Last week I skyped with Zac Bertschy, one of my editors at Anime News Network. As the executive editor of ANN, he pays quite a few people to write about anime.
When our business was finished, I asked Zac if he had any advice for Otaku Journalist readers looking to get a job writing about anime. He listed a few things I expected to hear about writing competency and knowledge. And then, he said something that I sometimes neglect to mention:
“You need to be easy to work with.”
It’s not just how good of a writer you are or how well you know your subject. Like any other job, writing is one where you need to be somebody your colleague doesn’t dread working with.
No, this doesn’t mean you need to be your editor’s best friend. Or somebody who has a lot in common (though in niche writing, you’ll find that you and your editors often like that same niche.) Let’s break down what editors mean when they say they want a writer who is easy to work with:
Responds to Editorial Direction
Editors want to work with a writer who listens to them. When your editor asks you to avoid passive voice or adopt a more conversational tone, they don’t want to have to see the same issues in your next assignment—that indicates you’re not listening. A good writer takes an editor’s suggestions seriously and offers their reasoning politely if they disagree.
Takes Criticism Well
A good writer knows that “this story needs work” doesn’t mean “your skill as a writer needs work.” Even the best writer can learn from an editor, and after years of professional writing, every piece I write still needs an editor’s touch. Getting your feelings hurt every time an editor makes a suggestion means you’re missing the point of what critique is for.
A good writer is willing to adjust their writing style to the tone of the site they are working for. They are adaptable, and can tackle different types of stories. It’s less about your skill and more about having a can-do attitude toward the editor’s suggested assignments. Editors want to work with a writer who is enthusiastic, responsive, and communicative about assigned topics.
A good writer is somebody the editor can rely on. They finish earlier assignments before pitching new ideas. They consistently deliver their assignments at the deadline the editor has instructed. If something comes up and they can’t, they communicate early and openly about why an assignment will be late instead of giving the editor an unpleasant surprise.
Notice that none of this relies on your personality. Whether you’re shy or outgoing or anything else, anybody can learn to be a good listener and communicator.
Zac said that when he’s choosing people to hire, he considers “easiness to work with” on the same level as he would consider “writing ability” or “knowledge about anime.” It’s that important.
In small niche subjects like anime, video games, or comics, there are only so many editors in the field. Give yourself a leg up by being somebody they’re thrilled to work with.