August 31, 2011
Was I Ripped Off? Yep! | printable version
I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but I just had one of the worst experiences in my entire writing career, and I'm afraid I didn't handle it very well. Could you give me some advice?
I saw an ad in a local magazine asking for writers and article ideas. To my surprise and delight, when I inquired, I immediately got three writing assignments. The editor said that they'd pay me $75 for each, but, after I wrote them (the articles) she was disappointed. She said they weren't long enough, and wanted to bring the price down to $45 each. I actually thought that was fair so I said it was okay.
Well, I spent two to three weeks getting the articles ready, even neglecting other things I was working on. I sent the articles in and was asked for my address so they could mail my check. This morning, however, I received an e-mail from the editor informing me that the publisher said that it wasn't in their budget to pay me--not later--simply not at all. I wrote back immediately saying that that was unacceptable (I felt as though I'd been scammed) and that I wanted her to have the publisher get back with me IMMEDIATELY. The bad part is that I threatened to take it to small claims court. I guess I shouldn't have done that. I just was soooooo angry! I truly feel that the entire deal was a scam from the beginning.
Anyway, Angela, where do I go from here? Do you have any advice? I've been disappointed with writing assignments several times, even lost out on kill fees, and I've always just taken it in stride and figured well, win a few, lose a few, but I've never, never, I feel, been so deliberately raked over. I'm not a person who likes bad relations with anyone, especially with editors and publishers; however, I wonder if what this magazine is doing is as calculated as I believe it is and, if that is the case, shouldn't other writers be warned? I wish I hadn't threatened with the small claims court, but I feel that something should be done. Could you PLEASE give me some advice?
This scam isn't actually that unusual. Some so-called editors offer to buy articles, change the terms mid-way, and then later say their boss can't/won't pay. The writer sometimes believes the editor made a mistake and walks away...and the publication uses the writer's article anyway. It's a classic bait and switch. Bait the writer with promise of payment, get the piece from the writer, and then claim they can't pay for one reason or another. By that time, they have the writer's property (the article) and they publish it. I wouldn't be surprised if your editor is indeed the publisher as well and that she's scamming writers left and right to get free content. Scammers frequently blame a fictitious boss or other employee when bad news must be delivered to someone expecting payment for their work.
However, if an employee makes a promise to a contractor, their boss is bound by that promise. Any judge in any courtroom will agree that any employee acting in the capacity of "editor" of a periodical has the authority to order articles and negotiate fees with the writers of those articles.
They are legally bound by the original amount they offered you by email. You were never under any obligation to accept less and certainly not obligated to accept nothing at all. You can probably still convince them to pay you, however. Please see More Than One Way to Expose a Deadbeat HERE.
A practical resource outlining the self-syndication process, step-by-step. Packed with detailed information and useful tips for writers looking to gain readership, name recognition, publication and self-syndication for their column or articles.