pitfalls, writing

What Doesn’t Kill Me …

January 9, 2007

In an earlier I mentioned that I had received an assignment to write an article for a trade magazine. The editor asked me to interview and write an article about a local dessert establishment. The article needed to be 1500 words with technical jargon and completed in one week. With several pitfalls (such as the time allowed to write the article with the needed research and the owner I interviewed hard to reach with followup questions) I managed to complete it in a week.

I submitted it to the editor and, of course, asked if the article was satisfactory. He replied it was and will keep me in mind for future articles. Now let’s fast forward until a week ago. I have not heard from the editor since November (when I submitted the article) and I could not find the article anywhere. I sent an email in December and another one several weeks later. My sister urged me to give him a call.

Imagine my surprise we I queried him about the appearance of the story he off-handedly replied. “I had to trash it because it wasn’t up snuff.”

Here are some facts to keep in mind:

1) The editor only gave me one week to write an article for his TRADE (meaning technical [facts, equipment, methods, etc] jargon heavy) magazine.

2) He is an editor. It’s his job to work with writers to fix a story.

3) Knowing that I haven’t written in awhile he gave me this story with very little guidance in what to do. He sent me a previous article about an ice cream establishment in another city and told me to base my story off of that.

4) A publication not using a story is a pitfall of the freelance business, but he could have told me this WEEKS ago. I had to call him to find out this tidbit of information. That’s like asking your boss if you are fired because you have not received a paycheck.

5) And I’m extra salty about this because I was offered $350 for this gig.

After I hung up the phone and several hours later recovered from this passive aggressive laden shock I became annoyed. Once again it is not the issue that he did not use the article, but it was the fact he could not at least emailed me to say so.

YogaKat said if I had a contract at least I could have argued for a kill fee. Of course the agreement was all word of mouth. The only card in my favor was that the writer who eventually wrote the article (yes, he reassigned the story to another writer) could not use my research. I have tapes and drafts.

Oh that would have been ugly.

Capt. Snack and a co-worker said I should tweak the article and sell it somewhere else. I intend to do so. I am just very disappointed. It seems everything I touch I destroy. Sometimes I feel like I was born under an unlucky star. There is no sense crying about the situation … and I have not cried about this at all!

Besides it made an interesting blog entry.

If I cannot find an outlet for my article Capt. Snack said I should post it here. I’m sure my five blog readers will find my gelato article fascinating.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Harker January 10, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Hey! Take heart! I took a class in freelnce writing a few years ago, and one of the things they kept saying over and over again is that you will get many rejections before any article/story is published. There are plenty of classics that had been rejected over and over again by different editors before someone finally saw the light and accepted their work. The fact that the editor couldn’t be straight with you is really unfortunate. I’d be p*ssed too. Maybe you can look at it another way. This is the way he deals with every potential writer for the publication. I think more editors work this way than don’t. And the fact of the matter is s/he’s probably too busy to send out rejection emails. You said you haven’t written in a while, it takes courage to do what you did! The fact of the matter is that he’s probably used to people who write articles for a living and you’re just getting your feet wet again. The fact that he didn’t give you more guidance may speak to the fact that he’s probably used to dealing with people who have been writing for a very long time.

  • Reply S. January 11, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Here’s my issues with this…

    1) The editor only gave me one week to write an article for his TRADE (meaning technical [facts, equipment, methods, etc] jargon heavy) magazine.
    ——–
    I fail to see why someone who runs a trade mag would only give you ONE WEEK to write this unless it was on spec, which is wasn’t. Regardless if it is about dessert, one would figure that since that target audience for a trade would be more narrow, you would need time to do the research and craft an article that would appeal to that target.

    3) Knowing that I haven’t written in awhile he gave me this story with very little guidance in what to do. He sent me a previous article about an ice cream establishment in another city and told me to base my story off of that.
    ————
    Unfortunatly, editors work differently. One of the freelance stories that I did, and didn’t even get PAID for, the editor constantly worked with me, not to mention that at the time, I haven’t written an article in a while.

    4) A publication not using a story is a pitfall of the freelance business, but he could have told me this WEEKS ago. I had to call him to find out this tidbit of information. That’s like asking your boss if you are fired because you have not received a paycheck.
    ———–
    Yes, it’s part and parcel, but in all fairness, he could have told you. It really pisses me off when pubs think that if they don’t get back to a writer, he/she should assume that they were rejected. Seriously, you can’t take a few minutes to even shoot someone an e-mail? Unless they specify that if you don’t hear from them in a certain time period in their guidelines, that’s unprofessional in my opinion.

    5) And I’m extra salty about this because I was offered $350 for this gig.
    ——–
    I agree with Yogacat, you could have gotten a kill fee (if it’s their policy) if it was a written agreement. I would have been a little suspicious if I didn’t get a written agreement, especially for that amount of money.

    Face it, you came across a bad editor and it’s a good thing that you shared you experience with other. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written in a while or if you’re an experienced writer, if you write a story that’s just as good or even better than someone who’s been writing for years, you deserve payment.

    That was unprofessional…period.

  • Reply Anonymous January 12, 2007 at 3:08 am

    Yo! Wow. Have I got a bunch of things to add, so away we go!

    First of all, he sounds like an ass. Yup, I said it. What you should do (a staple of every guy –take a problem and give a solution, not bothering to just “listen”) is to trash his rear end in the Philly Weekly. Why not? It’ll make you feel better.

    Speaking of feeling better, even better, you can add your feature story with a company called PR Newswire. They have this thing called “FeatureWire” and they may even have a package based around food. You need to be careful though, since the woman who reads all of the stories can be a bit (well, how can a put it?) crabby sometimes.

    And you want to talk about rejection? Even I, the wonderful, funny, charming, albeit very modest chap that I am was rejected time and time again by fair maidens that for some unknown reason, would rather sleep with half the football team than me.

    Go figure.

    Cheer up. At least you don’t live in Baltimore.

    And go see Rocky Balboa. It’ll make you feel better.

    — I.S.

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