Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Conde Nast Editor Screws Freelance Travel Writer

CNT Editor Welcomes Freelancers

The long, sad saga of a travel writer attempting to sell his article to a disturbingly evasive editor at Conde Nast Traveler. Also note that the magazine pays only $800 for 1200 words.

Adventures in Journalism: World Traveler


By William Georgiades

November 10, 2004

A writer chronicles the birth and painful demise of an ill-fated travel writing piece.

... "We did, we did," she says. But some of my colleagues wonder if there is something we can peg the story to."

This is a death knell. I've used this ruse myself many times, when I was in her position over the phone. An editor's job is always to say no in the best or most excruciating way possible. Ideally, one can say, oh, we ran that exact story just 19 months ago, so sorry, but great idea; which is invariably the case, as magazines tend to tell the same story on a rotating basis of nineteen months. Or you can say you are not interested and you might be alienating a future Important Person. The last line of defense, however, is to say your colleagues have problems with the story and that a colleague says there is no peg and magazines are nothing without stories that have pegs. Can you imagine a world without pegs?

... Nine months pass and she is not in touch. She nods to me at two parties, as if to say, what are you doing here (a question I am asking myself at both occasions). Seated near her at an outdoor summertime dinner party, she regales our neighbors, telling them about this brilliant piece I'm working on for her. I don't point out that she's had it for months, that it's all of 1,200 words, and that she hasn't responded to the 17 ideas I've sent over the past several months. I don't mention that the enthusiastic editor won't speak to me anymore, and that our mutual friend tells me I almost cost her her job. Sitting there at that summertime dinner party feeling the crush of success all around me, I look at the pigtailed now-37-year-old editor and think of the glory that will hit newsstands. I smile at her suggestively and she blushes like the young woman she is not.

... "Well, there's a slight problem. Unfortunately at the last minute our editor cut back our pages and it was either you or A. M. Homes's piece about the view from her apartment window so, it broke my heart, but we had to cut your story at the last minute. I am so sorry. But," She says this "but" very, very quickly, before I can say anything, "but I think it'll hold for a year—you do say the celebrations have been going on for six hundred years so... and of course I'll make sure you get paid right away. But payment will have to be a kill fee, just in case the story never runs, so that's 25 percent, and 25 percent of $600..."

The Travails of a Freelance Writer with Conde Nast Traveler


Note: Here's the hilarious blurb about the above article as posted in The Gawker

Another Day, Another Evil Editor

William Georgiades, former editor of Black Book magazine and Vanity Fair contributor, has written (for free?) a Mediabisro "exposé" on the wild world of freelancing. Georgiades recounts the long and painful process by which he was tortured by an unnamed editor (who is so totally Dana Dickey) at Conde Nast Traveler for over a year, only to see his 1200-word article in the trash. On the bright side, the experience gave him the opportunity to write about the ordeal and reiterate some basic truths about editors: they're cloven-footed devil beasts.

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