Friday, July 09, 2010

This Editor Thought Zero Payment Was . . . Charitable

Those who have followed me for a year or more, know that I get red-faced and livid over not being paid. I am a writer. I write for money. I can't eat passion, so my body this mutual arrangement - my head earns the money and my heart keeps beating to enjoy the passion. So when a respectible company asked me for one-time rights to one of my Chicken Soup stories, I said I was open to compensation since it was a reprint.

Here was her initial request (paraphrased a bit to cover my behind):

I am contacting you in regards to a piece which I came across during my research for a product our company produces. Here is a snapshot of our company: (***mission, vision statement included, both extolling family key values). Our business philosophy: (***success is measured by the ability to live in a humanitarian way in order to contribute to charity). We launched our first edition last fall and received amazing feedback (see attached Media Release). Your story captures the essence of this product so I am requesting reprint permission. 20% of the purchase price of this product is going to charity.

I'm sure she felt in her heart she was performing a marvelous task, aiding this company assist charities through the publication of products. But when I stated I was a fulltime writer, earning a living, and that my words were my income, she responded as follows:

As a new business owner, I am in debt from last year's start-up costs and can’t afford to pay a contributing author. Call me callous, but that means she used funds that could have paid writers, to pay charities and to start up a business she wasn't financially prepared to proceed with. My guess is that the webmaster, hosting service, printer, post office and distributor received compensation. None of the writers who made that business possible, received a penny.

That's like me telling the guy who sells me mulch for my garden that I need his mulch, but can't pay him because I'm donating 20% of my vegetables to charity.

If she finds this blog post, she'll be disappointed in me. But I was disappointed that she wanted me to work for nothing. It's like telling me that my work is not worth a dime, so I should be willing to give it away. If she were a nonprofit/charity, that would be different. But she's attempting to earn a living with her company.

So why shouldn't I?


Unknown said...

I totally agree.
Greed wears a variety of masks.
Even here in the web they should figure out a way we all get paid.

Unknown said...

Very nicely put Hope. That's too bad when people have looked at their business from all the appropriate angles. Nothing like tunnel vision to drive your supporters away!

I was approached by a college colleague this spring regarding some work for the magazine he edits. When I said I was happy to help, but didn't have the time to devote to it if I was going to be compensated, I didn't hear a word back from him. It's funny when editors assume they're doing you such a big favor by publishing your work that the thought of compensation seems ludicrous to them. Writing's a job, and a time consuming one at that. We deserve some semblance of an hourly wage!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I'm on your side which is the fair treatment side. Writing is work. Work should be compensated.


Nancy said...

Several years ago, a real estate developer wanted to use a poem of mine that featured our state. He painted lovely pictures of my poem being framed and given as a gift to all the buyers in the development he was working on. Long story short, he wanted me to donate the poem. He was in business to make a lot of money selling homes, so why should I have turned over my work to him? I say, three cheers for you, Hope!

Unknown said...

Thank you for speaking out for all WRITERS...

As anyone who has ever tried to write a novel, keep a blog updated or compose a few poems or articles will know - it's a lot of hard work with bulk unpaid hours learning new skills and polishing old ones.

Then there's those promos (ugh, I'm just getting warmed up) with the old, you can work from home in your PJ's, get out of bed when you want, work when you want, etc. They have a lot to answer for. What a load of old codswallop!

Writers live an isolated existence with damned long hours often work a second job because writing doesn't cut-it and it's ABOUT TIME someone was BRAVE enough to demand a decent return for same.

Thanks again, Hope.


Tabren James said...

Personally, I don't blame you for passing on that one, Hope. I've had a few try that with me and I simply won't do it either. I do expect some kind of compensation, even if it is nothing more than a token stipend.

Also wanted to comment about your editorial I just read. It is sad that the publishing industry is plagued by such discrimination (and yes, it is just that), especially when you consider that up until 100 years or so ago, "self-publishing" was the way most books were published. To me, it is not we writers who should feel embarrassed about this topic, it is the publishing companies. They are passing up on a lot of great talent.

AnotherLinda said...

You're right, Hope. Electricians don't give away their work for free. Postman don't deliver mail for free. Bakers don't give away their breads. And writers should not give away their words, writer's should be paid for their work.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Hope, you are so right. We need to band together to demand fair compensation. We can get bullied or sweet-talked or guilted into giving it away for free and that hurts us and fellow artists. Churches also do this to musicians, which has recently gotten under my skin. Keep preaching your justice!

JLC said...

After thirty-plus years trying to get paid, I've had to accept that I must be able to produce only the kind of thing I can produce, and that isn't viewed by publishers as anything that could make them a nickel. Some short stories garnered the going rates for their markets, but since then my greatest satisfaction is without monetary compensation. The reason for that is that I'm in the company of writers anyone would be proud to join on a website read in ninety (90) countries with hits in the millions. Is there a chance some day someone will notice what I do and consider it valid?

Ascending Butterfly said...

I just became aware of your blog via the aspiring writers club and my God this couldn't be more appropriate to a recent experience I just had with a perspective client! I get approached multiple times per day by brands that want to leverage my PR and social media consulting expertise for FREE. And many get downright hostile when I place a particular value on my efforts and time. Your article truly hit home! I have found myself reading through so many posts, and I will definitely be back! All I can say is I truly empathize! And I pretty much told a recent client the same thing, I can't 'eat' passion, nor does my landlord accept 'passion' as payment for rent!

Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly