Sep 102010

Another door will open. Believe that.

There is nothing better than getting the go ahead on a piece you’ve queried out to several publications. It feels like you’re doing something right, that somebody, the universe even, is giving you the go ahead to pursue your writing career. In other words, it feels great.

Most recently, I submitted a query about Chicago Avenue between Damen and Ashland Avenue in Chicago and it got picked up by a well-read Chicago online Chicago magazine called Gapers Block. I was excited to write about a place that I both love and admire.

When I submitted the piece, I was afraid they weren’t going to like it. There were butterflies in my stomach and my hands were sweaty. But this is how I get whenever I submit something to an editor so I just sent it out. A few hours later, my editor contacted me and told me that she liked it. Joy! Two weeks later, it was in the Arts and Culture section. Score!

It was also posted on Windy Citizen, a Chicago-centric site that I am falling in love with. It is dedicated to all things Chicago – news, blogs and entertainment. I received positive feedback about the piece and it was even posted on the Huffington Post Chicago. It’s crazy how the small pieces you write end up on other web sites. This leads me to believe that people still read.

I needed that boost. I felt like GB gave me the opportunity I was looking for – a platform. I was grateful and I still am. You can read my piece here: A Hood in Limbo.

A few days later, I checked my e-mail and there was a request from a DJ asking if I would be interested in being interviewed for his radio show all about Chicago. I said yes and if you ever get the opportunity to be on a radio show you should say yes too. Why? Why not? Opportunities will always present themselves, but will you be aware enough to notice? Luckily, this time I was. You can check out the radio show here: Outside the Loop Radio.

Keep on truckin’ my writing pals.

Aug 162010

There is a new ad campaign going on called The Power of Print. It’s supported by five major magazine companies including Hearst, Time, Wenner, Meredith and Condé Nast. It’s supposed to help revive magazine readership or more importantly remind people why magazines are important. It started back in March, 2010.

One of the ads says, “In these wired times of ours, you might think that people don’t read magazines. That the overwhelming allure of the online world has swept them right out of vogue. But it’s not true at all. From seventeen through their sunset years, folks are reading magazines more than they were just a few years ago. Sure, there’s a fortune being spent online. But there’s also a lot of money being spent on magazines, with nearly 300 million paid subscriptions.”

After reading that, I thought, hmm … if there are 300 million paid subscriptions, then why strive for a larger readership? I mean, that seems like plenty of readers to me. But it’s not. It’s not even close. Magazines need to make serious buku to stay afloat. So how do they do it?

Tons of magazines are alive today because they sell ad space. They are able to sell ad space because people buy subscriptions. Subscriptions are important because advertisers put their ads in magazines that are getting seen by thousands or millions of consumers. Why is this important to advertisers? Because they make money by getting you–the consumer, to buy things. And why do you buy the things you do? Believe it or not, it’s because of advertising. Just look at the iPhone.

Everything is linked. Advertising is big business. Unfortunately, many magazines nowadays need those advertisers in order to publish a monthly magazine. The magazine industry isn’t just about reporting real human interest stories anymore, it’s a money making endeavor.

Here is another ad from the Power of Print Campaign:

Magazines, The Power of Print ad campaign

It says, “Young people do everything online. Like order millions of magazines. Somehow, amidst their infatuation with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like, young adults are still making time for another one of their favorite pursuits: reading magazines.

Contrary to popular misperception, the phenomenal popularity of the Internet has not come at the expense of magazines. Readership is actually increasing, and adults between 18 and 34 are among the most dedicated readers. They equal or surpass their over-34 counterparts in issues read per month and time spent per issue.

What’s changed isn’t people’s affinity for magazines but the means by which they acquire them. Last year, nearly 22 percent of all new paid subscriptions were ordered online.

And just as the Internet drives magazine subscriptions, magazines drive Web searches–with nearly double the effectiveness of the Internet itself. Some might call it ironic.

The medium that some predicted would vanquish magazines is actually helping fuel their growth. And vice versa.”

Okay, so why put all this time and energy into an ad campaign telling people what they already know? Well, because you have to read between the lines here folks. Magazines are losing serious dollars. They don’t have the money to sustain the cost of hiring a staff, printing and distributing anymore. The more I think about this campaign, the more I think it’s a warning. Magazines are going to die unless you and I start supporting them by buying them.

Now, I don’t believe magazines will become extinct or that paper will become a thing of the past, but it’s apparent that we are witnessing big changes within the publishing industry. People aren’t just getting their news and entertainment from magazines, newspapers and television. They are getting it online.

According to the Facebook Blog, five-hundred million people have signed up for Facebook as of July 21, 2010. This time last year, there were 150 million users says What does this mean? It means that social networking sites are big time, too large to ignore that they are changing not only what we view as entertainment, but also the way we receive our news. Our friends post interesting stories on Facebook and we snatch them up and re-post them on our wall to share with our friends. The best part about that is that it’s free. And free is important here because America is on a budget. Now how do you combat free? You can’t.

I think the major contributors to the Power of Print ad campaign need to take a step back and think. This isn’t your typical us versus them situation. The only way people are going to read the way they used to, back in the olden days, is if publishers provide readers with old school news and big time value in new mediums. That means online, through their cell phones, their Ipads, Kindles and Nooks and on whatever latest electronic device is coming soon to a store near you.

Look, people want to read the good stuff. They want to read stories that are interesting, ones that have depth, ones that are well thought-out and those that dig below the surface. They want real news that is reported in a new and fresh way. The publishing industry can have all of that and more if they just surrender to the change. They only have one real option–to embrace the electronic evolution. Truth is, it’s going to happen whether the publishing industry agrees or not.

Magazines ought to do what the newspapers do. Just put some information online and charge online subscription fees at a fraction of the cost of a traditional subscription. Why? For one, it is cheaper for both the subscriber and publisher and it would be available to a larger audience. Where is the downfall?

I don’t suggest the total removal the traditional printed magazines just yet, but maybe publishers should focus on online forums and reduce the amount of printed mags they produce. This would create less environmental waste for everybody and who doesn’t want that?

Maybe McLuhan was right. The medium is the message.

What do you think about the Power of Print ad campaign? Check it out for yourself here.

Oct 172007

They publish things like this:

Writer’s Resources

WATCH OUT: Dangerous Clauses!
(Updated April 2000)

Publishers’ contracts for periodical articles may contain traps for the unwary. If you’re a freelance writer who treats your work as a business, you should never take contracts lightly. Some language to watch out for:“. . .First North American serial rights, which includes also. . .” No. FNA is FNA. It does not include other rights. Don’t read just the contract’s title. Read the whole thing.

“. . .the right to publish, distribute and license others to publish and distribute the article in all its forms [or in any media] . . . These words do not spell it out, but they mean you transfer electronic rights along with print rights.“. . .only as part of the issue in which it appears. . .” Sometimes added to electronic-rights clauses in an attempt to make the deal sound like simple archiving of an entire publication, for which the author should claim no further income. But whether your article stands with or without other material from the issue in which it first appears, the publisher will earn perpetual royalties from its continued use, generally payable according to how many times computer users “buy” your particular article. So should you.

“. . .for educational or research purposes only. . .” Same problem: Publishers can make a lot of money peddling your article for educational or research purposes. It’s your property; so should you.“. . .the nonexclusive right. . .” This may sound OK, but it often isn’t. Any right –Exclusive or nonexclusive –must be paid for and must be paid for appropriately. You should receive at least 50% of the gross revenue or a fair percantage of the original fee for each usage that occurs as a result of the publisher’s sublicensing or reuse of your work. (The editor of an Australian magazine who loves your piece is going to call the U.S. publisher, who will make the deal; you’ll never know. And if you approach the Australian editor yourself, he may well ask for a month’s exclusivity in Australia; you won’t be able to provide it. Because your publisher in the US may be selling it to the Australian’s competitor, you lose the sale. In market terms, “nonexclusive” wipes you out. Exclusive or nonexclusive, if the publisher wants the right, you ought to have separate compensation for that license.)

“. . .you will be paid at our then standard rate. . .” Would you give someone an option to buy your car at an indefinite future date and let the buyer set the price at that time?“. . .use the article and your name, biography and likeness for promotion and advertising of the publication. . .” Brief excerpts of the article, maybe. The whole article? No. Advertising copywriters are paid for their work. If your work is put to this additional use, you should be paid too. No serious professional photographer would say, “Sure, you can use my photo in the magazine and also put it in your ads, in your direct-mail pieces and on promotional electronic services.”

Making contracts more equitable can mean adding as well as deleting. For example, two smart additions to the rights clause: Make it “First North American English language print serial rights. . . .”

“All rights not expressly transferred herein are reserved by the author.”“. . .if the publisher, in its sole discretion, rejects the article. . .” Could be that your editor changes her mind; a new editor (or the advertising department) changes the direction of the magazine; the competition beats you to the punch; or your interview subject dies. In any of those cases, a piece may be killed through no fault of yours, and you see only a kill fee of perhaps 25 cents on the dollar. Too much of the risk is on your part. You should offer to revise a piece if the editor explains what’s wrong and how to fix it. But the kill fee should not kick in unless your article falls short of what was agreed upon in your Proposal and the editor’s assignment letter. If your work is professionally competent and suitable for publication, you should be paid the full fee promised.

“. . .publisher may revise, edit, augment, condense or otherwise alter the work. . .” Careful with “augment”; you don’t want to be responsible for what someone else writes. And always make sure editing is done with your approval or, at least, consultation. Publisher should agree to provide galleys sufficiently in advance of publication to permit correction of any errors. If editing changes result in an unsolvable dispute, you should have the right to withhold your byline. It’s your name.“. . .you warrant that the work is original, never before published; that you are the sole owner of the work; that the work is not libelous, obscene or otherwise in contravention of law and does not violate the proprietary right, privacy or any other right of any third party. . .” No problem with the first two sections (through “sole owner of the work”); you should be able to stand behind your work’s originality and your ownership of it. But can you honestly and fully warrant the rest—that your article won’t violate any laws anywhere? It should be a publisher’s responsibility, not yours, to have a lawyer check for libel. Obscenity laws are based on community standards; are you acquainted with local standards in every community in the nation or around the world. The last section can only be warranted “to the best of your knowledge.”

“. . .you will indemnify and hold harmless the publisher against any and all claims or actions based on a breach or alleged breach of the above warranties. . .” No author ought to assume a giant financial risk that properly belongs to the publisher. Certainly, you should not agree to cover the publisher for a mere claim or an action based on an alleged breach. If you are to be held liable at all, it should be only for a proven breach, “by judgment alone sustained,” so that you don’t wind up paying the bill for your publisher’s settlement of a baseless nuisance suit. Neither should you agree to pay half the defense costs if you are proven innocent. If you do nothing provably wrong, the risks of publishing should belong to the publisher. You’re a writer. If you wanted to take on the risks of publishing, you’d be a publisher.“. . .any action alleging a breach of this agreement must be brought in the state or federal courts of [publisher’s home turf]. . .” If you get stiffed for your fee, kill fee or expenses and want to take the publisher to small claims court, you’ll have to travel to the publisher’s state. Will the court award you travel expenses and payment for the extra time required? Good luck.

From: ©2007 ASJA, All Rights Reserved