A shocking confession: I don’t like Gawker. I don’t like the clever-clever writing that reads like the writer is poking me in the ribs saying “Huh? How about this? Isn’t this funny/cute/shocking/stupid?” Yes, Gawker, you’re cool, I get it. However, every once in a while they publish something useful.

Like many of my writer peers, I’ve got a little stardust in my eyes about the New York magazine world. Glossy pubs, prestigious bylines, and american dollars – it’s the dream. I’ve submitted a few queries so far but nothing has come of them. Oh well – as Gawker’s Hall of Shame series reveals, the only thing harder than getting into some national magazines is getting paid by them. Invoices being paid well after net 90 days are so very common, and so are stories of threatening to show up at the magazine’s offices in order to collect a long overdue cheque. Buried in the comments of one of the posts, there was a link to a story of one writer who set up a tent outside of Bob Guccione‘s office (founder of Penthouse and Spin) and stayed there until he got (most) of his money.

I used to get all annoyed with those scamsters on Craigslist who try to get people to write for their website or zine for free or those who promise abysmal rates such as $15 for a 400-word article. Then they add further insult by promising “exposure” as compensation. Honestly, if you people don’t have any money to pay writers, do the writing your damn selves.

But at least they’re honest about being a non-paying market, unlike prominent magazines and book publishers who pay their freelancers last and sometimes only if absolutely necessary. It’s one thing to decide not to write for free, it’s another to discover you have just giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars away in free content. What writers have to do in this situation is identify deadbeat pubs and refuse to work for them again. If possible, shame the offenders so others know to steer clear: Writers Weekly e-zine runs a forum called Whispers and Warnings that helps get the word out about scammers and deadbeats.

Cynically, editors know one thing about writers: there’s always more of them out there. So let’s be smart about who we write for. And stick together, kum-ba-ya.

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