There’s an old joke in the music biz: How do you make a small fortune as a musician? Start with a large one. The same can be said for the publishing industry.
In most industries, a worker, be they hourly, salaried, contract, or freelance, makes an agreement with The Boss to do X job for X amount of pay. When the job is done, the check is signed. If you’re an author or a copy writer, things get a little hazy. You may have to sell a certain number of books before you see a dime, or the company with which you signed may be a small start-up with limited capital. Either way, it is incredibly disheartening to see your hard work devalued and dismissed.
“Oh, you want to get paid? Hey, look over there!”
So what do you do if you feel that you’ve been stiffed? There are a number of approaches. Mine involves stomping around the house while grumbling and swearing, followed by downing a few shots of chocolate syrup.
You can take the Ralph Kramden Approach: The Nastygram. “You dirty bum, you no-good rat!” While this may temporarily relieve your stress, it rarely produces a positive ending. More often, you’ll get the finger and a reputation in the business for being hard to work with.
Then there’s the Doormat Approach: Do Nothing. “Oh, I’m sure it’s just an oversight. They’ll send that seven months of back pay any day now! I’ll keep working for free and hope they remember soon.” This approach, to be blunt, sucks. While your boss is likely not really a rat, they have More Important Things To Do. If you don’t plan to insist on being paid for your time, you might as well consider yourself a volunteer.
You might try the Firm Approach: I’m Worth It. “I understand that sales aren’t as good as we’d like, but the work has been done for some time and I expect to be paid. I’ll take half now and the rest in installments, and we can continue to enjoy a good working relationship.” Your results may vary. There may be some hemming and hawing before the check arrives, or the check may arrive promptly, accompanied by a pink slip. Either way, you and your boss will both know that you value your time, skills, and effort. Your boss should value those things, too.
The publishing industry is full of interesting tales, and not all of them involve books. The behind-the-scenes stuff can be just as thrilling, shocking, scary, laughable, and irritating as anything found in a bestseller.
What’s your story?