Here’s the situation. I replied to an ad for writers with two story proposals, as requested. About a week later, the editor responded and said they wanted to commission one of the articles, and if I was still interested, let him know. I was and I did. He said he would be in touch with further details.
Later that day, the details arrived. It was actually an agreement that outlined the publication’s terms and expectations, and there was a note for me to sign it, return it and proceed with the article.
Everything looked fine at first, until the payment section. This company wasn’t paying enough for what they were asking. And with the specs that they outlined, I knew that they knew this.
Let the negotiating begin.
I asked for a rate increase. No can do, the editor replied. The publication can’t afford it but we would really love to have the piece if you’re willing to work for the stated price, he added.
I wasn’t. I wrote back and asked for additional compensation based on page views. And here is what he said:
I am not philosophically opposed to a page view bonus. However, practically speaking, I would need to know what you could do to promote this post.
Pump the brakes. Clearly, this train has derailed and headed left field.
Forget “practically” and “philosophically” because I’m not sure why they joined this conversation anyway. What grabbed my attention was “bonus” and “what you could do.”
The purpose of my request was that the arrangement already involved me doing too much for too little. If I did more and got additional money, that’s not a bonus. That’s payment for extra services.
But more importantly, I didn’t ask for additional work. I asked for additional pay for the work we already discussed.
So, here’s how I replied:
From my perspective, committing to specific promotion tactics means agreeing to offer additional services, which isn’t what I’m proposing.
Instead, I’m asking for a payment structure that’s more fair and equitable. A well-written article at the proposed rate is a bargain for your publication. The additional page-view rate is what will potentially make this arrangement viable for me as the writer.
In the end, he said he understood and respected my position but they just couldn’t afford to pay more solely for content.
I understood his position too. A low-paying publication is a low-paying publication and if they can’t afford to do better at the given time, that’s just what it is.
The real point is that some companies seem to think writers only have enough sense to do one thing, which is string sentences together. Surely, we can’t figure out that if we ask for more money and they ask more work that doesn’t equal a better rate. And they definitely don’t expect us to figure that out when they are philosophically speaking.