24 July 2008

The value of communication

Awhile back, I had a short story published. Nothing so unusual in that. I agreed to the terms of the contract, which were fairly standard fare, and then I waited for my cheque to arrive. Only it never did. Then I hummed and hahed about what to do next because I hate chasing up money. So I emailed a friend who had had a story in the same collection, to see if she had been paid. Perhaps I had just been overlooked, right? Wrong. She hadn't been paid either. As far as she knew -- she was a bit woolly about this.

So, being a professional, I had to do something about this. I sent a polite query letter off via email (as all our business had been done electronically) but didn't get any response. Now, at the moment, I'm having a few email issues -- the day before yesterday I came home to over 40 messages, most of which were failed-to-send notifications, so there is some chance that this email was never received. So, I sent off another polite query. This one did get a response -- an apology to say that things were difficult, but that the editor was endeavouring to pay all the contributors.

Some months later there was still no payment, but a mass communication arrived, apologising to all the authors and assuring payment would be made. Some time passed. A lot of time. I began to write the story off, with a note to self not to send to that market again. This week another missive came, again apologising and begging our indulgence, with a promise of payment soon.

Others might rail at this communication, but I must say I was relieved. Relieved to know I hadn't been forgotten. Relieved to know that our contract was being honoured. Relieved to know that it wasn't only me.

As an editor of a small press magazine (one that only pays contributors only in copies), I know how hard it can be. I still remember all that catering we did to provide seeding money for the magazine in the first place. It sucks for the writers, but the reality is that small press publishing in Australia is done on a shoe-string budget because the market is so small. We do all our editorial work -- hours and hours of it -- for the love of it. So I'm prepared to wait. I know it's absolutely not a matter of the publisher sitting back rolling in all the money while his starving writers are hard at it in their garrets. The small-press publisher is starving too!

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