Friday, January 11, 2013
Avoiding Deadends and Deadbeats
Editors are busy people. When an editor says he or she will send a reply to your query tomorrow, you can bet it will probably not arrive, at least not for a while. It pays to follow up with all your correspondence. Sending a polite reminder is good business, not hassling an editor.
Maybe you’ve been working with an editor for quite a while. You believe you have a good relationship. He’s told you that he likes your work. Then one day, you fail to get a response. It turns out that he moved on to a completely different type of publication—without telling you. You can try to track him down, but you’d be better off finding a new market.
In these uncertain economic times, it’s not unusual for a magazine to fold precipitously. You may have been waiting patiently to get paid, and it isn’t until several months later that you discover that the publisher went bankrupt.
Writers used to have to worry about whether the U.S. Postal Service delivered their manuscript. And even if your manuscript arrived it then got stuck in the mailroom. There seemed to be a definite relationship between how many floors a building had and how long your article sat in the mailroom. And if you sent your work to one of the higher paying periodicals, it most likely ended up in the slush pile where it may have sat for several weeks before an unpaid intern took a look at it.
Your article is accepted; you're jubilant. Then you get word from the editor that she had to kill your article. Even then you have to wait an unduly long time for the kill fee. Needless to say, the article's timeliness has been its undoing—the poor thing now is dead. You can’t even send it elsewhere.
And if you think that one or more of these may happen to you at various times, think again. It’s not uncommon in the freelance biz for nearly all of them to happen at the same time or at least one right after the other. It’s enough to drive a writer crazy.
Can you spot these possible disasters beforehand? In some cases, yes. But most of time, no. In fact, you may have no indication that a problem exists until the worst happens.
You can prevent some negative experiences from happening by taking a few precautions. Many writers refuse to do more than send a query to a new publication, then sit back and wait for the results. You’ll soon discover that there’s always a shakedown period at a new publication. You don't want to get caught in the fallout. Some magazines just don’t make it.
Magazines that pay on publication are notorious for creating problems. Publishers want to hang on to their money for as long as possible. Many times "pay on publication" means "several months or more after publication." But then, you may be trying to get into a new market. The number of publications paying on acceptance has dwindled with the recession. Do your homework and study the markets before you decide to send any work to them.
One tactic you might use is to wait the required time for an answer from a publisher or editor, then send a registered letter advising you're withdrawing your manuscript or query. You’ll then be free to submit it elsewhere.
To avoid problems once you get an assignment, you should make sure to immediately follow the conversation with a follow-up letter of assignment—sent by Email or regular mail—detailing the article topic, length, agreed-upon rates, delivery date, and expenses to be paid.
Lastly, save all Email messages from editors. When you do have a problem, you can then send forward the original message to the editor who may be denying what he or she said in the first place. It’s only then that you’ll exclaim, “Thank God for Email!”