Smutlancer Etiquette: How to Court an Editor
The life of a smutlancer may be that of a professional lone wolf, independently running and hustling your business on your own terms. But that doesn’t mean you are going to be devoid of professional relationships along the way.
Building a reputation and online visibility, and ultimately earning compensation for the work you do are arguably the most significant goals on your smutlancing journey. To achieve these, you may pitch and submit to any number of relevant publications. As such, you will inevitably work with professional editors and publishers.
As a full-time erotica editor myself, I have a few things to encourage you to consider as you go about navigating your relationships with editors and publishers in the sex writing world.
Guidelines: Read Them
I can’t stress this one enough. Whether the publication you’re hoping to write for is accepting pitches or full pieces of written work (like in the case of erotic stories, for example) always check the submission guidelines before going anywhere near the send button on your submission email.
If guidelines exist, they are not there to stymy your creativity or limit you as writer and content creator. They’re there to give you an idea of the publication’s brand and what it is that we deem valuable, if not necessary for us to run our business the way they see fit.
Your business is creating amazing content; our business is to decide if it’s your spin on things is right fit for us. You won’t mesh with everyone you pitch to, and that’s okay because it’s as much a part of the journey as it is to land writing gigs.
But if you miss the mark entirely right from your query email, it won’t do anything to help your professional progress.
Because we editors use the guidelines as a tool to vet writers who likely won’t work well with us. If you submit something that breaches the submission guidelines, we see right away that your attention to detail is weak, that your ability to follow directions is lacking, and that your respect for our requests, our brand, and our time is in question.
That doesn’t bode well for the inter-professional relationship that has yet to begin. Because the chain of communication is already flawed. Furthermore, you know what we call it when you give someone something they didn’t ask for, right? A lack of consent.
Deadlines: Respect Them
So, you’ve made your pitch, you’ve waited on tenterhooks for days to weeks, and then one day, you find that you’ve received the email from the editor saying that they’d love to work with you. And they’re going to pay you for your work and everything.
That’s amazing! Congrats!
But wait. Now you have to write the damn thing and get a finished product to the editor so you can collect your sweet, sweet moolah that you so deserve.
With that deadline set, you’ve entered into a mutual accord with the editor. The same way you expect to be paid on time, your editor assumes that you’re going to go about completing the task that you have now been contracted to do under the stipulations of your agreement.
Now, chances are that you are not the only writer contributing to a given publication. Just like you likely have multiple simultaneous projects, that editor is juggling a bunch of other smutlancers just like you. So the deadline isn’t there to just there to stress you out. It’s a means for all parties to organize themselves in the most efficient way possible.
Consequently, if you disrespect the deadline—if you let it pass without a word to your editor, thinking that it’s not a big deal, that your editor seems nice and will probably understand, that you’ll take care of it tomorrow or the day after—then you have disrespected your editor in the process. You’re telling us that your time is more important than ours and the you can’t be trusted to perform the task we promised to pay you for.
Just because our business is sex doesn’t mean we’re not serious.
This does not foster confidence in your ability to be the consummate professional we thought you were when we hired you on. Furthermore, it puts us in the awkward position of having to decide if and how we should break up with you.
Which we really don’t want to do if we can help it…
Communication Lines: Open Them
But what if something unexpected comes up and really makes it impossible for you to make that deadline? Maybe you contract a nasty virus that knocks you down for days on end; or friend or family member passes away; or you have a serious mental health episode?
First, breathe. Self-care is absolutely crucial for your continued success and is as much a part of being a successful freelancer as the pitching and writing are.
Editors are humans too, and they understand that life happens. You won’t be penalized for acknowledging your own humanity and the needs that come along with that. (If you are punished for that, then maybe working with that editor is something you need to strongly reconsider.)
Open and honest communication are key. It might be intimidating especially if the relationship is new, but all good relationships live on a solid foundation of communication.
So, if life gets so uppity that meeting the predetermined deadline is looking impossible, just give your editor a heads up. This shows us that you are still reliable and gives us both the opportunity to re-arrange our schedules in a way that best suits everyone’s revised needs.
Just because the relationship lives in the virtual world doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve real respect. Keeping the lines of communication open on both ends is how we convey mutual respect for the relationship we’re building together.
Love Lines: Nurture Them
Before I go, I want let you in on one last secret…
As editors, we’re not looking for one night stands. We’re courting with intent, prioritizing relationships that seem to show potential to be more of a long-term thing. We want something we can cultivate and strengthen with people we can work well with over time, and revisit time and again as our needs arise and evolve.
Because bringing on a new freelancer every time we need new content or services provides is freaking exhausting. We would much rather work with someone we already know and trust than hunt someone new down every time. It also streamlines the editing process because we have already begun to develop the language that works for the both of us.
The sex blogging and erotica writing community is a fairly close and supportive one. I can’t speak for every editor out there, but I know that I love to be able to sing the praises of the writers I’ve worked well with, and recommend you to my editor friends in other branches of the sex-positive publication world.
And don’t forget that this can go both ways. Because the community is more tightly knit than you might realize, especially when you’re first starting out. People talk—you wouldn’t want to put a black mark on your record that could compromise future opportunities with any other publications.
Baselines: Build Up From Them
All in all, I want to keep working with you and see you flourish elsewhere too!
If you treat your editors with the integrity and respect by acknowledging what we’re looking for in the way of pitches, respecting deadlines, communicating your needs, and working with us to reach our common goal, you’re guaranteed to have richer inter-professional relationships and more lucrative opportunities in the long run.