One thing I have learned about writing professionally, is that once you get past an editor’s initial screening process, they are usually dying for good material. If you’re good, professional, and turn in work on time, you can have them eating out of your hand. But, when it comes time for them to pay up, well, that’s a different story.
I’m not singling any editor out. If you’re an editor reading this, and pride yourself on timely payment, I applaud you. You are among the few. I’ve worked with many editors at many different places over the years. And it’s always the same.
You send in your piece, and they may kick it back once or twice for revision, but eventually it’s all good. And then your part is done. They usually have a schedule for you to bill them–probably after the piece comes out, which can be anywhere from a couple of days to a month. You e-mail in your invoice, and per their schedule, they typically take 30 days to mail you a check.
Unless they lose the invoice. Or the check gets lost in the mail. Then after a couple of weeks, you get concerned, and call them. They have no idea. They send you to the accounting office, who after three days of voicemails and e-mails, promises to look for it. They forget. You wait two days and call again. They tell you they don’t know what happened, but they will mail you a check. Three to five business days later, you finally get paid for an article you wrote….last semester.
And if you’re a writer that needs the work, you have to take all of this with grace and professionalism. They will pay you eventually, but if you act like an asshole, they won’t work with you again. And don’t get any ideas on capitalist entitlement—the next publication won’t be any better. Better to deal with the ones you’ve got, than leave in a big American huff.
Besides, while all this is going on, the editor, who has no idea what is going on in the accounting office, is stroking your ego and sending you more work. Why would you turn down money and publishing credits, especially for someone who thinks you’re oh-so-talented?
I’ve heard the publishing industry is worse. I’ve heard publishers do payouts about once a quarter. Minus your advance. Which, even your advance takes about six months to come. In installments. And that’s if they’re not disorganized, as detailed above.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t become a writer. I love writing, and I could never do anything else. I would explode if I didn’t write. But, why couldn’t I have been suited for something that pays better? Or pays at all….