Monday, April 02, 2007

Ghostwriting for freelancers? A whole new meaning to "help wanted"

A freelancer advertises online for someone else, presumably another freelancer, to do their magazine writing work for them. Simple sub-contracting? This looks like something that would have been thought up by the writers of The Simpsons. The actual ad appeared on Craigslist and read, in part:
I do the marketing and editing, you do the research and writing. I am an experienced and published freelance writer with credits from more than 20 national publications including Woman's Day, Oxygen, Business 2.0, For Me, Cooking Light, Men's Journal, Backpacker, and Robb Report and I can't execute all the ideas I have. That's where you come in.

You will ghostwrite some of the articles for me and I will give you anywhere between $0.25 & $0.35 per word. If you dazzle me with your work, you'll get $0.35 per word. Over time, that fee may increase to $0.40 per word. My average articles are between 800 and 1,300 words and this would mean $240 and $390 on average, respectively. If I land a 2,000 word story, you would make between $500 and $700...

The idea here is to team up to get more sales so that I have more time to pitch the ideas because I'll have you to write and research them. Keep in mind though, there is no byline. The stories you write for me will be ghostwritten and I will own all rights. Also know, for most stories I will need you to speak with a handful of experts in order to obtain usable quotes to run within the story. Normally, there will be 4 experts that I'll need you to talk with for any one given story. Usually, I'll start you off by providing you with names and contact info of at least two of the experts I need you to talk to, but you'll need to find the other two or so on your own.
As a posting on the blog The Independent Journalist says, if such an idea caught on, not only is the contractor (so to speak) asking other people to work at below market rates, sign over copyright and dupe editors, it could also make negotiations even more difficult for other freelancers out there.

Thanks to Craig Silverman, the editor of Regret the Error and president of the Quebec chapter of PWAC, for the tip.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can only hope he or she gets not one nibble.

1:44 pm  
Anonymous Corinna vanGerwen said...

Who would respond to this ad? All the work for less than half the pay and none of the credit? No thanks! And as an editor, I wouldn't want this person writing for me.

5:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like the Craigslist posting has been removed by the author.

12:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corinna vanGerwen said...

"Who would respond to this ad? All the work for less than half the pay and none of the credit? No thanks! And as an editor, I wouldn't want this person writing for me."

Well, Corinna vanGerwen, that just shows that you're too inflexible to embrace a business model that, unless I miss my guess, will soon become the dominant one in our highly paid, prestige-heavy industry. And guess what, Corinna? We're already working for you -- and you don't even know it.

But we, the Union of Anonymous Freelance Subcontractors, have our own set of caveats and standards, too.

First, my information and attention to factual detail is only as accurate as it possibly can be, considering I am being paid a $0.35 per word top rate. While endeavoring to provide highly original and riveting copy on time and to the agreed upon length, on rare occasions when my creative abilities are at low ebb, I reserve the right to mine the past published archival record for suitable alternatives. (The contractor will hold me harmless in the event of any subsequent legal action.)

Since what is good for the gander is often fine for the goose, I, too, reserve the right to subcontract elements of my original research and writing duties to a sub-subcontracting 100-brace of monkeys, if I so choose. (On the off chance that said simians, against all expectations and reasonable odds, produce a brilliant work of literature, I reserve the right to claim the work as my own.)

Also, on a whim, I claim the right to just make shit up and call it "literary journalism."

Looking forward to working with you again, Corinna.

Your pal,


7:07 pm  

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