Copyright © 1982 by Stephen Goldin. All Rights Reserved.
Cover image copyright © Paul Moore.
NOTE: The Business of Being a Writer was originally published in 1982, before the widespread use of personal computers, the Internet, and electronic publishing. While this excerpt has been updated, it is still largely oriented toward publishing in the print media. I hope you’ll find it useful anyway.
Eventually there will come a point at which you and the publisher must spell out what each is to gain from your relationship. Magazine publishers often handle this on an informal—sometimes sloppy—basis: a conversation over the telephone, a verbal assignment, a promise and a handshake. Where the money at stake is less than a couple of hundred dollars, the publisher can feel downright casual about it. Why not? He has everything going his way. After you submit your article he has it at his disposal, and he also has his money, to pay you or not, as be sees fit.
Not that all publishers are out to cheat you; most are as honest as any other businessman. But—as in other businesses—a publisher has a variety of creditors wanting money and a limited amount of funds at any given moment. The people who can cause the most trouble tend to get paid first: the office staff, the typographer, the printer, the paper supplier, and the distributor, because the published work won’t get to the public without them; they’ll get paid on time. Writers are another matter. There are more than enough of them, all begging for approval, and if one refuses to work for him he can easily find another. This puts writers pretty low on the priority list—especially writers without a written contract that can be waved around in court.