a cautionary tale

I consider myself reasonably intelligent but that doesn’t mean I can’t make an arse of myself from time to time. As recently stated, I’ve been looking at Craigslist where there is a constant ebb and flow of work opportunities, protests and scammers. It’s quite addictive actually, seeing how many people are paying a reasonable wage and how many are paying an unreasonable one.

Now, as both the novels and at least one of the humour books are doing the circuit with agents and publishers, I felt the need to keep my hand in with new writing. I prefer a goal rather than writing purely for artistic expression and I’d never tried rewriting articles to a format and timescale. I swapped emails with one ‘Freelance writer’ and agreed to look at a trial rewrite for $5. I have to say it was enjoyable to do – to take someone else’s brief and source material and just produce what they wanted to see.

Having been told my style of writing was good, I was offered another couple of articles to rewrite. Brian once said that he’d looked at a short story so often that he instinctively began to see the structure behind it. By the time I’d dealt with Finding a Private Investigator, How to Have a Cool Pool Party and How to Fix a Toilet, I have an inkling of what he meant. It’s not unlike the process of writing a certain type of comedy sketch.

So, there am I with three pieces under my belt and I realise I could do this from time to time, when the day work dries up. But we’re missing something, aren’t we? That’s right – I haven’t been paid yet! The smooth stroking of my ego has sent me into a stupor.

Another email comes in telling me that there is lots of extra work if I want it. Sure, I reply, just as soon as the first $15 has dropped into my paypal account. The weekend comes and goes; the Freelancer is nowhere to be seen and nor is my $15. So, I’m a professional, right? Albeit a stupid one. I drop him a line indicating that I expect to be paid for the work I’ve done and if I don’t hear back within a specified time I’ll take appropriate action. (Naturally, I’ve tracked down where some of my work has been reposted and taken note of the original Craigslist ads.)

Coincidentally, this morning I got an unsolicited email asking me to: Please confirm your request to join HotDirtyWebcams4u. Maybe this is the internet version of severance pay.


  1. This is one of the difficulties that you guys face I guess. With a photo it's easier, you send them a smaller version that perfectly viewable with a copyright stamp all over it – what do you guys do with your words though? And I guess they won't pay 'til they see the words? Classic catch 22. Or do you send them a few paragraphs only until they pay via paypal first as a solution?

    I wonder if anyone runs a blog about such scams and lists all known details of such scammers to help other writers avoid the toss pots?

  2. Derek says:

    Well, there's an element of trust involved – or deceit! There are two brilliant resources – Writers Beware and Preditors & Editors – that cover vanity publishing. As for net scammers, they're only around for a little while before they reinvent themselves. It's a jungle out there ;o)

  3. ahab says:

    Wolf's right it's somewhat easier with visual stuff. My wife Sue ( that's mywifetheartist.co.uk for anyone interested)just sticks the things on the wall and Lo! people fork out the cash. Getting space on the RIGHT wall is the difficult bit – getting a good gallery interested is a bit akin to finding a good agent. Also important not to feature paintings on the website at a definition high enough to be copied and reproduced. 'Manual' copying is also not unknown! Interestingly, the copyright in a picture stays with the artist, who can reproduce it at will. Don't know whether photographs are the same?

    If the scams are run as a full-time business, it would probably be as difficult to keep up with as the constant stream of new viruses/spyware etc. Identities will just change all the time. Alas.

  4. Derek says:

    Ahab, re: Sue's work. When you're in my part of the world next, check out the new Alverton gallery – set up by Tim and Diane Wayne.

    I remain convinced that the internet can be a force for good and for professional income – despite mounting evidence to the contrary!

  5. Sorry guys, I didn't catch the updated comments.

    Hi Ahab, it's the same for photography. I use a few methods to keep the hackers and rip off merchants away: watermarking images, disabling methods of saving images and completely hiding a portion of the photo, so that should it be used…only I have the complete photo of the original.

    I also keep the original photo as a digital negative and rename the copy ready for sale after I've finished working on it.

    There are many 'artists' out there though that will copy a photo, in part or whole. I've been approached by a few over the years. I disallow it when asked as I like messing around with some of my images to create paintings too. You can get my site details off my profile if you want a peek.

    But how do you protect writers?

    Derek! I agree mate, there's a lot of positive stuff that can be done with the internet and in so many different ways. I guess we just have to watch out for the piss-takers.

    Fancy coming up with a bit of magic aimed at male piss-takers? Make their bollox drop off or something? Not sure what the female equivalent of the spell could be… any ideas?

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