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Author expected to work for free!

December 20, 2017

If a plumber offers to install a new sink would you expect him to do it for nothing? If a gardener mows your lawn and spends a whole day tidying up your rose beds would it be reasonable to tell him you expected him to do the work for nothing? A motor mechanic services your car. Is it fair to say he didn't ask to be paid and therefore doesn't deserve to be remunerated for his work? 'NO!' I hear you cry. And yet, strangely, some people think it reasonable for writers to work for nothing; that their time and effort should be considered worthless - to take their work and use it for profit without paying a penny for it.

It's an issue as old as the hills. Plagiarism, copyright theft and pirating of author's work isn't new. Indeed, the audacity of some pirates is breathtaking. But it isn't only pirates who think authors should work for nothing. I recently had the misfortune to come across the editor of a glossy magazine who thinks the same thing.

 

The story begins in July 2017 when I sent a query letter to Kath Rhodes, the editor of Welsh Country Magazine offering an article entitled 'Murder, Madness and Mayhem in Llangadog'. Welsh Country Magazine is a glossy publication published by Equine Marketing Limited which they sell for £2.95 a copy. She rejected the proposal saying it was similar to work by another writer of her's so I offered a second article 'Cockles and Lava Bread' The story of 'The Cockle Women of Penclawdd.'

 

I heard nothing more until I received a copy of the November/December issue of Welsh Country Magazine and saw that my article had been published as a two page spread with the title 'The Cockle Women of Penclawdd.' What's more, it was the lead article in the magazine. Kath Rhodes had given me a credit of a sort 'Words by Graham Watkins.' No mention of my other writing or a courtesy website link. Otherwise pleased with the quality and the position of my article in the magazine I emailed Kath Rhodes pointing out she hadn't come back to me to agree a fee and asked how much I was being paid. Her reply astonished me.

 

Apparently, she said, because I didn't make her aware I expected a fee I would not be getting one. So that was my mistake; not making it clear that I expected to be paid - a perfect opportunity to take advantage. But there was more. She went on to state another gem of a reason for not paying me, 'Unlike other Welsh media. Welsh Country magazine is not funded either by the Welsh Government or the Welsh Books Council so advertising is how we keep publishing. Instead of getting easier as companies are aware of our magazine existence, it’s actually getting tougher every year here in Wales. Hence I’ve reduced my editorial budget which does make life very difficult.' Well bless her cotton socks - she feels hard up and thinks it a good reason not to pay a supplier. Not sure that argument would wash with a plumber, gardener of motor mechanic. Then, she cited a comment in my email that I understood her confusion since I hadn't asked for payment in advance. Indeed, I even offered her another story 'Hy-Brasail' saying it would not be expensive and, in an effort at contrition, that it might have been partly my fault for not making it clear in advance that I expected payment. Not sure that argument would wash with a plumber, gardener of motor mechanic either.

 

So what are my choices? Go legal and issue a county court summons! Frankly, the sums involved are small and life is too short. To be honest I would have been happy with a proper credit and a very modest fee. I could sit in silence and rage at the audacity of this woman who thinks it fair to take my work and sell it for profit while considering it reasonable to refuse to pay anything. Or warn other writers that unless they are very careful Welsh Country Magazine will take their work and use it without paying. In fourteen years of writings and submitting material to regional newspapers, national newspapers and glossy magazines I have never before experienced such shabby behaviour. Sorry, but I'm not the silent raging type and that is why I'm writing this blog post. TO WARN others. So BEWARE..... and feel free to share this post to warn other authors. Kath Rhodes' parting shot was that any attempt to write about this without stating all the facts would be libellous and that she would not be using my work again!!

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October 6, 2019

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