There be pirates here. (Image source)
Minds out of the gutter, people.
I’m talking about protecting your hard work. From modern-day pirates.
Alright. So. I had a great deal of debate with myself for even writing this post. I’m not a fire-starter or a wave-maker. I generally don’t like to rock the boat, and even if someone puts the screws to me I usually let it go pretty quickly (that is, after giving them as-diplomatic-as-I-can-manage piece of my mind). But this is different.
Because if someone had told me what I’m about to tell you before I got into this, it would have made my life a whole heck of a lot easier. So, in an effort to make the world of food blogging/writing/photography a better place and help even just one food blogger, I’m going to share.
(To all the non-food bloggers reading, if you’re a blogger in general this may benefit you. Or if you know a blogger in any capacity, feel free to share this with them. If you’re not a blogger and don’t know a blogger, feel free to read on if you want, but if not, no offense taken.)
I recently wrote an article along with two original recipes and accompanying photos for a local food magazine that is part of a nationally-sponsored food magazine chain. (Sorry to be so vague…trying to protect the names of the “innocent.” ;) ) This is what happened to me (and yes, I look like a fool!), but I’m sharing so that it doesn’t happen to you too…
I should have seen the red flags from the start; looking back, they stick out like sore thumbs.
It all started about a year and a half ago when I first contacted the magazine editor asking if she was looking for new people to write articles. She said yes and asked where I’m from, saying that she liked to keep things local (I am local, so no issue there). I replied back with my location (which is one town away from her office) but she didn’t respond to me again.
Until one year later! (A little over a year, to be exact.) I heard from her again in August 2011, asking if I could write a piece for the upcoming holiday issue that included one article and two original recipes along with photos if I had them. I was thrilled at the opportunity.
She made no mention of payment and I didn’t ask. I thought maybe she didn’t mention it because they don’t pay for articles (the magazine has a fairly small circulation)…maybe the money they make from advertising all goes into keeping the magazine alive? So naïve, I know. I figured at least it would be good exposure and experience (oh how little I knew about the experience I’d really get out of this!), and I’ be helping the local community. And if they didn’t have the budget to pay me, I really wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it.
Anyway, as a labor of love (really – I labored in the kitchen two full days coming up with my recipes and photographing them, and that doesn’t even include the time it took me to write my article!), I finished my project. I submitted it to her (before the deadline, actually) but she didn’t even bother acknowledging that she got it. I emailed her a couple days later and she said she received my article and she’d let me know if they had any questions.
Ok, no problem.
In early October she emailed me asking for a brief bio; I emailed it to her and also asked for any feedback she could give on my article/recipes/photos, as she hadn’t said anything about my work. She emailed me back saying everything is (and I quote) “fantastic” and the issue should be out in early November.
Well, it was only last Friday (December 2) that the issue was available. But okay, maybe they got behind schedule. Understandable.
Last Friday when the magazine was finally available, I picked up a copy of the issue at a local grocery store. I quickly thumbed to my article (past multitudes of advertisements, I might add), heart racing with excitement.
And then I saw what was to be the first of several disappointments.
They had only used one of my recipes (of course they hadn’t bothered to tell me that they were scrapping the other).
But worse than that.
My photo…the picture that I had lovingly taken of one of my recipes…worked so hard on…
Was attributed to someone else.
Right there, in black and white, across the bottom of my picture, was someone else’s name.
I felt sick. How could this happen? I mean, how does something as unprofessional as this go unnoticed in the business world?! In print, memorialized.
Copyright infringement. Just a fancy term for stealing.
That was last Friday. I waited until Monday to email her. (Like I said, I like to try diplomacy first and there’s no way an email I had written on Friday would have been diplomatic.) In the email I simply asked her why I wasn’t credited for the photograph I took.
She responded “Faith, This was a mistake. I will issue a retraction.” Literally, that was it. She didn’t even bother to sign her name to the email, let alone offer any means of apology. Such a slap in the face. (Really, who bothers to read retractions?!)
That day she also sent me an email asking for my invoice for my work. I was nothing short of shocked at that, since there had been no mention of payment up until that point. I thought maybe she was trying to rectify the mistake. So, I did a bit of research on what to charge for articles, recipe development, and photographs. I found quite a large range of rates, but I went with the very lowest numbers on everything. (I tried so hard to be fair with these people!)
And then the next day I got an email back saying “Hi Faith, I just wanted to remind you the rate for your piece is $125, including the recipe. It is our policy that we do not pay for photographs. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
Umm, what. What?
How can you “remind” me of something you didn’t tell me in the first place?
I won’t even get started on the ridiculousness of $125 for both an article and two original recipes (or even one original recipe, since they seemed to ditch the other). But it would have been nice to know this up front.
However, the real clincher was that I was better off thinking that I was doing the whole piece for free (well, for the exposure, experience, and to help out local commerce) than knowing that they don’t pay for photographs. Especially after they took my photo and gave the credit to someone else.
That was that.
And please, please, please, take these lessons home for yourself too:
1) No matter how much you respect a magazine/newspaper/person/entity, don’t be shy to stand up for yourself. If you don’t, most likely neither will they.
2) It is your right to get paid for your work. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part, if they’re getting paid, you should be too. (And yeah, ads galore in a magazine are a pretty good indicator that they’re making some money.)
3) Don’t be shy to mention the elephant in the room – payment! Work out all your rates before you do the work, based on what work you’ll be doing. This article talks about how much freelance writers should charge and this website helps you calculate a good price for your photography. Both are just starting points, but definitely helpful. And get everything in writing, signed by both parties.
4) Do not give up the copyright to your photos. You can grant someone a one-time, non-exclusive use with credit to you, the photographer.
5) Ask to double check all materials before publication to make sure that your given credit for your work and your name appears properly.
I hope this helps someone out there.
Questions or comments? Please feel free to email me or leave them below.