Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Friday, 18 September 2009

Cautionary Tale ......

I had a really interesting experience with an editor yesterday, and I suggest that you read this very carefully as I wouldn't want any of you, particularly relative new writers who read this blog, to fall into the same trap I did.

You may recall that in August I had an article in a local community mag, and this month I had three articles in another community mag. I have also been working on an article for the first community mag I was published in about my local area. All well and good you might think. Think again.

I had been asked a few days ago by the editor of the first mag to hold off on the article, which I did. I received an email from this editor last night. Basically he was not happy that I had had articles in another community magazine which he views as his 'competition.' I am completely flummoxed by this and upset because the editor in question is now saying he won't publish articles from me because I have written for another 'rival' mag! I can understand where he's coming from to a certain extent but when you consider the following you will understand why I am so annoyed about it all.

1. The editor never told me that he didn't want me to write articles for any other local community magazines - they did say they were looking for a unique content and identity to set them apart from other mags - but, to me, that means they don't want the same or similiar articles on the same topic in 'rival' mags. Unless editors specifically state clearly what they want there's not a lot I can do - I'm not a mind reader! Although wouldn't that be a super power to have?!

2. I don't get paid for the articles - I submit them because I have something to say that I feel would benefit the community and I like to be published - that is reward enough in the local publications.

3. I am not under any contract with any of the community magazines and I don't want to be as I find this too restrictive - if they were paying me it would be a different matter and, of course, I would abide by the rules. But I didn't do the articles for the money.

I really don't know what else to say. I, of course, knew that you don't write similiar articles for rival paying magazines - and I would never do that. If an editor of a paying magazine said to me they didn't want me writing for rival mags then that's fine by me, as long as they take some of my articles and pay me for them. If this editor had made it clear to me that they didn't want me writing for other local community magazines then I would have had to consider my options and whether I was happy to just contribute to that mag to the exclusion of all others. I respect this particular editors point of view - it's his mag and he wants it to be the best - this is fair comment - but I don't feel he has the right to dictate his terms to me. He can tell me what he wants from his contribiutors but I don't have to accept them - I would have to if I wanted to published in his mag but I cannot - hand on heart - agree to the exclusivity he wants. It's sad but I write so many different articles to a variety of magazines and I feel uncomfortable restricting my options. It's different with the paying market. Why do I feel as though I've done something wrong? Am I making too much of it - does this particular incidence really matter?

What makes me feel worse is that this particular editor has been and remains to be so kind with his comments about the good quality of my writing and I do appreciate that, truly I do - yet the exclusivity he wants sort of sticks in my throat. Do I agree to write only for his community mag or do I let that one go and write for others? Not an easy question to answer. I am embarrassed that this situation has happened and I am unsure as to what I can do, if anything, to rectify it.

There seems to have been a distinct lack of communication somewhere and, unfortunately, it's me who has been caught in the middle of it. Now I know some of you might say as they are not paying magazines who cares, move on. But I do care and my reputation as a good, honest writer is very important to me. I feel that, through no fault of my own, there has been a huge misunderstanding and I have lost a writing outlet because I have stuck to my principles and declined to write exclusively for this editor because I don't like the feeling of being owned (does anyone know what I mean?). I am also now going to have to approach the other editor and see if he's been bothered by my article in the other magazine! I may end up not writing for any of them! I can't be doing with all this negativity and I feel like a naughty school child or a woman shunned by her jealous lover because she's had an affair! Am I a literary lolita because I've had an affair with another magazine?!

So my message here is to be very careful when you submit work to magazines - even non-paying local community ones. Make sure that you are clear with the editors that you intend to/ already have submitted work to other editors. It is then up to them to tell you whether they mind or not - then it's up to you to decide whether you agree to abide by these 'rules' or not. It depends on the circumstances, but if it is a non-paying local community magazine I would now have to think hard about whether I wanted to remain untethered until the magazine in question gave me a reason to write exclusively for them.

Please, please, please do not be so desperate to be published that you will agree to anything the editor wants. You may well restrict yourself too early in your career and be denied other, better, writing opportunities that may present themselves later on. Read Jane Wenham-Jones's 'Get Your Just Rewards' column in Writing Magazine for an interesting take on the subject of writing for free.

So let's throuw it open to debate - what does everyone else think?

Julie xx


Olivia Ryan said...

My sympathies, Julie. I know a little about this scenario, as my eldest daughter writes a regular monthly column for a local magazine. She also receives no pay for this, and she was also refused publication in a 'rival' local mag because she writes for the first one. There are two ways of looking at this. I agree that these editors are somewhat taking the 'p' by having writers contributing free articles, and then acting like mini-dictators about you trying to contribute to other publications. On the other hand, they are in business and their only income (if the magazine is distributed free of charge) is from advertisers. I'm not sure whether they make a good living or not, so I can't comment - but I guess, as with all these situations, we writers have to grin and bear it and accept that we are getting writing practice, and publication, and PR. But I agree that you should definitely have been warned that the editor didn't want you to contribute to rival mags. It seems very unfair to dictate this after the event. I hope you aren't too upset. Let it go, and continue to enjoy the writing. xxx

Julie P said...

Thanks Olivia. I'm just putting it down to experience really. It has made me think twice about submitting work to these free community magazines again. I'm glad that the editor still rates my writing so highly but I don't feel able - certainly not for the near future to submit to this mag again - I feel that he's punishing me for being published in another magazine by stating he won't publish my work at the moment - so there would be no point in my submitting to that magazine anyway. It feels a bit tit for tat to me. The other editor has also been very good to me so I feel I'm in bit of a piggy in the middle situation if you know what I mean.

I shall have a think about it over the weekend as I don't want this particular editor to feel he can just lay down the law and expect me to come running! That's really not me!I had enough of that sort of rubbish when working for the NHS where I got paid to be expected to toe the line no matter if the GP was wrong or not! I'm not about to go back to that again!

Julie xx

Simon Whaley said...

Olivia's right - these community mags are not huge money earners for their owners. The only income they derive is from the advertising - which will be local, rather than national companies.

But it should also be remembered that freelance writing is no different to any other form of self-employment. You are a business. And so is the magazine. If you're stuck between writing for two free magazines, then the choice is down to which one you have a preference for. But if one pays and one doesn't then ditch the free one for the paying one.

And Julie - you're right. You are not a mind-reader. Until one editor says he doesn't like you writing for competing magazines how the heck are you supposed to find out?

Personally, I'd say stop writing for the free mags (unless there's a business reason for doing so) and start writing for the mags that will reward you financially for doing an honest day's work.

Good luck!

Julie P said...

Thanks, Simon. I forget to mention I'd blogged about it earlier! I feel a lot better about the situation and have learned from it. Thanks for your continuing support - I hope my blog posting prevents other writers from falling foul of the same trap!
I do feel a bit of a berk for it not occuring to me that rival community mags might get the hump over a writer writing for both of them!! DUH!

Anyway I am cheerful and looking forward to the weekend and the writing group meeting tomorrow. I haven't done the chairman's challenge SHOCK HORROR!!

Julie xx

Suzanne Jones said...

Sounds like a bit of a cheek, but it's his loss, Julie. Surely he should be trying to get the best articles regardless of what else the writer contributes to.

It's rough on you, but at least you have the articles he's already published for your cv. And you have the boost of knowing that, despite being miffed you've contributed elsewhere, he still rates your work.


Olivia Ryan said...

Oh yes. I'm with you there about the NHS, Julie! xx

Lynne Hackles said...

I agree with Simon, Julie. If this editor is praising your work then you should be getting paid for your writing by now. Start looking for paying markets and bombard them until they give in.

Fee said...

Thanks for the warnings Julie. You know what the writing group thought on Saturday over this situation. Don't let it get you down.

You are good so now go find other outlets that will pay you for your high standards.

Best wishes and good luck.


It may be worth writing a letter to one of the writing magazines and see if you can get letter of the week and a little payment for it.

Chin up. Hugs


Julie P said...

Hi, Fee! Already sent a letter off on that subject to one of the writing mags!

I was so glad of the support from our lovely writing group and the wonderful folk here in Blogland and I feel much better about it all now.

My chin is no longer scraping the floor and I am in high spirits approaching other editors with article ideas - it's the only way forward and thanks for your support. It's much appreciated. We all have down moments in our writing and it's important we share them with other writers.

Take care

Julie xx