Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being taken advantage of ...

As I am writing this, I am so incensed that it is difficult to find words to adequately describe my feelings. The final 12 chapters of proofreading arrived this afternoon (a day and a half late). When I opened the package I found that there are now 114 pages more than the original page extent in my contract, i.e. I was contracted a specific fee for 528 pages, but the final book now appears to have 642 pages! This represents an increase of 21.5%. When I queried it with the project manager, and pointed out that I would like an increase of 21.5% on the original fee, I was told that this is not possible as they have a fixed budget for proofreading on this title. An email to the managing editor has elicited no response yet.
It is difficult to make a decision on how to proceed. To dump the project at this point is not an option for me, I have invested too much time in it already, and frankly, I depended on it for December's income. What is more is that I declined another project (albeit a smaller one) because of this one. The publisher also asked me last week to accept changes to the original schedule because the typesetters were having problems and so the second and third proofs will now only be done in January - and I will probably only be paid my fee at the end of February, not in December as originally discussed. I accepted this (albeit with gritted teeth and and eyes lifted heavenwards) as I am usually very accommodating (perhaps too much so). To now be told that I am expected to do 21.5% more work - for free! - is frankly insulting.
The project manager on a previous occasion (before this fiasco of page extent came to light) described the book to me as 'a nightmare' - one she wanted to be 'rid of' as soon as possible. The job thus far has been the worst proofreading job I've ever had - it is clear to me that many, many things slipped past the editor (who was probably in the same boat as I am now - fixed fee, and then suddenly found out that it entailed much more work than she anticipated. She must have decided to give up halfway - how else does one explain sentences that stop midway, paragraphs that are missing, words that make no sense at all, fullstops in the middle of sentences, misspellings and so forth? And the typesetters did an absolutely sloppy job, at times completely ignoring the styles that have been agreed upon for features.
I am pretty sure that what the publisher has done (i.e. change the terms of a contract) is illegal - but a suggestion from a friend to see a lawyer is not realistic, I'm afraid. The time, aggravation, and more importantly, money(!) it will cost me, is probably not worth the effort. It will also completely destroy my relationship with this publishing company, and believe me, in our current financial climate, this is not something I want to do. I have been freelancing for almost 19 years in various fields, and although I feel that freelancers (in certain fields) are sometimes taken advantage of, this is the first time I have ever been treated like this by a company. The company in question is not a tiny fly-by-night publishing house, it is one of South Africa's biggest educational publishers!
So, dear friends, forgive me for blowing off steam here. What to do? what to do?? Any clever and/or witty suggestions will be much appreciated. In utter disgust I downed tools for the day, and went to see the new James Bond movie tonight, substituting this company (who shall remain nameless -for now) for the baddies, and vicariously experiencing extreme pleasure with every skop, skiet & donner(*) executed by Daniel Craig. It helped a little. I also bought my first pack of cigarettes after having stopped smoking 3 years ago. Not so good ...

*skop, skiet & donner - Afrikaans term used for movies which contain a lot of action-type violence. Literal translation= kick, shoot and beat up.

13 comments:

Linda Sue said...

Oh Dear! Stop! Take a ddep breath- do not light up! Do you have small claims court there?Do exactly what the contract states and no moreIf they do not pay you for your work there must be some recourse!!!By all means take care of YOU, you held up your end of the bargain- they need to be accountable, if they do not step up...notify the press! Call the Television station, get the big guns!This should be theri bummer- not yours!

Linda Sue said...

You can see how upsetting this news is from all the misspelled words!

Anairam said...

linda sue - I fear it is too late, dear! I already have. Thrice. Sigh. But I do plan to throw the pack in the rubbish bin tomorrow. I know it is completely ridiculous to take out this frustration on myself - and damaging my body in the process. According to Freud I have now regressed to the oral stage - sucking on a cigarette. Maybe he should rather have developed a theory on how to get one's money out of an Evil Company...

kendalee said...

Oh no! I came over to comment on your journal pages (which are fab!) and am now so incensed and disgusted on your behalf that I too am at a bit of a loss for words, except perhaps for a few that look like this $%£*!!! ^&*(£@*!!! Sorry.

And I'm afraid I don't have anything really useful, clever and/or witty to offer! Have you returned the previous pages? If not, can you hold the whole thing hostage until they agree to new terms? Maybe an email with a picture of you on the beach and a few pages (fakes) being sent out on the waves to convince them?

If it really is imperative to maintain the relationship with this company then they seem to have you over a barrel, which is infuriating in the extreme. So disrespectful! Although I do think appealing to the managing editor's professional integrity might be a tack worth trying when he/she gets in touch. I cannot believe that someone like that does not have the discretion to redirect budget, and their project plans surely include a contingency for things like this?! Perhaps they'd meet you half way? And horrible to have to plan for the worst but in future I'd get it written into the contract with them that changes = necessity for re-negotiation of terms. And I wouldn't rush to finish it either. 21.5% longer to complete it seems the VERY least they need to agree to.

Okay, so not that much at a loss for words... But I'm sorry they can't really do much except indicate that I empathise. If I have any usefully bright ideas in the middle of the night, I'll be sure to pass them on.

%^@$*£!!!

Linda Sue said...

Claim that they are being sexist - I reckon that they would not do this to some guy in a suit! perhaps they sense your desperation as well, and think that they can just DO IT to you. Send them the packet of smokes along with the work you have completed and DEMAND payment NOW not later. If you burn that bridge it is one that needs burning- you can make birdies for a living!

Stephanie said...

I say stick to your guns.

I would point out calmly and cooly that since the amount of additional work not specified under the contract is so significant, the contract will need to be renegotiated for you to proceed. I would also contact a contract lawyer and ask their advice.

I would point out that you have fulfilled your obligation as stated and delineated buy the contract, and that further work will require additional compensation.

(I used to work in a law office. Generally, if you are persistent, you will get what you want.)

Anonymous said...

I really feel for you, having been in the same business for as many years. The bigger the company, the meaner they are. They do have the money. I agree with Kendalee: insist on speaking to the managing ed and refer to fairness, integrity and transparency. If all fails: make a few corrections to the final pages (one only per 10 pages)and insert the following sentences on every 5th page of the final lot: "Exploitation is evil." or "Slavery is a sin against humanity". Come on, be brave and do some guerilla art!

LENORENEVERMORE said...

kick, shoot and beat up? I really feel for you dear...

My Castle in Spain said...

oh dear..oh shit...
Anairam i truly feel for you..I was about to comment on your lovely K but this post has caught all my attention.
As you know, translating is my 1st job and just 1hour ago my business partner just sent me a quick proofread mentioning the client is in a rush so we're getting paid - which is very rare - and he wanted to specify it to me-

BUT in your case, i think you should fight and ask for a compensation, even if it's small. It's a matter of principle. Clients are getting greedier and take advantage of the bad economic situation. You've already accepted to get paid later. I know it's a very tricky game : you need the money and you don't want to lose your client. It would be nice to find a way to make some sort of pressure on the company. If they don't offer any compensation, do you think you could ask for a guarantee of having another big job in the near future ? or you'd rather stop with them ?
Can you go and see these people and calmly explain and defend your case?

i'll think more about it and get back to you at the end of the day...

i'm glad you could relax a bit with the new James Bond !

Heather said...

I'm sure one day you'll be able to look back on this and laugh. Maybe...

Okay, maybe not.

Don't do it until they hand over the money!

Anairam said...

Dear All, Thank you so much for all your concern, support and suggestions. I have now spoken to both the project manager and managing editor on this particular title, and unfortunately, they refuse to budge. There have been admissions of guilt (that the project was not properly managed from the start), apologies (for the position they have put me in), justifications (for the depletion of their budget), vague promises (of future work) and a choice: I can extract myself from the project, or continue. Unfortunately I have very little bargaining power - they already have the 18 chapters I have worked on, so I cannot hold them back. Furthermore, as they have missed the deadline for textbooks for the 2009 academic year (this became apparent to them when the book was being typeset - before I received it, but of course they kept that from me) they have put forward the release of the book to end-of-2009. This means that they have no looming deadlines to worry about - if I extract myself from the project now it will not hurt them one little bit.
I strongly suspect that whatever contingency funds they had for this project, have already been swallowed by the editor and typesetters, who must have been in a similar position to mine. Unfortunately the proofreader is at the end of the chain, and the pot is empty ...
SO I am trying to keep my mood up, fit in the extra work as best I can, and Heather, I do hope that one day I will be able to laugh about it all. Perhaps on the day that some pissed-off freelancer with more money & guts than I have, take them to court.

Jesse said...

Oh! Being a freelance illustrator, I've probably worked for that very same company.... I do know how you feel. It's shocking the way they take advantage of freelancers. I don't have any advice to offer, except to do whatever feels best to you. I recently stuck to my guns about a deal with an educational publisher, and to my enormous surprise, they came to an agreement with me. But I had to get to a point of feeling that I didn't mind losing the job before I had the guts to confront them.

Anairam said...

jesse - Good for you! I know what you mean about the point at which one does not care about the possibility of losing a job - it empowers one and enables one to be bold. Unfortunately I was not at that point! Also, right at the start of the proofreading, when I received the first few chapters (this was long before the increase in page extent came to light), I saw in what a state it was, and contacted them immediately to negotiate a better fee - the original fee was shockingly low. I put my case and they agreed that the pages were in a worse state than usual, and so they increased my fee at that point. I guess they felt that they had 'accommodated' me once, and they did not want to make a habit of it! But still, to find out halfway that a job is 21.5% bigger than was originally agreed upon, and be expected to do it without compensation, is horrible. There is one thing that I abhor in life - to be unfairly treated, and to see others being unfairly treated.