Friday, April 13, 2007

Don't be Like Me!

Remember when Jack Nicholson picked up the cute little dog in As Good As It Gets and told him, "Don't be like me!" ? Yup, don't get obsessive about not stepping on lines on the floor. Lessons for life.

Well, here's a lesson for all writers. Don't ever work without an agreement in writing. Don't agree to be paid on publication unless you absolutely know when that publication will be.

I could tell ya stories . . .

I've written two 3000-word pieces, for two different magazines. I queried first; they asked for the articles. The research took weeks. No contract. The pay wasn't great to begin with (first lesson of freelancing: never calculate your per-hour pay. It will break your heart), but their published terms were "pay on publication." The three most evil words in the English language when strung together.

If they don't publish, I don't get paid. Ever. Both publications are sitting on the articles. There's nothing wrong with them. One, as far as I know, has not been read because the old editor got demoted and new one doesn't seem interested. The other magazine requested edits, which took a couple of extra days, but has still not scheduled the piece. So I go unpaid.

Over the years, I've written for several texts and encyclopedias, where I signed a contract that said I'd be paid on publication. One was just published, three years after I submitted my work. The project had been cut and refocused, so only half my work was used, and I only got paid for half. Another editor who accepted 14 articles from me, no longer answers my emails. Her publisher, a biggie, tells me that the project is in limbo and will definitely not come out this year. I may never be paid.

Can you think of ANY OTHER PROFESSION in which workers work and then go home without being compensated? In which they're told, basically, "I'll pay you when I feel like it?"


That's why I love CraigslistCurmudgeon (under my links). He's fighting the good fight. . . I hope he's getting paid, somehow, somewhere.


Anonymous said...

As the saying goes, if it doesn't kill us, it only makes us stronger.

(Don't you hate it when people respond to your venting with some irritating cliche ;p)

Vix said...

I love that. I especially like to imagin Nietzsche rolling over in his grave at being referred to as a cliche!