This morning, I read this blog post from food writer, Lizzie Mabbot.
Go on, go read that and come back here, I’ll wait.
As both readers of this blog will know (hi mom), I, like Lizzie, have written for Mark Garner in the past and as some of you who know me personally, i.e. the poor souls who exist within my tortured little whinge-sphere, Manchester Confidential were late in paying me as well. Very late.
I’d written an article on Labour’s failed ID card scheme and after numerous, polite, attempts at extracting payment from ManCon, I sent this email to their accounts department, cc’ing the big guy himself:
Have I done something to piss you Manchester Confidential folks off? Was it the dissing of one of Mark’s food photos on Twitter? Maybe you don’t like my tie.
Your refusal to pay me has to be a personal thing. It can’t be standard practice for ManCon to take over 6 months to pay a contributor. I’ve written for many publications in the UK, most (who are we kidding, ALL) are much smaller than ManCon, and I have never had to wait this long.
I know what you owe me is a pittance and a low priority, but I’m a stubborn bastard and I won’t go away. If you think I won’t pursue this because it’s such a small amount, think again. I will sue on principle, it’s what we colonials do. Although, I will probably write a couple more nasty emails (and maybe even a letter on PAPER) before I go that far. I am also half British, you see.
If I’ve hurt someone’s feelings over there, kicked someone’s dog, pissed in someone’s Shreddies then please accept my apology. Accept a hundred of them.
Just pay me.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy crap, Rob, you sound like a whiny little asshole like Lizzie”. And you’d be half-right, especially if you read that letter without irony. Mark Garner didn’t read it without irony, He gets irony. He likes a bit of spiky humour; anyone who has ever read anything he’s ever published will know this.
You’re probably also thinking “Six months without getting paid?! Jesus, I thought this post was supposed to be in support of Mark Garner” and you’d be half-right again. Six months is an unacceptable amount of time to go without getting paid for an article, especially when you factor in the fact that I had to acquire one of those fucking Labour Big Brother ID cards in the process.
What you don’t know about the above response is that this bit, while true, is a tad misleading: “I’ve written for many publications in the UK … and I have never had to wait this long.” I have indeed written for quite a few publications in this country, some of which have enormous readerships and yes, while it is true I have never had to wait six months for payment, the reason is not as obvious as it might appear.
The fact is, the sum total I’ve been offered for the dozens of articles I’ve had published in magazines, newspapers and websites in this country is a big, fat, zero. Bupkiss. Nada, nothing, zip, zilch.
I’m not excusing these publications for not paying their writers, but I know for a fact that paying writers is something many independent publishers who aren’t lucky enough to receive lottery money can afford to do. Every single issue that goes to print is a struggle and many publications operate at a loss. I have since made a conscious decision to stop wasting my time writing for free (except for my LeftLion column), which is why you no longer see published articles on this, or my other blogs anymore.
It is entirely possible that my writing is worthless and Lizzie should be paid in gold bullion, lord knows a quick comparison of the number of comments Lizzie gets on her blog and at the comments I get will tell you that there is little to compare between the two of us. Lizzie probably isn’t a massive celebrity in Nottingham like I am (irony), but still, it has to be said, she is obviously much better at this business than I am. I hope she gets more paid work, I really do, but I can tell you right now that if I were a small publisher reading her post whinging about a payment that was a mere 10 days late, I would be asking her to shove things where the sun doesn’t shine as well. Ok, well, perhaps I wouldn’t go that far.
Oh yeah, and if you want proof that Mark Garner responds better to irony than moaning and browbeating, here is his response to my email (the spelling mistakes have been corrected):
Please confirm that we owe Mr Cutforth this money.
Mr Cutforth, to short circuit the whole thing, send me a copy invoice with your bank details and I will make a payment tomorrow.
I am unsure as to whether I should apologise, we may well be able to get another of your emails which made me smile, in the nicest possible way…
The first cheque I ever received for writing in the UK followed shortly thereafter.