Sunday, June 15, 2008

Somethings are meant to be...

I had been writing for a start up magazine here in Columbus. It was one of those vehicles for business owners to buy advertising and get a bit written about them and their business. Not hard journalism to be sure - but nice for them. I took every single profile very seriously. I gave it my all and I tried very hard to not have a formula - each profile was as unique as the person I interviewed. I was also writing some articles - mainly fluffy stuff - but it was great practice and I gave it my all also.

For three months this has been fairly consuming. I mean it is about all I got done, outside of the mommy tasks and some fun here and there. I will also say that it taught me how to make myself write - even when I just did not feel it. I learned to write faster. I would be lying if in May I did not think to myself that perhaps it was taking its toll. I have not been focused on poetry nor my novel - which is where my true writing passion lies. In all fairness I like doing both - the articles and profiles but I also like the fiction and poetry. I had lost my balance.

I also had not been getting paid. The magazine owes me for work I did in late February, March, April and May. I had not worried about the lack of payment until late April. My contract had said I would be paid the 25th of the following month. Seemed reasonable. That is how it worked in January. When the next check did not arrive - I inquired and well got the it must have been lost in the mail - which with my mail lady I was totally willing to buy. So the editor proposed combine the next two - that was fine with me. Having worked at ML - I knew it takes a few days to process the stop payment and all that jazz.

As I wrote the articles and profiles for May I got a bit more wary. Still no check and well it took longer to get my emails answered and by the last week of the month when we were generally the most busy - I had nary a phone call. Odd.

But I decided perhaps the editor had finally gotten her act together and it was just running smoother. I enjoyed the week or so of quiet and refocused my writing efforts on my blogs and my fiction and my poetry and I read some - a novel thing for a budding novel writer.

Then one of my profiles called - wanting to know why he had not gotten his copy of the proof nor the magazine. Umm, no idea. I offered to call. Then another called me. Then another and another.

Then I tried calling and emailing and got nothing. Weird. But in the pit of my stomach I knew. I knew that this was not good. In all fairness I knew it in May and just tried to be hopeful. It was good work and exciting and it was great for my portfolio and it would have paid decently - especially given that I have little experience. But as the days ticked by and still no word and no answer it was obvious what had happened. Well there are tow possibilities really.

One is the entire things was a scam, a fraud. It is possible I suppose that the editor went to all the trouble of starting a website and magazine and setting up a company to just pocket advertisers money. What is more likely is this was legit - but it was a bigger task than she expected and instead of facing the music and being a stand up person and telling the advertiser that it was not working out as planned and telling her freelancers (the graphic designer, the web master and me) that well she could not pay us - she instead split. Took down the website and fled. The other possibility is it was a bit of both.

In any event I am angry, mostly for her lying to the small businesses she sold space to. For not being a stand up person and behaving in an ethical manner. The fact is I would have - had she said she could not pay me - more than likely said she could have some of the work for free or worked out a payment plan. I am a reasonable person and this was in my opinion a career enhancing move. It was the experience I needed to make a leap professionally. That said - the nice Susan ship has sailed and I am hopping mad. I have contacted the police department, told the advertisers I have spoken with I would be happy to help in whatever way I can - with whatever action they choose to pursue and I fired off a collections letter this week(mailed certified) and next week - I am going to head down to small claims court. (or the week after - depends on whether my certified is singed for or not.)

I was feeling a bit down. Like maybe I should have researched her business more before I took her as a client. But the fact is I used the web and checked the BBB and other sites and frankly it looked legit. I mean one of my first gigs was for a business in India. I wrote some canned business letters in US ENGLISH. They paid me via paypal. Not like I knew much about them. I may have to rethink that practice or not - it is the electronic age and a global market place. No business - even for us lowly copy writers is without risk.

So now I have plenty of time to focus on my full length novel, which I guess is how this summer was meant to be.


Cyn said...

Susan, this is horrible, horrible, horrible. What was the mag again? if I were you I'd call the local media, unless one of the advertisers did already. And what about the contract? Will it stand up in court?

Susan said...

An Update: I mailed my collections letter and got the little green card back. So I have decided to give it a week before taking any further action. I called the police but have not heard from them, I guess I could call them again.

I am not sure what I will do next - as a matter of principle I think I would like to pursue it 0 but I doubt I will get anywhere.

So I am letting it rest and hoping for the best.