Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A warning to fellow freelancers: Stay away from this "employer"!!!

Early in my blog, I mentioned a child writer named Adora Svitak, and went on to idealize about the number of child authors that have made names for themselves in recent years. That post was partly spurred by the fact that I was "hired" by Adora's mother to review her book. As it turns out, my idealized view of the upstanding mother was a little off-base.

Here's what happened:

I agreed to write a review of Adora's book, Flying Fingers, in order to give her some publicity, and her mother sent me a copy. No payment was ever discussed; I was somewhat naive at the time, and assumed I'd get paid by whoever published the review. I queried and queried, but wasn't getting much luck. Then Adora's mother asked me to write a review for her to use as a reference, as she was trying to get an international contract for the book. I agreed to write the review, but as I was trying to find a publisher still, I told her in no uncertain terms that it was only to be used as a reference, and was not to be published, even in part, without my express permission. She agreed; in fact, she said that she would notify me of everyone she sent it out to.

So imagine my surprise when I was searching the internet for my pen name one night, and came across my name on a page that was entirely in Chinese (except for that translation of my name). I had Google translate the page, and discovered that Adora's mother had gone against her promise: she allowed a third of my review to be published in an article about Adora!

I was infuriated, naturally. I tried to demand payment, to no avail - unfortunate that I had never discussed the subject with her. Then I spent a good deal of time tracking down those responsible for the website's content. I insisted that the excerpt was a copyright violation, and must be removed immediately. I got the run around from the company that hosts the site, and an email entirely in Chinese from the site's owners, but eventually the article was removed. However, I never received so much as a "sorry" from anyone - not the website hosting company, not the website owners, not Adora Svitak or her mother.

In fact, the last time I heard from Joyce Svitak was several months before this ordeal happened - shortly after sending her the review, in fact. She asked me to edit her daughter's next work for free. Naturally, I told her no, and I haven't heard from her since.

As a full-time freelance writer, I feel obligated to warn my fellow freelancers to avoid working with Adora Svitak or her mother. Judging by my experiences, Joyce Svitak believes that a free copy of a book is sufficient payment for hours and hours of work - and she has no regard for the rights of the writer to their work! As a result of my naivete in trusting Joyce, I ended up putting a lot of work into something I'll never be paid for - but I also learned a lot about how to protect myself as a freelancer. I hope you, too, can learn from my mistakes.

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