Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hard times. No, really.

This was a first (and probably a last, too): this week's NZ Herald Travel, me on pages 10 and 11, the Firstborn on page 18 - my story about a cruise up the Rhone, hers, bar-hopping in Samoa. Type-casting? Never...

Though this was my third Uniworld Rhone story to be published, I do actually have another hanging about, looking for a home. That's quite good going for one event, I think (they are different stories, though obviously with a similar core) - and it's the only way to make any sort of money out of travel writing. Even better would be to sell the same story twice or more times, and I have done that in the past; but it's become less and less possible now, with publications automatically slapping stories up on their websites for the whole world to see. That's good for your personal overall Google-rating, but back when a newspaper story was wrapping cod and chips the next day was much better for overall recyclability.

Fairfax has gone even further in consigning travel writers to garrets by making them sign a contract dictating that not only do they have exclusive use of the story for one year (after acceptance, not publication, as some doughty writers have battled long and hard to establish) but they may also retain it online for as long as they want - which of course means that it's never going to be attractive to a different publication. Unless you didn't tell them, but it would be the work of moments for them to check, and there goes your credibility. And all this to earn, in the Fairfax newspaper sector at least, a few pence from their "tiny budget" (editor's own description) or, more likely, nothing at all, if you're willing to sell out on principle.

Fairfax's opposition APN at least pays almost what has been the going rate for, I'm told, about the last 30 years (how fabulous 40c/word must have been back last century!), but even that is under threat from the big bosses. So thank goodness for the magazines that still pay a respectable rate per word and for photos (separately), even though they're monthly at best, and extraordinarily hard to get a foothold in. All of which is to say that I'm so pleased that I'll soon be seeing my second story this year in Mindfood magazine - especially since it's the one about rhino poaching, which will hopefully galvanise some reader reaction.

Now that really would be a great excuse for a drink.

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