The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, May 26, 2006

When It's Really, Really Not in the Mail

by Melissa Bell

Almost two years ago now, I had a piece accepted for publication by a North American magazine with a decent circulation (and FYI, no, it was not the magazine that starts with the letter ‘M’ or ‘N’. Or even ‘O’, ‘P’, ‘Q’, ‘X’, or ‘Z’). At the time, they were enthusiastic enough about including my story in their pub that the Main Publisher/Editor Guy phoned me at home to inform me of my acceptance, and couriered an agreement to my house the following day. And while the pay wasn’t anything to phone all my friends about, it was a nice little three-figure sum in U.S. coin I could look forward to receiving in a few months’ time. Or so I thought.

As I said at the top here, the story I wrote was accepted 23 months ago, and I’m still waiting for their cheque. Or check. No, they haven’t gone out of business. Yes, I’ve e-mailed Publisher/Editor Dude about the non-payment on numerous occasions. At first, there seemed to be some “confusion” because in addition to my fee and requisite contributor’s copy, there were problems at their print house, and so in their own efforts to be efficient and send both a complimentary copy and my money at the same time, there was a delay in payment because they couldn’t get a copy to me simultaneously-like.


Finally, in February 2005, I receive my free copy of the mag. Nice, but whatever. I don’t really need the complimentary copy. I’m familiar with my own story and I don’t need to read it again, thanks. Can I have my money, please?

Not quite. Seems their server crashed and my address was lost. Funny how the magazine made its way to my mailbox, but not my fee. I resend my address. Not sure exactly what happened to their hard copy of my signed agreement that contained my contact info, but again with the “whatever”. I wait. No cheque. I e-mail, and I am reminded by Publisher/Editor Guy that their server “had a major crash” and their data was “totally wiped out”. Not exactly sure how this precluded him, or anyone, from picking up a pen and writing me a cheque, but so be it. Fortunately I’m gainfully employed and I’m not depending on his money to feed my cat.

This past January, a cheque finally arrives in the mail. I take it to my bank. Guess what happens with that cheque? It’s a tough one, I know, so here’s a clue: it rhymes with “flounces”.

I can’t get hold of the Mr. Pub/Ed, so I call his bank. They tell me that, at that moment, there are sufficient funds in the account to cover the cheque, so I should go back to my bank to see if they will try to put it through again. Honestly. And this was a reputable bank that suggested this, folks - not the Magical Candy Bank of Fancylandia.

I e-mail Mr. Numbnuts again. He responds sooner than I would have thought, is appropriately contrite and apologetic, and says that that account should never have been used and he will be sending me a money order “right away”. That was in March.

I’m still waiting.

Moral of the story, kids: Even when they say they’ll pay, they might not. I’m not bitter. No really. No, really. I’m fine. The taste of bile goes away with some heavy drinking, it really does! Plus this little grievance of mine has given me something to write about tonight (sorry for the indulgence, and thank you for reading this far, I mean it). And notwithstanding my own crappy non-payment experience with this particular publication, they do produce a nice-looking product and publish the work of writers whose stories I admire and whose careers I wouldn’t mind enjoying for a week or two. What they’ve got against me, I’m not quite sure. And they’re not sayin’.

Maybe it’s the way I spell “cheque”.


Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

I had a similar experience with an anthology. Unfortunately, these things happen. What publishers should understand, though, is that it's better to be upfront than to compound the torture by making false promises. Great post, Melissa.

Fri May 26, 08:35:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

Melissa, I always look forward to your posts, this is great, and cheque is the right way...I hate this sort of thing, first you wait and wait to see if your story is selected, and then...well,....great post Melissa, keep writing..xo

Fri May 26, 02:54:00 pm GMT-4  

Post a Comment

<< Home