Editors, damn your eyes!
November 10, 2004 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Editors Suck! Freelance writers will feel this author's pain. (Via Mediabistro. I believe registration is required. Sorry.)
posted by Man-Thing (20 comments total)
Fuck registration
posted by crunchburger at 8:01 AM on November 10, 2004

I didn't have to register. Interesting story.
posted by grouse at 8:07 AM on November 10, 2004

Freelance magazine writing sucks. Not the writing. The biz. No guaranteed income, lots of crawling around on your belly begging editors to accept pieces you'll be paid a pittance for half a year later, lots of internal rejection of good ideas in favour of blander, less original, more saleable articles.

I once did some work for a Canadian men's magazine named REV, and the editor was fond of saying things like "You need to rev it [the article] up". Another freelancer I spoke with swore that she heard him use "revitude" in a sentence. Other editor horror stories include one guy editing mistakes into a piece a friend wrote, and don't even get me started on the endless phone calls often required to track down cheques you were due months ago...

Still, if you can make a go of it, it beats coming into an office every morning, and more power to you.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:15 AM on November 10, 2004

I'm not really an impartial observer but I can say that any editor still in the magazine business is working extremely hard and long hours since every staff has been culled to its barebones.

The editor he was dealing with sucked though. Said one thing, wanted another, time and again. I wouldn't be surprised if other folks that write for her hate working for her just as much.

Freelancing does indeed suck for the majority of writers. But apparently not enough to find some other line of work to get into.
posted by fenriq at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2004

I found this very interesting because I've been an editor and now I'm a freelance writer. I've seen both sides of the desk. (What did T.S. Eliot say--"All editors are failed writers. But so are most writers"?) Now that I'm a writer I realize how stupid editors are. Well, maybe not all editors, but I'm already collecting my share of horror stories. I find that I spend half my energy selling myself, half trying to collect my pay, and maybe a third of my time writing. (Obviously math is not my strong suit.) On the plus side, I work at home and I don't have to play office politics all day long. Oh yeah--thanks to all the rejection, I'm actually building character. At the rate I'm going I should be a candidate for sainthood before long, and the one miracle I'd like to perform is to find a way to earn a living wage at this racket.
posted by Man-Thing at 8:30 AM on November 10, 2004

I honestly had dreams of ditching my job to do the freelance gig. I am now cured forever. (I have friends who write for the glossies and they always seem stressed but I never really knew how bad it could be. I was deluded by the siren song of working at home. Silly me.)

*goes off to find her old T shirt that says "those who can do, those who can't edit."*
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:33 AM on November 10, 2004

Point of interest, probably useless here. The writer's personal site, linked at the bottom of the article, has a NSFW splash page. Lovely bewbies and all that but NSFW.
posted by m@ at 8:42 AM on November 10, 2004

I like Conde Nast Traveler, don't get me wrong, but what did the writer expect? Harpers? of course they like shallow, fluff pieces and need strong art. it's the nature of CNT

but he had to do quite a lot of work for 200 bucks, I understand he's frustrated.
posted by matteo at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2004

It's a good story, and the editor sounds horrible. I have to admit, though, I got a bit lost when the writer started making cracks about the editor's dress sense, the fact that she wasn't 'young' (why would she be, in such a responsible position?), and made generalisations about her behaviour on the basis of her sex.

If I've learned one thing about women's hysteria it's to just apologize, no matter what the circumstance, until they calm down.

I mean, agreed, she sounded like a PITA, but why make comments like that?
posted by different at 8:55 AM on November 10, 2004

Well, that particular career-change fantasy has been bumped down my list.
posted by Tubes at 9:10 AM on November 10, 2004

I like Conde Nast Traveler, don't get me wrong, but what did the writer expect?

The editor's sins weren't in her desire for flashy art. It was ordering up articles and then moving the target, making the writer work for nothing several times, then adding insult to injury by even trying to chisel him out of the kill fee.

Some rewriting is normal. Repeated, sweeping redefinitions of a story is writer abuse.

Plus, being kept as a pet by an owner who won't feed you, and beats you down if you look for food elsewhere, is a prescription for malnutrition. Maybe that's the culture at Conde Nast, but just 'cause it's the culture don't make it right.
posted by sacre_bleu at 9:15 AM on November 10, 2004

I actually can't believe he burnt that bridge the way he did, no matter how bad the experience is. Does he have a book contract now or something? Win the lottery?

And dealing with another editor at the same place is always forbidden, unless your person sends you to him/her--he should know that--he's been around. Googling shows he's written a lot, for many mags.
posted by amberglow at 11:19 AM on November 10, 2004

This story makes me ever the more grateful for my editor(s) at MSNBC.com being so supportive of my numerous quirks, comfortable with my writing style and genuinely helpful in their criticism/advice/guidance. (Yes, Gael, I'm talkin' about you, and Paige too...) Ever the more positive considering my inability to sell anything elsewhere the past year.

While I'm at it, thanks to all you MeFites for "helping" me write my coming-soon piece on Overrated Celebrities. Just don't expect me to have used your suggestions. I'm preparing for a lot of angry reaction to my choices, and plan to enjoy every minute of it.
posted by wendell at 11:55 AM on November 10, 2004

*hands wendell a tissue to wipe that brownnose* ; >
posted by amberglow at 12:11 PM on November 10, 2004

After spending half a week on an article dissing people much more famous/successful than myself, my "nice side" needed to come out and play. But don't be alarmed... It came out, looked around the MetaFilter neighborhood, screamed and went back into hiding. :-p
posted by wendell at 12:27 PM on November 10, 2004

I've never done anything for someone else where the target didn't move, it's part of being a hired gun. It's annoying, but complaining about it is like being a hooker and complaining about the shoes.
posted by dong_resin at 1:05 PM on November 10, 2004

And dealing with another editor at the same place is always forbidden

Can one of you writer-types explain to me why this is so? Is there some business logic behind this?
posted by bashos_frog at 6:42 PM on November 10, 2004

...dealing with another editor at the same place is always forbidden

Can one of you writer-types explain to me why this is so? Is there some business logic behind this?

I've never run across it in 18 years of professional writing, but freelance has always been a sideline for me. (Most of my work has been as a newspaper reporter.)

At least twice I've worked freelance for multiple editors at publications, and nobody said a word. It actually helped me get more work, once somebody else in the building thought I was reliable.

None of them were Big Apple glossies, though.
posted by sacre_bleu at 8:02 PM on November 10, 2004

A quick google finds W. Georgiades dishing dirt on NY publishing as well as former girlfriends. It seems to be a motif of his.
posted by dhartung at 10:18 PM on November 10, 2004

"We've been doing a lot of mountainous, hilly work lately. We're looking more for flatter stories. Do you have any flat ideas?"

This was my favorite part. I've been freelancing longer than, say, Beck and Uma Thurman have been alive, and it is truly a miserable business. Pay rates have gone down, in real terms, for at least 35 years. Not to mention that I'm lazy, and not much of a go-getter. . . but, as fenriq says, I haven't found much else I ever wanted to get into.

As for the quote above, I've always hated the Catch 22 of the business: if a magazine hasn't done anything like what you suggest in the last 10 years, they're not interested. And if they have done anything remotely like what you suggest, they say they've already done it. It's easy to write, even easy to get published (there are zillions of little newspapers and magazines out there), but making a living, no.

I always thought it would be easier if I actually lived in the big city, and went to lunch with editors regularly, but that seemed crazy because living in NYC you'd need to earn, what, 20 times as much to stay alive? And from the sounds of this piece, editor lunches aren't the answer either.

One thing about the job is great, though, to get up in the afternoon, when all the world has been spending the day struggling with blizzards and getting to work, and just walk downstairs to the office. And once in a while you get to hang out with people you enjoy, like George Carlin or Dean Koontz or Dr. John.

p.s. I should add that after many decades, Man-Thing was the first editor to take me to lunch — in the glorious metropolis of Linglestown, PA. (I wish he still was an editor, because I need the work.) He's a great guy, and probably because he's freelanced so much himself, he's always been a great editor to deal with. In return I turned him on to MetaFilter, where we both can now sit and read contentedly while not writing.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:21 PM on November 10, 2004

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