The recent Writers Weekly article, Great Writing Gig Or A Scam?, got me thinking about all the deadbeat editors I’ve met in my long freelancing career and how I’ve answered some of their “scams.”
I’m a Canadian freelance writer and author (BookLocker.com helped me self-publish my first book, Some Sunny Day, leading to a number of contracts with traditional publishers) and these days I specialize in writing travel articles. But, no matter what facet of the writing business I find myself involved in, there is a scavenger out there waiting to ride piggyback on my talents.
My favorite deadbeat is the one who says he or she can’t pay me right now because they are just starting up, but “down the road” they’ll be able to pay me a fair rate for my articles. I never hear from them again when I write back and tell them I’ve been down more roads than Willie Nelson.
Another favorite is the bozo who tells me that, while there is no – or little – pay for the assignment offered, I will get lots of exposure. My reply to this laughable excuse is that I live in the frozen north where you can die of exposure. Once again, that’s the last I hear from them.
One instance involved a casual friend who represented six hotels in the Caribbean. He told me that he would like to fly me down there, and have me stay at each of the six properties, and then write a brochure about them. I told him that, since he was a friend, I would give him a special rate for writing the brochure. You can guess his response: “Special rate? You mean you expect me to pay you? But, you’re getting a free trip to the Caribbean!” I replied that writing was what I did for a living, then added: “The pilot who flies the plane taking me to the Caribbean also gets a free trip. Do you think he flies the plane for nothing because of it?” Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard from that jerk since.
It never ceases to amaze me that people who wouldn’t think of shopping at a clothing store and walking out with a suit without paying for it, or filling their grocery cart at a supermarket with products they had no intention of paying for, are shocked when I insist on being paid for my work.
For those WritersWeekly subscribers just starting out in the business, my advice is that they have to be prepared for all the bloodsuckers out there ready to feed off their talents without compensating them properly for their efforts. Writing has been good to me. I’ve managed to make a fair living at it, I’ve had some wonderful experiences, and I’ve met some fantastic people – everyone from Pope John Paul II, to the Prince of Wales, to the King of Spain.
But I learned early – and, yes, the hard way – to avoid those people who think that writers possess some magical machine where you press one button and out pops a travel piece…and you press another button and up comes a promotional brochure.
Remember, if you write for nothing, that’s what people will think your work is worth.
You can contact Tom Douglas at http://www.tomdouglas.typepad.com.