>Watch for Signs of Trouble

>Once upon a time, my income depended on three newspapers. I was happily writing, publishing and collecting checks. But the paper I wrote the most for, a monthly community newspaper, seemed to be slowing down. Issues came out later and later. Then the checks started coming later. “Ahem,”I said to management, “I don’t like this. I may have to quit.”

Management assigned a new guy whom I’d never met to take me to lunch to assure me that all would be well now that he was in charge. They would get back on schedule and I would be paid on time. “In fact,” he said, “We have a new publication coming out that we want you to write for. Please don’t quit.” “All right,” said gullible me. But the slowdown continued. I wrote a lovely story about drought-tolerant gardening for the new publication, but it never got off the boards (this was back in the days of paste-ups). And I didn’t get paid. I quit, but not before I lost money and valuable time.

Meanwhile, I thought my other two gigs were solid. I was writing for a home and garden publication, so when a big home and garden show came to town, I invited my friends to join me and my husband at the show. Our first stop was the magazine’s booth near the entrance. I didn’t know the advertising people sitting there, but I walked up and introduced myself as one of the writers and showed my friends a copy of the magazine. See, see my story. But then man behind the table said, “Too bad this is our last issue.” What? I wanted to crawl behind the booth rather than tour the displays of floor coverings, water-saving toilets, marble sinks and other wonders. This was pre-Internet and pre-cell phones, so I had to wait until Monday morning to call the editor and ask if this was true. It was.

Over the years, I have seen plenty of publications go under. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s bad management, and sometimes it’s both. These days, it could be the economy combined with the massive exodus from print to the Internet. I have learned to watch for the signs. What are those signs? Running late, not being able to get management to answer your questions, checks arriving later than expected, publications getting thinner and thinner, and rumors that something is wrong.

My friends, if you see these signs, exercise caution. Talk with your editors often so that you stay in the communication loop. Also talk to others who are writing for the publication so you can keep each other informed. Don’t take on huge time-sucking assignments if you’re not sure they will be published, and for God’s sake, if you don’t get paid, don’t do any more work for that company. If the ship is sinking, get off while you can still swim to shore or at least grab a lifejacket.

End of sermon. May your checks be fat and your clip files overflow.

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2 Comments on “>Watch for Signs of Trouble”

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