Media Corner

Writers, editors, photogs, broadcasters & bloggers share tips, leads, ideas, news, gripes. PR reps/journos ISO press releases/trips, see also "PR/Marketing." Opinions stated are not necessarily those of Tripatini.

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Comment by Frances J. Folsom on July 26, 2009 at 7:43am
I agree with Mary Alice, Susan, take the trip and don't tell. Chances are almost 100% guaranteed that you won't be asked. I'm with the "don't ask/don't tell" group.
Comment by Allan Lynch on July 25, 2009 at 11:01pm
Mary - It was certainly toasty. I've considered getting one for when I have to shovel snow (which in Allan's world isn't too much - just the front walk, everything else is ploughed).

The advantage of living in Canada or the UK is that everything I write automatically is my copyright. Under our laws I actually have to sign something to give away or alter my copyright. I don't need to put a copyright notice on anything or register anything. If I write or snap the photo or draw the illustration, it's mine.
Comment by David Paul Appell on July 25, 2009 at 10:22pm
Brava, Mary Alice! Looking forward to hearing from you again in August!
Comment by Mary Alice Kellogg on July 25, 2009 at 10:18pm
Dear Comrades: Am enjoying reading these and we're a savvy and helpful bunch in these trying times. A couple of things:
First, to Susan's dilemma: Just take the damned trip! The "don't ask/don't tell" gambit is the only thing to do these days, and chances are you'll gather enough info for stories for other outlets.Trust me: they won't ask and, in this economy, you are not a bad person for not telling. The point is survival.
As to a Warning List, those of us who belong to ASJA have their warning list, contributed by members. The easiest thing to do is for us to share non-bellyache info -- who's slow in pay, who's not paying at all, who's playing writers off against one another, who seems to be going out of business and, therefore, not to be trusted for future assignments. Just put your Caveat du Jour in the Comments, and we'll be grateful for it.
Long ago I began to sign Work for Hire contracts and ignored them -- re-selling magazine articles only slightly altered to other outlets after publication. And not once has the original Draconian magazine outfit found out. Devious? No: smart! We can't change the game, but we can find ways to change the ballpark in our favor.
As to rates, consider this (courtesy of an ASJA study done a decade ago): rates are about the same, or lower, than they were in the 1960s for magazines. We know that everything has gone up but writer compensation, and that ain't gonna change. We have it in our power to be as smart/devious to get out work out there.
Am off for a week (a cruise I actually paid for -- no having to interview the Hotel Manager, show up for the galley tour when I'd rather be doing anything else, etc.!). Will happily keep track of this conversation after I return August 2. Another advantage of taking a real vacation is that I am going to be computer and e-mail free for a week. Such bliss!
One question for Allan: Do you wear that red puffy suit all the time!
Courage mes amis!
Comment by Jordan Simon on July 25, 2009 at 3:48pm
Allan, thanks so much for your input. You Canadians have often proved savvier than us south-of-the-border types. Your legal action is intriguing. But truthfully, it's time-consuming, enervating, and sometimes expensive to bring suit in the States (litigious lot that we are). Even small claims court is a chore, and rarely gets you the money even when you receive the fair judgment. And in the case of two publishers, I'm owed more than the SCC cap. Attorneys and debt collectors will sometimes work on commission -- albeit for 1/3 to 1/2 of monies recovered... And I've had two lawyers tell me I should copyright every article I write. Good lord! We shouldn't have to copyright our work. Imagine how expensive that would be, for every single article (and now blogging, which rhymes with flogging, LOL)! Submission of the work should constitute an implied contract that rights revert to us (unless the contract with the publisher stipulates otherwise).

As for guidebooks, they're works-for-hire. We know that going in. But at least Fodor's, Frommer's and their ilk would put your name on the title page, entitling you to being listed as author on Amazon, B&N, Borders, et al, and therefore Google. Even worse, they now put all your hard work sans byline up on the net and syndicate it elsewhere for additional monies, none of which you see. And heaven forfend you don't do the update at an even more ridiculously low fee -- your name may not be seen anywhere in the book, even though 90% of your original material might still comprise the book.

Basta! This isn't a forum for whining. We all know the problems inherent in the industry. As Mary Alice says, we need to band together to devise devious (re)solutions. :-)
Comment by Allan Lynch on July 25, 2009 at 2:57pm
Hi Jordan,

Actually, in Canada we had a chance to do something about on-line revenues and we blew it! I won't bother to go into the whole episode again, but we had the chance and those who don't understand business won the day and lost the future.

As for protecting copyright, I had the same book publisher twice steal mine. The first time became a two-year legal fight. I settled out of court for more than three times what I originally asked for and more than the court could have awarded. The second time they just paid me what I asked.

As for guidebooks, I have my own thoughts on how that can be addressed. But I'm still mulling over details, so need a bit more time on it.

Comment by Jordan Simon on July 25, 2009 at 1:32pm
Allan, et al: Rates have actually decreased in many cases, not merely remained static for 20 years. And alas, you're right about writers being our own worst enemies. We lost the electronic rights battle without firing a shot (hell, we didn't even realize there was a war). Now our work (especially for guidebooks we wrote from scratch and for which we no longer receive proper credit, let alone compensation) is syndicated all over the net without attribution and remuneration. The irony is not lost upon me that I decry this sad fact online. :-)

Mary Alice, shout-out back at ya (last time we saw each other, I think we were rushing back from an event to watch Lost), and your clarion call to arms (or at least nimbly typing fingers) is a tonic. I'm grateful to David and Jose for providing a forum for our community and comments.

Vis a vis copyright, intellectual property, and um, payment. We know most group newsletters discuss deadbeat (or sloooooow-paying) publishers. IMO this deserves its own "kvetch" thread or even section, both to commiserate and warn. Ed and I are currently two of many writers who've banded together to sue one deadbeat. We're not here to subsidize these publishers! Yet how often do we make concessions for start-ups, desperately hoping for a windfall by getting in on the first floor?

Once David and/or Jose suggests the appropriate thread for "warnings," I'll name names, and would encourage everyone else to do the same. This is not acting with intent to harm business; if anything we don't want to hound them into bankruptcy (probably squirreling their assets elsewhere anyway). But we have an ethical obligation not only to list deadbeats but to provide counsel regarding the best course(s) of action.
Comment by Allan Lynch on July 25, 2009 at 11:39am
We're our own worst enemies when it comes to business. So many writers don't want to bother with it. I've heard good writers say copyright is boring. It's our pension plan! I've heard newbies naively suggest that if we work hard and do a good job, then editors will pay us more (even if they wanted to, it's not up to them). Then I've known "professional" writers who have written for free because the trip was the pay off...

It's enough to make you bang your head against the wall. This is why I have basically given up on writers' organizations.
Comment by David Paul Appell on July 25, 2009 at 10:51am
Allan, as I've always said, we writers are the last in line...
Comment by Allan Lynch on July 25, 2009 at 10:26am
I'm curious who publishers think they are going to get to write for them if they have to pay their own way and receive a fee which hasn't risen in 20 + years?

Are the advertisers paying 20-year-old rates? Are the readers paying 20-year-old cover prices?



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