Friday, May 16, 2008

The "Gold Standard" Pays with Dross

"WHAT?!" I yelped when I read yesterday's GalleyCat item, Publishers Weekly Reviewers Now To Be Paid Even Less. ($25!).
So it's not like PW reviewers will starve now because the rate they're being paid is being slashed by 50%. But it still sorta sucks.
It more than "sorta" sucks. There was a time, 15-20 years ago, when a significant chunk of my income came from PW reviews, which I cranked out at the rate of 2-4 per week, at $45 per. During the sturm und drang over Tasini v. NY Times, I followed the advice of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, of which I was a member, and refused to sign PW's retroactive rights contract. It demanded that I hand over, gratis, the copyright for the hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles I'd written over more than a decade. Whereupon PW informed me that my services were no longer needed--not even for the biannual announcement listings, which I'd been doing for 10+ years.

So I caved and signed the verstunken contract. And my services were still no longer needed. Whereupon I found greener reviewing pastures, which not only paid 6-10 times more but gave me a byline.
"However, you will be credited as a contributor in issues where your reviews appear," reassures reviews director Louisa Ermelino in the email she sent contributors announcing the change. Also, she writes that "all of us here are also experiencing change but we expect that we will continue to be the gold standard in book reviewing."
Raise your hand if you think Ermelino and other PW staffers' salaries have been cut by half.


Jessica Burkhart said...

I read this article! Insane.

Mister Mxyzptlk said...

Those who will choose to continue writing "gold standard" reviews for PW should be aware that they'll receive their ounce of gold after reading and writing reviews of just 36 books.*

*Todays close: Gold $901/ounce

Bella Stander said...

OMG, $901 an ounce?!?!?! In October 1979, when Pope John Paul II visited NYC, I worked as a temp receptionist at a gold trader in the Financial District. Gold had hit a record high of $400/oz. and the phones were ringing off the hook. By the end of the day I was hoarse from repeating, "Good morning [afternoon], James Sinclair and Company. How may I help you?"