When Deals Go Bad

Thank you to http://media.salon.com/.

Sometimes a deal goes bad.

Maybe more deals than you want.

 You’re an artist and writer. You dedicate time to your craft.

 I am a writer. I dedicate time to perfect my craft, but challenges arise when you choose to become a freelance writer. There are many great freelance writers. I’ve met them. Some have more luck than others.

 As writers, our job is also to understand the business side of writing. Even if you are not a freelance writer and want to publish a book, information about literary agents, publishing, self-publishing and business practices are good tools to keep in your case.

The problem is even with knowledge a deal sometimes goes bad whether you’re trying to sell a portrait, negotiate a contract, or sell an article.

Know Your Worth

When I switched from full-time journalism to education and freelance writing, I entered semi-blindsided.

Guess what! It is not enough to want to become published. Potential customers will take advantage of that desire. 

I know. I wanted it, too.

I have never been comfortable with talking about money, but when it comes to writing, I know I am worth more than giving the work away for free.

You must decide what you are worth.

Advice on Books

You’re offered a deal to write, organize, or edit someone’s book. That’s great news.

Sometimes you will find the I will pay you a cut after the book is publish.

Okay, this is when your business smarts must come into play. Don’t do it.

I see you now, fellow writer, with those glimmering eyes full of hope. You believe with your touch, the book has a shot. I’ll throw you a bigger bone. You are the best at writing query letters and a synopsis for an agent or publisher. You just know you’ll find an agent.

Don’t do it.

First negotiate a proper contract that will stand up in court because your work is worth something. Name your price. It is okay to negotiate from a price you are comfortable with. Remember you are going to spend hours—job kind of hours—writing, doing research and editing.

I know. I have made those mistakes. The realization you’re not going to be paid for an indefinite amount of time is like an anvil falling on your head.

Good writers should be paid.


I have had wonderful opportunities in the last year. I have also struggled against hard heads.

When it comes to freelance, know your skills and hone them.

When you spend a few hours doing research at a computer, make sure you are going to be paid for them.

I wrote an in-depth AP-style article for a new magazine publisher. The article was going to pay well. In fact, I had already set aside the money in my head for fall clothes and shoes for my son.


The guy wanted fluff. Not market research and quotes from an expert.

How was I treated?

First it took more than one month to get a response from him after we’d negotiated the deal. He pushed me off until he told me the article was not what he wanted after all without specifics. When I offered to rewrite the article, there was no response.

A professional “no thanks” goes a long way.

Good Manners

A deal will go bad. Step away from it.

Do so with grace.

But, I want to bash the guy’s head in. Do you know how many hours I spent researching, interviewing, writing and then editing?

Yes, I know.

Write your last emails to the client or person with grace. Stand firm, but still wish them the best.

You’ll find you stand on higher ground.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson


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