I’m absolutely amazed at how many beginning writers get published for the first time, then turn to a completely different subject, marketing that to a different editor or publisher instead of building a relationship with the first.
Writing is not just about words, it’s about relationships. No matter what sort of writing you do, you need to build on past successes. If you begin at the top, you have no where to go but down, so it’s important to begin slowly and build relationships with your editors. This can be either by getting to know what a particular editor wants or building on new contacts, using an award you’ve recently received.
I believe the first time I had an article published in a national magazine was a fluke. While it wasn’t totally an accident–-I had sent the piece into the magazine, Popular Mechanics, after all–-it was by happenstance that it appeared between the covers of this national publication exactly one year later. The article showed readers how to build turn an ordinary compact station wagon into a “chuck wagon” for use on a cross-country camping trip. It wasn’t particularly in my field of interest, but it was something I actually did construct. I didn’t publish anything again for six years.
Oh, I tried. I sent pieces all over the place, but I failed to send another idea to the editor of Popular Mechanics. That was my mistake.
As soon as you achieve publishing success, immediately send several similar ideas to that same editor. In fact, while you’re waiting to hear back from that publication, assemble a list of salable ideas that you can send along later.
Perhaps the editor liked your writing style or perhaps your subject. What probably happened–as in my case–was that the editor liked the timeliness of my subject. At the time, gasoline prices had begun to rise dramatically, and this offered families an affordable way to go on an extended vacation and eat well at the same time. But even though you may have just gotten lucky doesn’t mean that you couldn’t sell something to that same editor.
It’s important to build a rapport with your editors. The longest I worked for the same one was 14 years. That’s because she remained in her position, and I gave her consistently good material she could use. The second longest was seven years.
Editors flit from publication to publication about as fast as hairdressers do from salon to salon. If you have a good relationship with an editor, he or she will often take you with them to their new publication. It’s usually an upgrade to a better position for them, resulting in a marketing upgrade for you, which can mean higher pay and more prestige.
The same holds true for getting awards, but I’ll tell you more about that next week.