Help me write an email to one editor about another editor
February 12, 2017 6:47 PM   Subscribe

I’m a freelance music journalist, and I need to compose an email to one editor following up on a conversation about problems with another editor.

I write for a publication with an EIC I like and a web editor that just recently started. I’ve been having nonstop problems with the new web editor and have been emailing the EIC about him. She acknowledges there are problems (he doesn’t answer email ever, he didn’t turn in my invoice so I didn’t get paid recently), but has been making a lot of excuses for him. I’m supposed to send her an email following up on the situation, but I’m having trouble finding the right tone and words.

He came on in December and I was assigned a piece for him via the EIC. I got maybe one or two emails from him in the beginning, but then nothing. I’d send him detailed pitches for other articles, questions about how much I was getting paid for the one article, nothing. Asked him to confirm receipt of my article and get in touch about edits. Nothing. Finally I reached out to the EIC, and she seemed sympathetic and was able to at least extract how much to invoice them for. She “nudged” him several times to write me about the other things, but he never did.

I wrote the EIC once voicing my frustration, how I just wanted to be able to write articles for them. She got a bit defensive and explained that the web editor had just been working part time in addition to another job, and once he came on full time things would be better. (She told me the date he’d start full time, said to write him then and to let her know a few days later.) I also felt she was a bit defensive when she pointed out that working with writers isn’t all he does and there are a lot of people who’d like to write for us. (She made some valid points, but I felt she overlooked the main issue.)

I was already super exasperated because I’ve written for this publication for a while and wanted to keep doing it. I didn’t know how to really keep approaching the EIC without her defending the web editor. And then the worst part: he never turned in the invoice I sent him for my article, so I didn’t get my January check. At the advice of the EIC, I sent him the invoice again. He didn’t apologize or offer an excuse or even acknowledge receipt. I think I can ask the EIC to handle getting my invoice to the right place, but why should I have do? The EIC didn't act like this was a big problem, was just "oh he's so busy and sorry for the delay!"

I really have no idea how to approach this and talked it through a bit with my therapist. I liked her ideas that when I write the EIC, I acknowledge everything the EIC has said (“I know Web Editor just started full time and has a backlog, and I know he also has to grow web traffic and I know a lot of people want to write for you”). My therapist also suggested including something about editors in similar, busy situations still making sure that writers get paid.

Finally, this could go either way for me, but I’m considering saying I’m done writing for them in some sort of non-dramatic way. I mean, I’m already unable to pitch, was barely able to write, and didn’t get paid, so there wouldn’t be much of a difference. (I wouldn’t say that.) Maybe something about giving them a few months to get things sorted before I pitch again.

I will say that I don’t want to have to stop writing for them because of the web editor. I want to keep pitching and writing and getting paid. I just don’t see any way to do it, especially if the EIC is determined to keep making excuses for him. So in terms of what I want to get out of this, that’sit, I just don’t think I can have it.

Anyway, thank you for reading all of this. I would be glad for some verbage I could use when I write her.
posted by mermaidcafe to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did your therapist bring up the idea that maybe they are no long interested in working with you? Because I think that's what's happening here.

Be really nice and get paid. Stop submitting work, or keep submitting but expect to be ignored? There is no good reason to badger or accuse them other than burning your bridges with them for all time. Be gracious and move on to other endeavors. Don't give up writing or pitching elsewhere! Just for whatever reason this thing here is not working right now, so start working elsewhere.
posted by jbenben at 7:12 PM on February 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think there is an easy answer to rectify this situation and end up with what you want. The Web Editor is just simply not going to be easy to work with, and the EIC has her own things going on. She has made it clear that she is not interested in pulling him up.

I would suggest you just quietly back out of working with them, and not make a fuss as to not burn any bridges. Keep pitching, but after a week of no response, pitch the story elsewhere. If you're paid up, then they don't owe you anything, move on.

You might find in a few months there are new names around and then you get a better response. If this guy isn't doing his job, let his incompetence show.

I wouldn't write the email. If the EIC contacts you, say: I wasn't getting any responses to my pitches, so I have been seeking other outlets. Let me know if I can help with anything in the future.
posted by Youremyworld at 7:16 PM on February 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: speaking as an occasional editor and very occasional freelance writer: unless it's too late, you want your email(s) to the EIC to be EXCLUSIVELY about your work, your invoicing, and your requirement of timely payments. If you could do it without even mentioning this other guy's name that would be ideal. You don't want to have an argument with her about how good he is or isn't at his job; that's not your problem and she won't think it's your business. You want to tell her that your invoice has not been paid or acknowledged. Let her connect the dots about whose fault that is.

(I mean your issue is not this bozo, your issue is your emails are going unanswered and your invoices are going unpaid. She can defend the guy and may feel she has to; she cannot defend the actions themselves and if she doesn't fix them for you and apologize profusely while doing it, the problem is the whole culture there and her own professionalism, not the one guy.)

Plenty of nice places to write for don't acknowledge pitches unless they like them, I would not think it appropriate to complain about that part of it. though I think you are probably right that if you've always heard back positively before and suddenly that stopped, it's because this guy can't keep up with his workload, not because your work got worse. but you can't do anything about that beyond making the EIC aware that you are pitching at your usual rate, so if she isn't seeing new work from you, it's not by your choice. If it is actually just this guy and not the whole culture of the place, you won't be the only writer treated this way and you can wait it out until he's gone. but I wouldn't be confrontational about anything except unpaid invoices. Those, never ever let them go.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:19 PM on February 12, 2017 [16 favorites]

Given that you already have the ear of the EIC, and have gotten unsatisfactory responses, you're probably out of options. It sounds like you already know this. It's possible that the EIC is incompetent, letting valuable freelancers slip away through the negligence of their sub-editors. It's more likely that the EIC is full to the gills with freelance pitches and is simply letting yours stagnate.

But yes, you should get paid. Chase that.
posted by flod at 7:20 PM on February 12, 2017

Best answer: It's hard to let go of a good freelancing gig, but, as soon as you can't count on payment, it stops being a good freelancing gig. My two cents is to pursue other opportunities, ensure you are paid for delivered work, and then let them both know that your availability has changed, but that you have enjoyed working for them and are open to future projects. You can always check back in a few months down the line, and it's possible they may reach out to you. It sounds like, however, your time with them is coming to a conclusion, at least for the moment. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 7:39 PM on February 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

It's not clear how many articles have been handled with the new web editor on board. If it's only been a few, I might give the relationship more time to stabilize. In which case you'd need to suck it up for a while.

But if you're ready to write them off, don't send them a letter telling them you're done. Just don't be available if they offer you an assignment, and eventually they won't offer you any more assignments. I realize it is frustrating to leave that hanging thread. It's not your job to manage their personnel and processes. If anyone ever asks why you're never available anymore, then you can tell them, but I'd prefer to do that in person over a cup of coffee.
posted by adamrice at 7:55 PM on February 12, 2017

You absolutely should get paid. I would keep emailing about that.

I've been on all three ends of this equation and the amount that you've vented already to the EIC is further than I would recommend.

Every team is different but to me this: she pointed out that working with writers isn’t all he does and there are a lot of people who’d like to write for us is code for "we are swamped and don't have time for high-maintenance writers." Wanting to get paid is not high maintenance though. But expecting an answer to every pitch can be.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:08 PM on February 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would try to set up a phone call with the editor about your issues getting paid.
posted by grouse at 8:08 PM on February 12, 2017

"there are a lot of people who’d like to write for us."
She could not have been more plain--suck it up or pitch elsewhere. You can state on your invoices that late payments suffer a penalty--I usually say "10% after 30 days".
posted by Ideefixe at 8:25 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I’m considering saying I’m done writing for them in some sort of non-dramatic way.

Just fade. There's no need for histrionics. Follow up with whatever you need to do to get paid for work already submitted, but then move on and spend your time on other outlets. They're going to keep having issues with the web editor, and you really don't want any part of it, I suspect. Sit back awhile while they work that out. If you're missed, the EIC will get back in touch, or if s/he doesn't, you can drop a line in 6 months to ask what's up and talk about what you're working on. Right now, this is a battle you don't need, and the whole point of being freelance is that you're not on staff and you don't need to deal with this BS. Find another outlet in a better position and get paid by them in the meantime.

You don't need to say or do anything special to be done with this bunch. Just wrap up your existing assignments and invoices, and start putting your energy elsewhere.
posted by Miko at 8:25 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

It could very well be that the web editor and EIC are both incompetent - or there could be a wider business issue going on that will mean things will only get worse from here. Regardless, get paid and move on - you're wasting too much energy on them that could be better used elsewhere.
posted by heyjude at 8:27 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to update/wrap up things here, I ended up writing a quick email to the EIC. I apologized for recent hassle and said I did need her help getting paid. She wrote back that she'd take care of my invoice. Most surprisingly, she said that she was very glad I had been keeping her apprised of what was going on with the other editor, that as EIC she oversaw everything but didn't always know so was thankful I'd been emailing her. Thanks to those of you who gave helpful, compassionate replies.
posted by mermaidcafe at 6:36 PM on March 8, 2017

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