I was doing some research on freelance writing for magazines and newspapers and was wondering if you could help me out by answering some questions:
- Do freelance writers for a magazine know when their article will be published?
- If their article isn’t published when it was supposed to, can a freelance writer go speak with the editor for the magazine if it’s a local magazine?
- Are all freelance writers compensated with a kill fee?
Thank you so much for your time.
Let’s take number 2 first. It’s always okay to approach an editor – editors need writers and are happy to respond to those who can write well for their market. I sometimes think I should market a bumper sticker that says Editors Are People Too! Of course, you need to be respectful of their time and understand you may not get an answer right away, or even ever, depending on why you’re contacting them. In your example I’d pick up the phone and call and ask what happened, nicely.
Now for the other questions.
Sometimes a magazine will let the writer know exactly when the article will be published. In fact, I’d say that for the better consumer and trade magazines this is mostly the case. Of course, plans can change in a hurry, particularly if the magazine deals with news. Some magazines do seem to buy articles and hang on to some, delaying publication. If you’ve been paid this is only a problem because you can’t link to the clip, although you can claim the sale in your writing credits or resume. If you’ve agreed to a pay upon publication sale the truth is they may never publish it. You can withdraw it in writing and try to market it elsewhere.
Kill fees are a matter of contract and no, most magazines don’t automatically pay a kill fee. The idea behind a kill fee is to partially compensate the writer for research etc. designed specifically for the magazine in question. You could, I suppose, ask for one, but unless it’s in your contract or they state they pay kill fees in their market listings, you’re unlikely to get one.
Not so by-the-way, when I speak of a contract, that also includes any email assigning you the article; it doesn’t have to be a formal contract. And yes, it’s not always possible to get anything in writing from the magazine, or the contract may follow days after you and the editor have talked over the assignment.
You may find The Writing For Magazines FAQ helpful.
Do you have a question about writing? Contact me, putting Q&A in the subject line and I’ll do my best to answer it.
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