Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Contingency Clause

Angela Hoy puts out the best free ezine around on writing:

This week, she points out a way to avoid the wasteland of not being published, and therefore not being paid (assuming you are dumb enough to sign a "paid on publication" contract, which is often all you're offered). Add a contingency clause!

Before you sign, add a clause in the contract that states: Payment will be made upon publication, or by (insert reasonable date), whichever comes first.

I would have been too timid to ask for that years ago. Not any more! Being cheated does wonders for your assertiveness.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What I learned today

A key scene of the 1942 movie Now, Voyager (with Bette Davis) is supposed to take place in a South American restaurant. Davis and Paul Henreid are featured.

The restaurant is still around, but it's not in South America. It's in Laguna Beach, California, and is called Las Brisas.

Harry Medved's wonderful book Hollywood Escapes is just full of little gems like that.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Don't be Like Me!

Remember when Jack Nicholson picked up the cute little dog in As Good As It Gets and told him, "Don't be like me!" ? Yup, don't get obsessive about not stepping on lines on the floor. Lessons for life.

Well, here's a lesson for all writers. Don't ever work without an agreement in writing. Don't agree to be paid on publication unless you absolutely know when that publication will be.

I could tell ya stories . . .

I've written two 3000-word pieces, for two different magazines. I queried first; they asked for the articles. The research took weeks. No contract. The pay wasn't great to begin with (first lesson of freelancing: never calculate your per-hour pay. It will break your heart), but their published terms were "pay on publication." The three most evil words in the English language when strung together.

If they don't publish, I don't get paid. Ever. Both publications are sitting on the articles. There's nothing wrong with them. One, as far as I know, has not been read because the old editor got demoted and new one doesn't seem interested. The other magazine requested edits, which took a couple of extra days, but has still not scheduled the piece. So I go unpaid.

Over the years, I've written for several texts and encyclopedias, where I signed a contract that said I'd be paid on publication. One was just published, three years after I submitted my work. The project had been cut and refocused, so only half my work was used, and I only got paid for half. Another editor who accepted 14 articles from me, no longer answers my emails. Her publisher, a biggie, tells me that the project is in limbo and will definitely not come out this year. I may never be paid.

Can you think of ANY OTHER PROFESSION in which workers work and then go home without being compensated? In which they're told, basically, "I'll pay you when I feel like it?"


That's why I love CraigslistCurmudgeon (under my links). He's fighting the good fight. . . I hope he's getting paid, somehow, somewhere.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Military Encyclopedias

Ah, the joys of paid work!

I am expanding my knowledge of Rome, from the Punic Wars up through its ignomious sack by the Vandals, by writing for a textbook-style encyclopedia of war. Not my favorite topic by a long shot, but I'm learning tons o' stuff. . . not the least of which is that encyclopedia articles, online and in print, are only as good as the hacks and graduate students that wrote them. And we ain't all geniuses.

Who'd'a thunk you couldn't trust an encyclopedia? Sadly, it's sometimes true. I have read some poorly-researched articles that were just plain wrong.

Right now I'm reading about the mysterious Goths. They really were mysterious in the sense that no one is really sure where they came from and how all the tribes were related. My source, published this year, is called Rome's Gothic Wars and the author was in diapers when I graduated High School. Boy, that's depressing.