing Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint

Writer’s Digest No More Rejections
Writer’s Digest Weekly Planner

Writer’s Digest How to Land a Literary Agent (On-Demand Webinar)
Writer’s Digest Magazine One-Year Subscription
Writer’s Digest 10 Years of Writer’s Digest on CD: 2000-2009

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 26

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write about an article of clothing.

Authors Share Tips on Writing Mystery and Thriller Novels That Readers Love

23 Authors Share Tips on Writing Mystery and Thriller Novels That Readers Love

23 authors share tips on writing mystery and thriller novels that readers love, covering topics related to building suspense, inserting humor, crafting incredible villains, and figuring out the time of death.

Jaclyn Goldis: From Personal History to Historical Fiction

Jaclyn Goldis: From Personal History to Historical Fiction

Debut author Jaclyn Goldis explains how her novel When We Were Young was inspired by her real-life grandmothers and how many times she rewrote her first chapter.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Forced Decision

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Forced Decision

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, force a character to make a decision.

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 25

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write about a cryptid.

From the Practical to the Mystic: 7 Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

From the Practical to the Mystic: 7 Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

Bestselling author Erika Robuck provides her top 7 tips for creating an engaging historical fiction novel.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 559

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a short poem.

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 24

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to create a new myth.

Richard_2:23

Crafting Animal Characters like an Expert

Whether your work-in-progress features a witch's familiar, a talking animal sidekick, or a companion pet, WD editor Moriah Richard gives you the basics on how to create an animal character.