Top 13 warning signs a magazine is in trouble
Magazines have folded by the dozen since the economy started its now infamous nose dive last fall. But most didn’t disappear overnight. Over the months, observant freelancers learned to read between the lines for signs a particular publication might be cutting back or, alas, shutting down completely.
Here are some indicators that all may not be well, based on my personal experience and with the help of some fellow freelancers on my favorite writers’ message board.
You know a magazine is in trouble when…
1. Emails to the editor you’ve been working with on an assignment suddenly bounce back, her voicemail is full and she’s not answering her phone.
2. They aren’t assigning anything new for the foreseeable future and are using up their backlog of already completed – and paid for – stories instead.
3. They’re using staffers – and editors – to write everything.
4. They’re using consultants, analysts and other industry experts to write columns instead of freelancers.
5. Instead of professionally written stories, they’re using message boards and other user-generated content to flesh out their Website.
6. They’ve switched to paying on publication instead of on acceptance.
7. They ask you to send a self-addressed stamped envelope along with your invoice.
8. Instead of sending your invoice to the lowly editorial assistant who’s handled the task forever you’ve been directed to send them straight to the assistant managing editor.
9. Invoices that used to be paid within 30 days or even less are now paid in 45 days – if you’re lucky.
10. They ask you to accept a smaller fee or lower per-word rate than what’s stipulated in your contract in order to get paid.
11. They love your story but hold it for a month for budget reasons and, despite the payment terms spelled out in your contract, demand that you to hold off sending an invoice for a month too.
12. They can’t find your invoice – again.
13. The latest issue comes in the mail and you mistake it for a promotional brochure.
What warning signs do you look for?