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PostPosted: March 26th, 2007, 1:25 pm 

Joined: August 1st, 2003, 9:52 am
Posts: 1874


Wow, this is an unfortunate situation. I think both the writer and the
editor acted poorly -- the writer for not paying attention to the
payment terms and for demanding payment so rudely without being sure of the
terms, and the editor for going back on her agreement to help the writer with
the images.

I think, in this case, the editor owes the writer *at least* a 50% kill
fee. The art may normally be part of the writer's responsibility, but in THIS
case the editor waived that responsibility by saying she'd help out with
it. And the heart of the matter is that the writer completed the written
material as assigned. Regardless of whether there's a contract, the
work WAS assigned, and a misunderstanding about payment terms (though
unprofessional on the writer's part) is NOT sufficient justification for
cutting a writer loose.

So, yes, I think the editor owes the writer at least half of the
originally agreed-upon price. If the case goes to court, I would be interested in
hearing about how it is resolved.

After reading this exchange, I can say that *I* would definitely never
write for Creative TECHniques. I wouldn't feel I could trust the editor not
to find a *reason* to refuse to pay me.


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PostPosted: March 26th, 2007, 2:16 pm 

Joined: August 1st, 2003, 9:52 am
Posts: 1874

Hi Angela,

I'd like to comment on the complaint submitted by JM about Creative
TECHniques--but if you publish my comment, please do not use my name,

I've worked on both sides of the desk (as author and editor) for more
than 20 years, and in my opinion the author did NOT live up to the original
agreement, nor did she pay close enough attention to the project
guidelines. One example: even a cursory read of the editor's e-mail discussing terms
tells you that payment is upon publication. Had the author read this
term--and she should have, since this is her business--she would have
known that immediately. Second, while I don't know the specifics of the
reasons behind the author's delays (she mentions illness, then vacation), they
strike me at first blush as pure stalling methods. Telling an editor
that you don't have your work completed because a friend never got back to you
is appallingly unprofessional. If you're relying on a friend to help you
with your work and that friend doesn't come through, it is not the editor's
fault. It is your fault. A deadline is a deadline. It's up to you to
provide what is asked for in a timely manner, and if you don't, you're not doing
your job.

It appears that the editor did try and help the author with the problems
she was having in supplying images and screen shots, but this was an offer
of help, not an offer to complete part of the author's work for her. I do
sympathize with the author somewhat, in that she put in many hours trying
to complete the assignment, but she clearly didn't live up to the standards
expected of her--and they were outlined at the start. While this editor
might do well to pay the author for her work merely as an act of goodwill,
I don't believe the author is within her rights to demand full payment.

Thanks, as always, for your great newsletter and website!

-Name not published on request

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: March 26th, 2007, 2:49 pm 

Joined: August 1st, 2003, 9:52 am
Posts: 1874

I agree in part with Sherry, but in this one, I don't find the editor all
that culpable. She messed up in trusting the writer and she messed up in
offering to provide help. In the long run, the editor would have been far
better off to search out some illustrations herself, but that's hindsight. In
fact, though, unless my memory has failed, she did say she'd try to help, an
important distinction.

I have some very real problems with the writer's behavior and technique.
First, someone who doesn't know how to do screen shots shouldn't offer
them as an illustrative medium. Given the fact it takes about 90 seconds to learn
how to do them, and it doesn't differ a lot from PC to PC, I don't understand
that at all. Second, anyone who is using Irfanview as a main graphics program
has no business offering photographs to illustrate articles. Third, if all of
the original correspondence flatly states that payment is on publication,
there is no grounds for complaint when that is the case. That's as out-of-line
as complaining about the amount of the fee after it is agreed upon and the
work is submitted.

I'd say the editor needs to pay the writer. The editor then needs to
illustrate the articles. The editor then needs to lose the writer's name
and address as soon as the check is mailed.

The writer then needs to sit down and face some facts: this is a highly
competitive business; if you make even partial offers, be ready, and
especially be able, to carry them out. If you can't do something, tell the editor
and see what can be worked out. If you can do it, then do it, submit it, and
collect the money.

The fact is, the writer probably will get paid, but if I were this editor,
that writer would never again write for any publication I ran. I've got a
few blue-pencil types like that floating around, though I like to believe it
was all the editors' faults (of course, it wasn't), but I've been freelancing
for very close to 40 years, so, as the old saying almost goes, "Stuff [sic]
happens." For a beginner, not a great tactic.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: March 29th, 2007, 4:45 pm 

Joined: August 1st, 2003, 9:52 am
Posts: 1874

I read the Whispers and Warnings thread regarding Creative TECHniques
Magazine and the Natterer, you should forgive me if I'm not
recalling her name precisely, though there are fundamental elements of the
magazine business that the Natterer is not recalling precisely herself.
For starters, she engaged JM as though under contract, but then doubled
back and acted as though the arrangement had been "on spec." It would
have been perfectly legitimate for her to offer a new writer an "on spec"
arrangement, but it is illegitimate and indeed, illegal, to contract a
writer and then claim that the terms of the agreement were "on spec." All
writers should beware of magazines headed by the likes of the Natterer.

Her publication is aimed at computer users; one presumes
that in all probability, it won't be selling advertisements mainly to
Mother Theresa's charitable organizations. The following should have set
off alarm bells in JM's head; the Natterer is offering $175 for thousands
of words . . . plus photos! . . . on publication no less . . . . and is
saying that certain pieces will be used in future issues that aren't the
next issue (in other words, they'll be published after the Natterer
has collected checks from computer mag advertisers). I would
have told her what she could byte. I may be a city boy but I have visited
farms and walked past actual piles of a bull's poop and let me tell you;
it smells!

The Natterer assigned these articles to JM, not with
a formally drafted contract, though she clearly assigned them through
e-mail messages, and then accused JM of a lack of professionalism. Can
you say "fatuous bully"? She did not provide the guidance she had offered
the writer in doing what was desired with photos, and indeed, treated her
sarcastically, saying "This is shockingly easy."

Natterer, your language there is shockingly sleazy, and not indicative
of a person trying to cultivate a professional relationship with a writer.
Besides, if you need a production assistant, you should hire a production
assistant and not expect your writers to fulfill that role.

Angela, the reason the Natterer thinks there are people in the world
unknowing enough to fall for their filthy ploys is that there really are
such people. Does a store hold its grand opening on the Fourth of July
and tell the stock boys and sales clerks it can't pay them until St.
Swithen's Day because it's a "start up operation"? Does a medical doctor
open a private practice and tell the nurses he hires they must accept less
than minimum wage because he is a start up doc? The Natterer is
trying to talk as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but that talk
is in reality like a layer of rancid margarine laid on thick with a trowel
over her underlying intentions. If she's interested in showing people
she has good ones, she should send WritersWeekly a sample contract to be
offered heretofore to new writers. The contract will state payment terms
for text, payment terms for photos obtained, and will clearly state, along
with all other conditions relevant to the engagement, whether obtaining
photos is necessary in order for a writer to be paid for her/his text.

Considering that the Natterer contracted JM for the articles, and
has the texts in her hands, and offered to help with obtaining the images,
she should, if she's interested in demonstrating her good intentions
towards writers generally, pay this writer the $350, and arrange for
images herself. She will not find competent, experienced writers to
provide her worthy articles with thousands of words on the same TECH
subjects for $350 for the text alone. If she thinks she will, she doesn't
know the market. The Natterer should be issuing professional
contracts for each free-lance article she assigns.

Yes or no; does she want the readers of WritersWeekly and
by extension the world to see that she intends to run
a professional operation that treats the writers it
contracts fairly? If so, she'll get a sample contract drafted and show it
to you. And she'll pay JM, who provided texts she was contracted to
write. Yes, JM wanted to be paid before publication (many writers only
work for mags that pay on acceptance, by the by), and the e-mail messages,
if not the initial e-mail agreements, did say that payment would be within
two weeks after publication; but if the Natterer wants anybody to
believe she'll be paying her other writers when publication time comes
around, she'll reach however deeply into her pockets she must at this time
to produce the walloping sum of $350. As things stand, when considering
this case one is left with the impression that the Natterer has
character poor enough to cancel a contract on a whim, for reasons not
addressed in the (e-mail exchange!) contracts that she issued. In her
responses to you, she is distracting attention from the essential
questions of the case by making a commotion about tangential matters. She
has the texts. $350 is ultra-cheap for TECH texts of this length. If
$350 is going to break her bank at this point, she shouldn't be in this
business. If she wants to make it appear she has good intentions towards
the writers she has already contracted, and those she will contract in the
future, she will pay this trivial writer's fee. If she won't pay it . . .
if nothing else than in recognition that her standards for setting a
contractual agreement were inexcusably shabby, then any other writer
considering working for her would be justified in their skepticism of her
as would be a restaurant patron who, having ordered a hamburger on a bun,
was served a cowpat on Wonder Bread.

Writers should not accept assignments from publications for whom they have
not previously worked without first having in hand a contract defining the
terms of the engagement.

In the first place, editors should not be assigning anything to
freelancers without issuing contracts, and if they do, that should set off
alarm bells in the writers' heads. If a writer nonetheless wants to work
for an editor who is not issuing a contract, then she/he/it should say
"May I draft a contract for your review and comments?" If an editor says
no to that, then only a fool would work for that editor. To take on a
writing assignment on the basis of a cyber handshake with somebody you do
not know is asking for trouble.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: March 30th, 2007, 11:29 am 

Joined: August 1st, 2003, 9:52 am
Posts: 1874

Unless WW is still missing some significant piece of this story, I don’t think the editor is at fault. The writer accepted the terms of the two assignments – asked for five additional assignments at the same time, if I understand the the sequence of emails – and did not fulfill her responsibilities for work completed as assigned.

The editor’s original offer of “help” with images does not negate the writer’s responsibility to provide images the editor could actually use. And the first mention of payment (by the editor) does indeed mention that payment is for text AND images.

When JM wrote to the editor, “I signed nothing with you that photos had to be submitted to be paid,” the writer failed to recognize that, following this reasoning, the editor also “signed nothing” saying that the writer would be paid AT ALL. Either there is an agreement or there is not – the writer can’t have it both ways.

Anyone can make a mistake about the payment date for a particular assignment, but it’s unfortunate that this writer chose to go after payment with such indignation and sabre-rattling before at least checking on the terms of the original agreement.

Maybe I’ve been working with exceptionally tough editors, because it seems to me this editor went above and beyond to try to work with the writer. I don’t think she owes the writer anything, and in fact, offering to help her with connections to other editors seems more than fair.

Personally, if I had threatened an editor with legal action for not sending a check before the terms of the agreement called for payment, I would be hoping that she would NOT talk to other editors about me.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 2nd, 2007, 8:56 am 

Joined: August 1st, 2003, 9:52 am
Posts: 1874

Hi, Angela. First, you deserve a medal for the work you do. Not just
because of the work itself but because you are consistent at it. You have
been a constant and reliable resource for writers. So many others, while
they may have good intentions, can never seem to keep the ball rolling for
very long. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the Creative TECHniques matter.

I am a writer who has been screwed and lied to by publishers and agents
and is very leery of trusting people in general. However, the writer is
not always right and in this case, I think "JM" was wrong. Here are my

1. It was clear from the assignment email from Natalie that photos are a
part of the articles she publishes. What made JM think she could submit a
manuscript without photos and call it complete? I understand that she
thought Natalie would help her get them, but...
2. Natalie said she would HELP get them. The key word here is "HELP." That
doesn't mean that she agreed to do the writer's work for her. And the fact
that the writer's friend flaked out on her doesn't remove the
responsibility from the writer. It was HER assignment, not her friend's.
3. Where did it say in any correspondence that Natalie would pay JM 2
weeks after delivery? I read numerous times in Natalie's emails "pay on
publication." What part of that didn't JM understand?
4. JM claims that Natalie said, "This has been a pain for me, I'm not
paying you and our relationship is done." I didn't see that anywhere.
Perhaps she was just paraphrasing, but even so, I thought Natalie's emails
were all professional and polite. Not once did she get nasty or flippant.
On the contrary, it is JM who seemed to get into a snit very quickly.

I almost hate to side with the editor in these matters but what's right is
right. I'm fully aware that editors/publishers often use and abuse
writers. We all have to be careful and stick up for ourselves, but it irks
me when a writer becomes indignant unnecessarily and before
double-checking his or her facts. It makes it harder for the rest of us.
And as a writer who works very hard at making sure that I give an editor
everything they asked for, working more hours than I should have to just
to ensure it, I just don't like the way JM behaved in this matter. It was
unprofessional and sloppy.

Thanks very much,

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: April 2nd, 2007, 5:23 pm 

Joined: August 1st, 2003, 9:52 am
Posts: 1874

JM wrote in and said:

People are commenting about the fact I didn't turn in photos -- can you
edit the original part to include that I did in fact turn in photos for EACH
--- but she told me she wanted different ones...all of the responses are all
incorrect because they say I didn't do this....


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