Freelancers report delayed payments from Venture Publishing
** Update Dec 17/13: Chris Turner has reported that he received his overdue cheque from Venture Publishing this week. Some of the other freelancers that Story Board contacted are still waiting for payment. **
Venture Publishing has told at least one freelancer that it is behind in payments to its contributors, blaming poor summer ad sales for delayed invoice payments.
Freelance writer Chris Turner is waiting for payment for a story that was published in September in Alberta Venture magazine. The contract that he signed specified that payment was due 45 days after publication. The Canadian Writers Group, which negotiated on Turner’s behalf, made several changes to Venture’s standard agreement, including adding a clause stating that rights to the piece would revert back to the writer in the case of late payment. Because of this clause, Alberta Venture removed Turner’s story from their website last month at the request of the CWG.
Story Board contacted several other current and former Venture freelancers, all of whom said they’ve been experiencing lengthy delays in payment from the publisher for at least two years. Drew Anderson, now the editor and publisher of Calgary’s FFWD Weekly, said he was told by Venture back in 2011 that he would have to wait for payment until six months after the publication of his story.
“I thought it was weird. But I had a full time job, so I wasn’t really panicked. I figured ‘I’ll get paid eventually, it doesn’t really matter.’ But then when six months came and went I started asking questions,” he told Story Board via phone from Calgary this week.
Anderson said he emailed the accounting department several times.
“I didn’t even get a response from anybody. And then finally I sent an email from my work account, basically saying I was going to be harassing them to no end unless I saw my money. And finally I got a response and a cheque. No excuse. No apology, no nothing, just a cheque in the mail,” he said.
Anderson’s cheque arrived almost a year after his story was published. He hasn’t written for them since this experience, but said that Venture is an important part of the Alberta publishing industry.
“I’m sad to hear that they’re going through financial difficulties and I do hope they get their house in order because I think it’s important to have that magazine running here,” he said.
Three other Venture freelancers confirmed that since at least 2011 contributors have been warned that they won’t be paid until six months after publication. All also report having to contact the publisher repeatedly for payment, even after six months have passed. Recent emails from freelancers to Alberta Venture’s accounting department have been going unanswered.
Another Venture contributor, who asked not to be named, suggested that freelancers have been reluctant to speak up about the ongoing problems they’ve experienced.
“I’ve been too timid to say anything because Venture Publishing does make up a significant chunk of my income (when that income arrives). I think part of the reason for the silence is that some, like me, are afraid further financial pressure will dissolve the company, which isn’t good for the local industry,” the freelancer told Story Board via email.
“I want Venture to succeed. Magazine writers here need it as much as it needs us.”
Freelancer Chris Turner expressed his frustration over his unpaid invoice in an email to Venture Publishing Vice President and Associate Publisher Joyce Byrne last month.
“I’m presuming here that Alberta Venture’s full-time employees, yourself included, are still being paid regularly and on time, and if so I’d welcome any explanation you might have as to why the same courtesy should not be extended to your contractors,” he said in the email.
“I’m hoping you’ll recognize that Alberta Venture’s business-cycle ups and downs are as irrelevant to my situation as my credit card debts are to the magazine’s.”
In response, Byrne said she would pass Turner’s email, as well as one from the CWG, on to Venture Publishing CEO Ruth Kelly. Neither Turner nor the agency has had had any response from Kelly.
CWG’s Derek Finkle says he’s not unsympathetic to publishers that are struggling financially.
“But the bottom line is that freelancers should not be subsidizing their business,” he said.
“And there’s a certain onus on publishers to communicate with freelancers and keep them abreast of the situation.”
Story Board emailed Venture Publishing CEO Ruth Kelly to ask for comment but received no response.
Have you had problems lately with a publisher paying later than the terms on their freelance agreement? Please let us know about any chronically late-paying publishers that you think freelancers should be warned about.