03 February 2006

A Funny Thing Happened...

...On The Way To The Daily Bitchfest


I’m not sure how or why, but I seem destined to blunder into odd and sometimes wonderful opportunities.

Last year, for example, I called up a local magazine and talked my way into a writing gig with them. I sent some samples, they seem tickled, and the plan was for me to get my feet wet filling in some articles left for grabs and then start moving into a more specifically-voiced sort of gig—possibly some sort of recurring column sort of thing. The pay was good, the mag looked professionally done, but as time went on it became painfully clear that I was never going to be allowed to cut loose and do anything fun or interesting. As the article assignments started to get duller and more infrequent, I finally just stopped chasing leads there.

Months went by as I chased always elusive screenwriting glory (it’s now “a dull glow over a distant horizon”, improved from “a mystical land known only in legend and song”), and then of course I found myself having weekly slapfights at the Rezoning Committee meetings for the local school district. There I happened to meet the editor of the OTHER local magazine, and I, being the shy unassuming timid little delicate squash blossom of a wallflower that you all know and adore, stopped her in the larking lot one night and said “so why the hell haven’t you ever called to have me write for your little magazine?”

Ten minutes of pleasant convo later, she slips me her card and says "We need to talk. Call me after Christmas.”

So, a few emails and submissions of sample materials later, I am wondering if anything is going to come of it. I try to call, and she’s always on another call. I send emails, but draw no response. I was about to give up much more hope when yesterday my phone rings. Caller ID tells me it’s the magazine.

The OTHER magazine—the first one.

Turns out they are now following through on a story idea I pitched to them last spring—an amusing look at the life of the Stay At Home Dad. I was hoping to write it as a semi-silly first person essay, and while the editor initially agreed that it sounded like fun, as we got closer and closer to the pub date, it started morphing (at her behest) into just one more boring dull lifeless interview with local dullards type of thing—the kind of story which I just hate. So I pulled off the gig, saying it wasn’t what I’d signed on to do, and we went our merry way.

‘Cept NOW that magazine has revived the idea, except this time they’ve assigned some new girl to write the thing, and they gave her MY name as a contact for interview IN the article. So instead of writing a piece wherein I get to be a silly snarling SAHD, they’ve now decided to let some she-hack pen a piece wherein she talks to me as a silly snarling SAHD dad. The big diff, as I see it, is that THEY claim my idea and SHE gets the paycheck.

BUT WAIT—this is all just prelude to the real story.

TWELVE MINUTES LATER I get an email from the magazine.

The second magazine—the one run by the lady from the Rezoning Committee meetings, whom I’d badgered in a parking lot.

“So, are you ready to start writing?”

So I call Editor#2 and she says “loved your samples, and we’re hoping to have you pen a recurring column where you just sorta snarl and spit about whatever you like.”

OK. This sounds like A Cool Thing.

“OH... and we also purchased [a local sports news-monthly], and were thinking it might also be fun to have you do some stuff there, maybe a first-person thing where we send you to try different sports or experiences and then you write about it in a silly fun way.”

OK. This sounds like Another Cool Thing.

After some sputtering and stuttering, we agree to agree and then agree to work out the details ASAP.

So now I’m sitting here jotting down column ideas, and also trying to think of some fair and reasonable number to throw at her for “terms” ($$$) for these paired gigs.

Frankly, I’m too stunned to really think clearly about it just yet, so I am asking folks I know to offer suggestions or advice if they have anything useful or experience-based to offer. What seems a fair and reasonable number to use as payment for a pair of 500-100 word essays every two months?

If you have serious suggestions, drop me a line: brettman(at)consolidated(dot)net.

I’ll be in the backyard, making offerings of thanks to the gods.
stunned but not entirely displeased B


procrastinatrix said...

Awesome, dude! Congratulations.

I used to work at (and marginally write for) a weekly rag, and payment totally ranges based on a number of factors. Like your experience level, the circulation of the magazine, how high-profile they are, etc. (I hope I'm not just repeating stuff you already know. I don't mean to sound pedantic.)

The lowest the weekly paper (Village Voice-ish but smaller) paid out was, I believe, 35 cents per word. The most was $1.50-$2 per word (and we all believed she was overpaid). I think you should always ask for more, then negotiate down. Because it was shocking to see how some untalented folks were being paid more than really stunningly good, award-winning writers, based on what they'd negotiated early on.

aggiebrett said...

Nice comments-- very interesting.

Without going into specifics (one never knows who might be lurking out here...), I'm leaning towards a per-word rate on the low end of the wide range you describe. I think I'm worth more than the minimum, but I'm realistic enough (dammit) to accept that this gig just doesn't have the coin to do much above the minimum.

Still, it beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Or maybe I'm just being overly optimistic again.

Either way, thanks.