Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are You A Member of ALCS?

Succeeding in the world of freelancing means making the most of all income streams. One such source of money is photocopying income.

If you've had an article published in a magazine (not a newspaper), then the ALCS (Author's Licensing and Collecting Society) may be of interest to you. The Copyright Licensing Authority collect payments from large institutions like Universities and Colleges, and Government Departments and industry for 'photocopying' usage. What this means is that these organisations pay a fee to legally photocopy articles published in magazines. This is then handed over to the ALCS.

The ALCS then distributes that money amongst the writers who are registered with them and have given them details of the articles they've had published. Let's be quite clear here, the ALCS do not pay writers because an article of theirs has definitely been photocopied - but writers can make a claim because their work is available for photocopying.

In order to claim you need to be a member of the ALCS and then provide them with the following information:

  • The ISSN of the magazine or journal. This is usually an 8 digit number printed somewhere on the magazine's contacts page and appears like so: 1234-5678. Sometimes it is incorporated into the front cover of the publication.
  • The date of the publication (the issue cover date)
  • The title pf the publication
  • The title of the article
  • The word count of your article
  • The names of any co-authors.
The ALCS is currently including information for articles published from January 2006 onwards, so if you've had pieces published in the past, you can use them on the next claim.

Money is distributed usually in March and I've just banked my payment, thank you very much. It all helps to keep up afloat!

For more information about the ALCS and membership (there is a membership fee of £25 but this is deducted from your first distribution payment), visit their website at www.alcs.co.uk

The payments that ALCS make vary from year to year because it all depends upon how many claimants there are, and how much money ALCS receive from the Copyright Licensing Authority. There was one year when the number of articles included in my claim had doubles, yet my payment was lower than the previous year. But being paid twice for the same article is nice, no matter how much it is. For the sake of filling out a short form to record each published article, it can be a useful income source, just before the end of the current tax year.

Good luck.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Postage Prices Going Up Again

Although the Royal Mail is telling everyone to put the 6th April in their diaries as the day the postage prices go up in the UK (again), for us writers, we need to be thinking about it NOW. Why? Because those stamped addressed envelopes that we enclose with our work need to be appropriately priced in order to get them back.

If submitting a piece of work by post (some of my regular pieces the editors allow me to submit by email now) I always send my material in an A4 envelope, which means putting a 'Large Letter' stamp on it. First Class for 'Large Letter' stamps is increasing from 52p to 61p! Sending material like this is professional, rather than scrunching it up into the smallest envelope I can get away with. From the practical point of view, there is one magazine I write for where they scan the printed hard copy into their computers to save retyping. A scrunched up submission does not scan very well.

For my SAE, I often enclose an A5 envelope. It doesn't matter how much the editor scrunches it up to get it back to me, I just want it back if he or she isn't interested in it. Enclosing an A5 envelope often means that the article is folded once, but it reduces the cost of the postage for the return journey. An A5 envelope coming back by Second Class post (well you might as well stave off the rejection for as long as possible!) will cost 30p under the new price regime.

The reason you need to be thinking about this now is that any work you submit now which is rejected will probably be returned after the price rises on 6th April. So you need to be thinking ahead and putting the right postage on your envelopes. if you don't the Royal Mail will hold onto it and demand that you collect it from a local sorting office and pay the underpayment as well as a surcharge which could be as much as a pound. Let's face it - it's galling enough to have work rejected, the last thing you want to do is have to go down the Post Office and pay to get your rejected work back!

The best top tip is to buy the stamps with 1st, 2nd, or 1st Large, 2nd Large on them. They don't have the actual price, which means they are just as valid after 6th April as they are on the 5th April. So buy up these stamps now. Pay 52p for a 1st Class Large stamp today and when you use it after 6th April, it will be 'worth' 61p.

For more information about Royal Mail's Price Rises, visit their website.

Good luck!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Show Me The Money!

Julia Wildman mentioned in her latest assignment submission that she's had an article accepted by The Lady magazine. Whilst clearly overjoyed at the news, it then threw up another question in her mind - how do you invoice a magazine? What exactly do you have to do?

Well, The Lady, has an excellent reputation for communicating with its writers. I know from experience that they will write to Julia nearer the time and tell her how much to invoice and where to send the invoice to. But Julia raises an important point. Once over the initial euphoria of receiving the acceptance letter, there is the the practical, professional aspect of getting paid for it.

The picture here is an example of the invoices that I issue and if you click on it you can download a much bigger version to scrutinise. Yet essentially, an invoice needn't be too complicated.

All you need is:

  1. The word 'Invoice' on the document, to show that it is a demand for money.
  2. Your full name and address. The magazine needs to know who the cheque should be payable to and where to send it!
  3. What the invoice is for. Be as specific as you can with this. ideally, quote the article title (and the one used by the magazine when it has been published) and if possible, which pages the piece appeared on in the magazine. List other items if they have been agreed such as payment for pictures, mileage (rare), postage (even rarer!)
  4. Give the invoice a date.
  5. Give the invoice a due date. In business terms, most invoices are paid 30 days after the date of the invoice. Many magazines pay a month after publication anyway, so this isn't a problem. It can be frustrating writing and article and not being paid for so long, but that's how it works. Last December, I wrote an article for this December's issue of a magazine. So I wrote the article in December 2008, it will be published in December 2009 and I will be paid for it in January 2010. There are not that many professions where delivery of work and payment can be so far apart!
  6. Give your invoice a unique reference number. In reality, this is a tax office recommendation. In practice, it can be very useful. I always tell students that once an article has been accepted they should submit more work. Which means that it is quite possible that you could be submitting invoices to the same magazine over a period of time. If they pay a flat rate per thousand words, all your invoices could be for the same amount. What happens if one invoice isn't paid? How do you refer to it when you chat the to accounts department? Exactly! So a unique reference number is really useful. Don't panic, it needn't be complicated. Calling the first invoice number 1, the second number 2 and so on, usually works and is unique enough! What some people do is precede the identifying number with the tax year, so the invoice reference looks like: 08/09-01.
  7. Ensure there is a 'total' figure, so the accounts department know how much to pay.
  8. Put the address of the accounts department on the invoice too, so you know where to send it. This also makes it clear to the recipient that the invoice is for them and not somebody else. (The Lady is not going to pay an invoice which is addressed to Pipe Fitters Monthly!)
  9. I also quote my bank details - Sort Code and Account number, because some businesses like to pay the money directly into the bank. Now, some people throw their arms up in horror when they hear this. Bank details should be kept confidential, they cry! Well, as someone who spent 8 years working for a High Street bank I then tell these people that every time they wrote a cheque out they were giving someone their full bank details, as well as a copy of their signature! As long as you quote your sort code and account number only, there shouldn't be a problem. Let's face it, no one minds who pays in, we're more interested in who takes out, and they should need a signature or some PIN numbers to do that.
  10. End with a pleasant comment - 'Thank you for your business' or 'For more information about my work visit ...'. It's not critical, but it rounds the invoice off nicely. In some organisations it may even be the editor who writes the cheques and posts them off, so it may be registered by him/her. In other organisations it will be the accounts department who are probably based in the other end of the country and have no idea as to who you are, but it's always nice to be pleasant and professional at all times.
Make a note of when the invoice is due and then watch out for the payment. If payment isn't made within two weeks, don't jump up and down and start threatening court action. Give the accounts department a ring (NOT THE EDITOR) and make enquiries. Volume of work means that some invoices get pushed back to the next cheque run. Sometimes the post office doesn't deliver the invoice in the first place - stuff does go missing in the post. Most accounts departments I've come across will say that if you submit a duplicate invoice they'll arrange for it to be paid as soon as possible, instead of waiting for the next cheque run.

You can create invoices like this quite simply. A Word processor document is sufficient, but if you're any good with a spreadsheet you can set up a template on there and get it to calculate all the necessary totals for you. But as long as you quote all the necessary information, you should find yourself seeing the financial reward for all that hard work you did many months ago!

Good luck.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Come again?

Sarah Radev emailed me to share a few positive moments of joy, which then leads onto a question.

I was pleasantly surprised this week when I received an unexpected cheque through the post for a letter I wrote to Spirit and Destiny as part of Assignment 4. I have also received an email from Best of British to say they would like to retain an article I submitted about a local Folk Festival. I had submitted another article to them and they wrote to tell me that they were not going to publish it because it was too similar to something they had done in the past. However, they told me that they did really like the article which they thought was very well written and advised me that they would be glad to receive any more articles I wished to submit.

I would actually like to ask your advice on submitting more than one article to a magazine. I have quite a number of ideas for articles, but they are usually all suited to the same few magazines. Is it okay to submit another article to a magazine that has an article of mine on file, such as Best of British now do? Also, is it alright to submit more articles to magazines that are still considering articles? The Lady has had an article of mine that has been being considered since last July, and which after liaising with the editors assistant I have now resubmitted, but I have lots of other ideas for articles that would be suitable for this magazine. Should I wait until the first article is accepted, or published? Or is it okay to keep submitting articles?

Well, congratulations on the success with the letter and the good news from Best of British. And can I also say well done for the piece with The Lady. You'd be surprised the number of students who submit work, get asked a question by the editor to rejig the piece and for some reason are struck dumb into doing nothing at all, which is ridiculous. If you do what the editor asks the chances of acceptance and publication are even higher then!

But I can see what you mean about sending more work to magazines who are still holding onto previous submissions. To answer your question, I would say ‘yes’. If you find magazines that you enjoy writing for, then keep sending them material. You obviously enjoy writing in that magazine’s style, and this enjoyment will show through in your writing. There is nothing wrong in submitting articles to magazines who are currently considering other submissions from yourself. I have never come across a ‘one-at-a-time’ policy. With regards to Best of British in particular, because you have had one piece ‘retained’, the editor now knows your name, and it’s always a good idea to submit another article to an editor who has recently accepted your work. Strike whilst the iron is hot, as they say.

The reason I say that it is okay to do this is because the editor is always considering the actual material they have in front of them. I always say that people are frightened of rejection because they think editors are rejecting THEM. They are not, They are merely rejecting THAT particular piece of work at THAT particular piece of time. This is why it’s okay to send more submissions if the magazine already has some of your work under consideration. They are not considering you as a writer, but the actual piece of work in front of them. So if you’re getting the ideas – then go for it! Write them up and send them in!

The only time I would suggest that you hold off from submitting more work, is if it is a new magazine you are approaching and you don't know whether they accept work from freelancers or not. It would be a waste of time to write three or four pieces of a period of months, only to have the first piece come back rejected because they don't accept freelance submissions.

There is a general principle of life that many things adhere to the 80/20 rule. This basically means that 80% of your work will go to 20% of your customers. In other words, you'll end up sending most of your work to many of the same small group of clients. It's good to do this, because an editor will get to know you as a reliable contributor. But you must also continue to develop the other 20% of your work that you submit to the other 80% of your clients. Because one day, one of the clients in your 20% bracket may change their policy and you'll find that for whatever reason the work with them dries up, forcing you to look elsewhere for a client to fill that gap. This is where one of those other clients from the other 80% comes in.

So yes, submit work to editors who are currently considering other pieces of your work.

Good luck.

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