Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's the payment, dude?

In the long period I've been a freelancer, I've noticed a striking difference between Indian and foreign publications. When chaps from abroad ask me to write, they always provide the basic information I need to make up my mind. By basic information I'm speaking of the subject, the word length, the deadline and the payment. Indian editors, on the other hand, invariably act coy about money. I can't recall a single commissioning editor who provided me with all important details in the initial approach. Recently, I've written for Take On Art magazine and Outlook Traveller; have accepted assignments from Caravan and Tehelka; and rejected proposals from three or four other publications. In every single case, it was left up to me to ask what I was going to be paid.
The reluctance to discuss fees stems, I suppose, from the fact that most magazines and newspapers these days pay very poorly. Still, since the issue's going to come up at some point, why not just get it over with right at the start?


manish nai said...

like this,thanks for sharing :)

Jasmine Shah Varma said...

not paying writers on art or discussing the amount seems to be a common disease. came across this rant.


Girish Shahane said...

The link doesn't appear to be working, Jasmine.

Jasmine Shah Varma said...

Sorry. It seems the post has been taken down already.

Jasmine Shah Varma said...

A report on the incident here:

The post now is here:

Girish Shahane said...

Good for her. A couple of weeks ago at a Delhi seminar, I was on a panel about the Death of Art Criticism. At some point, a question was asked about new art magazines launched in the past year (four or five of them). If art criticism is dying, how come there are all these new publications? I didn't have a good answer, except to say I didn't believe a rise in readership was driving these new magazines.
A week ago, I received an invitation to write for one of them (I've received an invite to write from all of them, actually, but this one had a reasonable brief so I thought I might do a piece). I popped the money question, and the answer was, "we can pay 1.5 rupees a word". I didn't know what to say, apart from the obvious, "This is far too low, I decline to write". I mean, when I was at Art India a dozen years ago we paid more than that. It's utterly ridiculous to launch a glossy quarterly and pay peanuts for content.
Freelancers across the world are in a bad situation, no doubt about that.

Jasmine Shah Varma said...

Re rise in number of magazines I was quite optimistic initially. Thought more competition would lead to better quality, better pay to writers, and wider range of opinions and reportage on the art scene. Turned out they are clones pretty much.

Have always wondered about how these magazines would sustain over a period of time considering that the number of advertisers interested in these mags is so limited. I have tried finding out the business model if any behind starting an art mag and mostly have rec answers on the lines that sounds like they are doing charity to the art world! Or at least that seems to be the line they use when wooing one to write for them cheaply :)