Friday, February 21, 2014

Cutting the Cord

Hindsight is 20/20. I was contacted by an editor of my former publisher to write current content for their new website. I was charged and over the top over the prospect. I thought after their sale, there would be nothing left but memories and books yellowing with age. Patiently, I waited for the contract.

In the meantime, we had scheduled our trip to Ghent and Brussels. I had mentioned it to my new editor, who in turn asked if I would be willing to do some reviews of Brussels while we were there. She was offering $200 for 15 reviews, mainly of restaurants. Explaining this was basically a long weekend get-away with most of the time in Ghent, I declined. Had I done the math then, I could have saved myself some time, energy and aggravation regarding the Budapest project. There was that niggling voice in the back of my mind whispering “Don’t do it. You will be sorry!” However, ego took over, prompting me to plunge forth.

When the contract arrived, it stipulated 80 reviews with a breakdown of hotels, restaurants, museums, and nightlife. Each category had a specific target, but the contract did say the number was the suggested quantity as long as the total was met. Communications with my editor assured me that the hotels should be middle class as they were avoiding the high end traveler. The pay was to be $1,100.

The contract was signed and submitted. My copy returned in the mail. A couple of weeks later, the editor informed me that it should have been 82 reviews with remuneration of $1,200. Two additional reviews meant nothing, no big deal.

Part of the contract stated I had to prove I had been to all the places reviewed and none of the content could be similar to the writing of the past. The deadline for submission was November 1, 2013 ‘time being of the essence’ according to the contract. Really plugging along all of August and the beginning of September, I wanted to get this off my plate before school started. I also shared with my editor that come December, I would be out the country for 7 weeks.

Early October, I submitted my work. I can honestly say the tone, the style and the writing was identical to what I had submitted to 6 different editors in the past. My current editor sent me an e-mail that crossed with my submission. Her mail stated that I shouldn’t worry about the deadline as they were swamped with submissions, causing them to be behind in editing. This had me wondering about the wording of the contract “time is of the essence…” A couple of weeks later, her next e-mail assured me she looked over the work and it was magnificent.

Right before we left on vacation, another voice was heard from, this time the owner of the site. She was not at all thrilled with my content and wanted higher end hotels. Our e-mail conversations were succinct, but hers were dripping in attitude. She suggested we revisit this when I returned from Central America.

During the time away with an Internet connection slower than a sloth, there was an e-mail from yet another editor. All authors were to upload all their materials into a program called Zoho. We were to look for an invitation. When we returned home, I still had not received the invitation and more than one request was forwarded to the person in charge. Then when I did some checking, the work could not be uploaded to Zoho, but had to be copy and pasted. This would take more than a few hours, time no author was being compensated for beyond the initial work. There was nothing in my original contract about Zoho.

This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was easily recognizable that once the materials were in Zoho, anyone with an 8th grade education could do updates without ever having to pay an author again. Paying for the dining we did at the various restaurants cost us about $400. This would net me $800 for about 60 hours of research spent in museums, touring hotels, and checking out nightlife options. When I added in the writing time, it came to less than $5 an hour. Now they wanted major editing since the voice was not what the new editor envisioned AND I had to copy and paste the work into their program.

It was time to cut the cord. I did. There was a sense of relief in doing so. My time as a travel writer may have come to an end, I don’t know. However, I know that I am not going to be abused.
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