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;
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.