It’s rare enough these days that I get offered writing jobs out of the blue (mainly because I haven’t been focusing much on my writing world over the past couple months), so when an editor does contact me to offer a writing gig I usually jump at the chance. But last week I was presented with a writing opportunity that I’m (insert big gulp of indecision) thinking of turning down.
As part of my promo efforts prior to the release of Going Native: Small Steps to a Healthy Garden a couple years ago, I contacted several native plant societies asking them (okay, begging them) to give the book a shout out on their website or newsletter or perhaps on a huge billboard that they happened to have on hand.
One of the few responders was the Native Plant Society of North America. The editor of the society’s newsletter said she’d look over the book and, if she liked it, would include a review of the book in an upcoming newsletter. I sent her a copy, she really liked it and wrote up a half-page review.
When she asked if I could write an article about a native plant of my choice for the same issue of the newsletter that the review would be in, I figured I owed it to her to do so (the society cannot afford to pay for articles, so any writing is strictly on a volunteer basis). She was great to work with and all went well.
Fast Forward a Bit
The following year, the editor asked if I could do another plant or two for the newsletter. I figured that, even though another gardening book is low on my list of future publications, these are simple articles to do and they not only keep my list of published work current, but also get my name out there (even if only a tiny bit to the people who actually read this newsletter).
So, I agreed to do two more articles that – with research, writing, and editing – only took about two to three hours each to complete. No big time investment and I enjoyed learning a bit more about the plants I was assigned.
The editor also noticed some of my artwork on my website and asked if I would ever be interested in doing some illustration work for the newsletter. As I’m far more desperate to get some art credits on the old CV than writing credits, I said “Hells yeah!”
Careful What You Wish For
I hadn’t heard from the editor for quite some time and thought maybe she found another writer/sucker to work for her for free. Then, around St. Patrick’s Day (about the time the evil cold viruses were beginning their invasion) she emailed and asked if I would like to do another plant article for next year. I shrugged and thought, “Meh, why not?” I agreed, but made sure to ask that I get to illustrate the article.
She agreed to the illustration work (yay), but she also asked if I could do another article: one about native gardens being planted in prisons and the benefits of inmates tending to gardens while they’re in the big house. Although not really my thing this idea sounded kind of interesting and I asked her for more details.
Turns out she’s hoping for a 1600-word piece with photos. Yikes.
As I don’t personally know anyone in prison or any prison officers, this article would involve plenty of research and contacting/scheduling people for interviews (always a nightmare for an introvert like me). Basically, a lot of time and effort for unpaid work.
A Rare Moment
I normally have to go out of my way to get writing gigs, so when editors do finally say they want me to scribble some words for their magazine I have never declined (plus I’m normally getting paid a hefty fee for such work). So the choice of whether or not to turn down this request is a rare and difficult decision for me. And of course I worry about losing a relationship with the Native Plant Society’s editor because, who knows, one day she could go on to being the editor of a big magazine and want to include me in her stable of writers (a girl can dream, right?).
So What Would You Do?
My decision is pretty much set, but I’m now curious to know what would you do in this situation? Would you accept the assignment and invest a fair amount of time just for a byline in a very small newsletter? Would you ask the editor if she can pay in any way? Or would you flat out (but politely) refuse? Would you then steal the idea and query paying magazines with it (this is the devious side of me coming out)?
Share your thoughts and I’ll share my decision with you during next week’s Writing Wednesday (which will likely be mostly about non-write-y things like my bees and my travel plans for this year).
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TAMMIE PAINTER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF HERCULES: BOOK ONE OF THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES AND AN ARTIST WHO DEDICATES HERSELF TO THE TEDIUM OF CREATING IMAGES WITH COLORED PENCIL.