I Should Have Known Better… and So Should You! By Laura Bell

I know of no other profession where members accept work assignments without finding out when they get paid. Paid on acceptance or paid on publication used to do the trick, but no more. The world of writing has gotten more complicated.

I use to pride myself on asking more questions than most until an embarrassing incident snuck up on me in June. After 30 years in the business, I should have known better.

I had just finished submitting an op-ed piece to my distribution list. Sat down; took a breath; and the phone rang. Yes, “I just sent you that piece. You’re going to buy it.” (A great big silent scream of, yea, I am going to published here!) The editor asked me to write one additional paragraph, which I did in about five minutes. I sent the addition back in and that’s when things started going wrong.

Her next email told me that they pay, ugh, $150. I didn’t care at the moment. I just wanted my byline in that paper so much I couldn’t think straight. Attached to the next email were: a vendor agreement, a writer’s agreement and a W2.

It didn’t occur to me until several days later to find out if they paid on acceptance or publication. I had a friend who had written for the same pub for years. She assured me her checks came very quickly. I finally discovered that was true because she was turning in copy for a section that ran every week. No, they paid on publication, declared my editor, when I questioned her. There was nothing in the writer’s agreement that mentioned when one gets paid. I have found this be true several times this past year.

I did try to find out when the publication would happen. She hemmed and hawed and said it would be