When Your Editor Becomes Your Co-Author…Without Asking

Dear Angela,

Reading your newsletter and warning sections, and the warnings of others in the writing community, I have avoided most of the problems that you hear about that freelance writers encounter. My problem is a strange one.

I wrote a travel piece for an online website, which I had heard good things about. Although the pay was low, many postings about this site said they paid on time and that writers had no problem with the editor. I wrote an article for them about a ghost tour I took.

My article appeared on the website at the beginning of October. But it wasn’t really my article. I expected some editing – buried lead moved to front of story, etc. But they actually added paragraphs of detail that were not mine, including a location and ghost story that I neither visited nor heard. I would say about 50% of the story is actually mine.

I have had editors make changes before. One of my editors even added a paragraph to my article, due to some last minute information I received. But I provided her with the information and she sent me back the manuscript to review and approve what she added.

I am not sure what to do. I don’t care at this point if I receive the $25. I am worried that I won’t be able to resell this article with all the changes. And I haven’t been using this as a clip; I don’t want to explain why the clip is so different from my manuscript.

Should I email the editor and politely request that the article be removed from the website?

Thanks for your help with the tough writing questions.

– A

What the editor did to your article went far beyond editing. He/she became your co-author without your consent. If an editor is going to add that much content to your article, and publish it under your name, he/she should, at the very least, get your permission first. A better way to go about this is to first get the writer’s permission and then add the editor’s name to the article as well.

Since you can’t honestly use this as a clip, and since the pay is low, I would suggest asking them to remove the article from their site. Tell them they no longer have your permission to publish your part of the article on their site, or anywhere at all. Putting someone else’s work under your name is dishonest and they are misleading their readers and misrepresenting your work by keeping that article on their website.

Need advice? Send an email to: angela – at – writersweekly.com