Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reading the Fine Print

No good or bad news to report, but one more vexing situation to add to the current bunch. I have a half-dozen returned packages from my holiday giveaways, which due to a data entry snafu by the shipper were all sent back to me as undeliverable. I will be heading over this morning to inspect them before we send them back out (I want to make sure they haven't been damaged in the process) and I'll e-mail each of the winners involved to let them know what happened and when to expect the redeliveries.

Every time I log on I've been out looking around the writing job and market listings for sub ops, and lately I've noticed a few things that trouble me. Some of these listings need to be read carefully before you respond to them. Take this one from Craigslist NY:

Gay-themed writing wanted by new magazine: "...non-fiction articles and essays, opinion pieces, fiction and stories to be serialized."

This sounds pretty good -- they'll even take love stories (no "porn") and they pay $100 per piece upon acceptance. Depending on what length they want, this could be a good market. But here's the kicker:

"All accepted material becomes property of the magazine."

Uh-oh. Hello, hundred bucks, goodbye, all the rights. That's not such a good thing.

Here's another interesting job listing for Manhattan:

Interactive Copywriter freelance to full time position. Job description from ad details "...working on everything from banners to landing pages, however, this is more about ideas and where you take initial concepts. The content you will be working on is more "branding" focused."

They're offering a lot of money for this job, too -- the freelance (starting) position is $45/hr (DOE), and the full time salary is $80 - $100K.

Two problems I see with this one:

1) DOE in a job listing generally means "Depends on Experience." So I interpret that to mean they might pay as much as $45/hr, or $45/hr is the highest end of their scale. If you were not making $45/hr at your last job? You're not going to make it here.

2) $80 - 100K -- maybe salaries have skyrocketed since last time I checked, but I don't know any full-time starting copywriters who pull that in -- they're lucky if they make half that. It is possible that I'm wrong, too, and this being a job located in Manhattan = better pay, but six figures for a copywriter? I'm in the wrong damn job.

Finally, I found this:

Boutique publisher Havenhurst Books is advertising that they're seeking ten new titles for 2009 publication, according to this craigslist ad.

Very little real information was offered in the listing, so I went to their web site. I found almost no useful information there, either, but read at least two points that made me think this is a dressed-up subsidy (vanity) publishing outfit:

Havehurst charges all submitting authors a non-refundable $15 "processing fee" (NY publishers do not charge fees for reading submissions. They do it for nothing. So why the $15?)

Havenhurst also made this statement: "Our writers are highly self-motivated and typically have an established platform to market their books. This reduces the risk of sluggish sales that, in old guard publishing, must be absorbed by other writers on the imprint" (This just sounds uber squirrely to me.)

If you're out hunting writing jobs and sub ops, be careful to read every word of the ads and market listings, and maybe even do a little research on the publisher or publishing entity before you submit. Definitely get all the facts before you sign. If you have to pay anything to submit or apply for a writing job, don't go there. Be aware of what rights the publisher expects to acquire. And don't fall for the dangling 18K gold carrot of high pay; get the actual pay or salary terms upfront, preferably in writing.


  1. It is very good of you to give writers a 'heads-up' about these kinds of practices. An unfortunate byproduct of a struggling economy is that employers become far more demanding because there are more people than jobs. They can now get away with things that they couldn't have just a year or two ago.

  2. "I don't know any full-time starting copywriters who pull that in -- they're lucky if they make half that."

    Uber squirrelly. Starting copywriters, from what I've read (and I've been looking into this), can safely start charging about $20 an hour.

    All of these look avoidable. And I wonder about these companies that want all the rights, considering how little effort they seem to make to exploit those same rights for themselves.

  3. I remember when I was in high school there were poetry contests, if yours gets chosen it's published in a volume that you were required to purchase. (around $50) I think they still have that scam going.

  4. Anonymous12:36 AM

    I saw that Havenhurst ad. Luckily I'm too damn lazy and don't have an "established platform" of hungry wolf-readers, otherwise I would have fallen for that one.


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