Good Will Punting.

An Ape-ology. And an explanation.

My previous post is an apology.  Having spent lots of time promoting the articles that I wrote for Eve Magazine, I suddenly stopped.  In fact, the last article that I posted was supposed to be published in Eve Magazine.  It wasn’t.

When I posted my first article, it was on the request from the editor after a certain amount of cynical bravado from both of us.  She told me that she needed someone to write for her, and I was bored and needed something to fill a little bit of time.  After all, arguing with people on Twitter does nothing to further either one’s career, nor prevents one’s opponent from displaying the kind of intelligence that feels intimidated when watching a wasp trying to escape from a conservatory.  Except , perhaps, for  Sarah Tonner who used Twitter to publicise an unfortunate set of circumstances and legislative buffoonery when her boyfriend was arrested for letting off some steam via 140 characters.  Incidentally, 140 characters is probably the number of lawyers that benefitted from the local constabulary and judiciary refusing to employ common sense. I digress. Sarah benefitted from this absurdity by getting her writing recognised by the Guardian, no less, and having the following, excellent, article published.  So, I backpedal.  You can further your career by arguing with people on Twitter.

Sarah’s Guardian article

Anyway, I was asked to write an article for the magazine.  The suggested subject matter was Ashley Cole.  I wrote it.  She liked it.  A lot.  So she published it and asked me to write another article, with the promise of payment in the near future if the work continued to be of a similar quality to my first effort.  To be fair, I didn’t write for payment.  It was because I enjoyed the opportunity to have someone see that I can string a sentence together once in a while.  I also enjoyed the feedback I received.  I defy anyone to honestly contend that they gain no pleasure from being told that have done a good job, even more so when the suspicion was that you would fall flat on your face.  I suppose there are jobs that necessarily involve ending up face down while someone mutters “Good boy!”, but this wasn’t one of them.

On request, I wrote the second article about men and make up.  This was also very well received and my editor showed her pleasure by insisting that she was “looking forward to paying” me for my contribution.  This is where my linguistic skills let me down.  When she said “looking forward to paying”, I foolishly assumed that she was looking forward to the physical act of transferring a recognised form of currency from the coffers of the magazine, to me and my sweaty little palm.  A quid pro quo situation.  What she actually meant was she was looking forward in time to a non specific date where she could potentially pay me. Or not.  My mistake.

The third article didn’t get published as it was time specific with regard to the World Cup and the magazine was having a dispute over payments with other people providing content.  Hindsight is a fabulous thing.  That edition of the magazine didn’t hit the shelves at all as the magazine failed to pay its staff so they withheld their work.  This didn’t really worry me, as I was still happy to help out the editor with material on the promise of payment in the future.  After all, it was just a fun hobby and I enjoyed seeing my work in print. Having my writing unused after the effort and time I had devoted to it was frustrating.  I was advised by a journalist friend that I should have been receiving payment at this point and my editor agreed.  When I say agreed, I mean she said it was good enough to deserve substantial payment but not actually make any payment.  The good news was that she wanted me to write a fourth article though!  And this one would almost definitely be deserving of, but not necessarily attracting, a substantial fee.

I enjoyed writing the article about one night stands and was extremely grateful for the contributions I received from many different people.  The editor was also grateful and published the article while complimenting me on the standard of the writing, research and content.  Not grateful enough to cough up any of the fee that she confirmed this work deserved.  A point that she deflected nicely when she told me about the woes caused by the other contributors, designers and photographers demanding magazine sinking fees.  How selfish of them?  To want to be paid for their work.  Imagine if everyone else in the World had such self centred motives for applying themselves.  I mean, The man who collects the stray and random links of dog faeces will want paying next, despite him clearly benefitting enough from his daily stroll!  I wanted to help her and the struggling magazine to stay afloat so I offered one more article without payment.  I slept well that night.  I had done the decent thing.  I had helped a new venture to be able to continue to exist through the generous gifts of goodwill, time and effort.  A little bit like Katie Price rescuing men from obscurity by generously sleeping with them until they are famous enough to stand on their own two sponsored feet.  The editor confided in me that payment would “definitely” be forthcoming for any pieces of work submitted and published after this.  At last my commitment to goodwill and grasping of opportunity would pay dividends.  I would be a paid and published writer!  Good things come to those who wait.  Karma, if you will.

The final article tackled the tricky subject of internet dating and was longer than anything I had written before.  In fact, it was too long.  All of my previous work had appeared in the magazine on a two page spread.  This one, even after I had edited it down, passed it on to the editor for more editing, still refused to sit comfortably on anything less than three pages.  When asked, even the editor could not find sufficient dead wood to sacrifice to ensure two pages only.  She had a moment of brilliance that I can only dream of.  “I want to publish all of the article on three pages”, she informed me.  “Alright” said I.  “The only thing is, if we commit to publishing this in its entirety, we would need a commitment from you.”  “Carry on” said I.  (I am actually a man of few words, despite the ludicrous suggestions that I use 46 words where one will do.)  “To publish this article in its entirety, the magazine would need a commitment from you that you will continue to write for us with no payment.”  “I see.  So, instead of paying me, as you have promised every step of the way, you are now considering your use of my work as a favour to me?”  Where do I send the generous bouquet of flowers showing my gratitude.

So that is why the final article was not published and also why I stopped posting articles here.  I threw my illustrative teddy out of the metaphorical cot, cut my artistic nose off to spite my greedy face and bit the grasping hand that didn’t feed me.  Was I right to behave in this way?  Every single one of my peers agreed on this matter.  Even those who elicited opinion from “proper” writers and editors who actually do work in that industry.  Every single person agreed that I should have withdrawn my work much earlier than I actually did.  In fact, some have even suggested that I was selfish to supply any writing to a magazine without receiving payment.  I have come to agree with this criticism.  Professional writers are struggling to make a living and would be writers are making paid gigs even harder to come by when they try and get noticed by taking column inches, and potentially food, from the mouths of professionals.  Harlan Ellison sums it up beautifully in a YouTube clip that @anniewestdotcom pointed me in the direction of.  It was as if she knew how I felt!  Watch this clip and tell me that he is wrong.

Harlen Ellison explains

I am proud that I tried to help out.  I also think that I am a fool.  This isn’t the only time I have been a fool, you will not be surprised to read.  I have paid for flights, a suit and accommodation to attend an interview for a job that later evaporated with no reimbursement of the costs.  I wrote this foolishness off as an attempt to display good will to the company who later promised me a different role with fabulous opportunity to progress.  That opportunity never materialised and I found myself languishing in a mire from which there was no intention to progress me from, no matter how hard I tried and no matter how I showed my enthusiasm.

It is not an unusual situation.  Many will find themselves in positions where the company that they work for are unwilling to provide the tools and training necessary to allow a member of staff to climb the ladder.  Remember that when you see some poor soul polishing company’s “Investors In People” plaque with a maniaical grin.  He might be hoping someone will notice his hard work and ask him to try something else.

And it is getting noticed that  proves difficult for so many people.  Hard work and goodwill might not be enough these days.  Maybe I should try and persuade my girlfriend to threaten to blow up an embarrassingly  named airport.  Naaa!  That’ll never work.  They would never take it seriously.

If you pay peanuts, expect salty fingers.

If you pay peanuts, expect salty fingers.

9 thoughts on “Good Will Punting.

  1. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. You really should have been paid for that. Good, thoughful ideas and a lot of humour. I’m working on some autobiographical stuff (childhood memories mostly) and if that ends up anywhere near as entertaining I’ll be very happy.

  2. Dan, thank you for sharing this. I can understand, having recently encountered something slightly similar. I’ve designed (freelance) for magazines over the last 16 years and always been paid. Having established a good reputation and following I wasn’t too concerned when the magazine I was designing for last year went under. I just thought it was a case of approaching another. But no, when I did that the editor said she’d love to work with me but asked me in a roundabout way if I expected to be paid… When I gave her a sum (and I wasn’t greedy, to start with them on a good footing I named a sum that I was actually receiving 10 years ago, not what I’d really expect now) she simply didn’t reply.

    • Cheers Andy.

      Times are hard, we know this because we are always being told this. I just get the impression sometimes that some people and companies are using the difficulties faced by most to make a profit or take an advantage. If companies are struggling, then they have my sympathy. But people struggle too. And a person going under is no less significant. A company that uses todays climate to extract work for free or on the cheap to increase profits are peddling in personal desperation.

      • Well said. I couldn’t agree more. I’d be interested to read what you did for the magazine. Are any of the articles online? My designs fill at least three full pages, and sometimes up to seven or eight when they’ve featured a designer profile, so I don’t expect to fill all that space for nothing, especially when the work takes about a month to complete. But people will try anything on if they think they might get away with it. So if it’s any consolation, you are not alone. In any case, I’ve loved reading your twitter posts, so please keep on writing Dan.

      • Cheers Andy! Loving the tweets too!

        All of the articles I wrote are on here…if you go to the home page you can see them all on one page…but be prepared for endless wordage!

  3. Ah, well. You live and learn, I guess. Personally, I think you’re a nice bloke who was taken advantage of by an editor who couldn’t make her magazine solvent. You weren’t doing it to screw other writers over, you were doing it test yourself, and help her out.

    And you do string a jolly good sentence together, you know. Don’t stop. 🙂

    • Well, thank you very much! Can’t blame the Editor for trying to make the magazine make money. Hence why I waited until it couldn’t make a difference to the magazine as it currently is no more!

      Thanks for the comment Ruth!


  4. Well, at the very least you have some form of income whilst you hunt and write. Although I would have stopped after the second article. 🙂

    In the meantime, I am sure there are other airports in need of a little, erm, press.

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