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Garwulf's Corner: The LiveJournal
The musings of Robert B. Marks - author, editor, publisher, and researcher

Robert B. Marks
Date: 2011-08-12 16:08
Subject: Escapist, I too am Spartacus...
Security: Public
Location:In my chair
Tags:escapist, i am spartacus, payment, publishing
I don't usually like doing this - I have seen my share of disputes, and not only do I prefer to settle them in private, I also don't like commenting on them after the fact.  But sometimes it is important to stand up and be counted, and this is one of those times.

For those who haven't been following it, Extra Credits has left the Escapist following a dispute that centered around non-payment.  In the wake of that, a number of other writers and contributors have come forward to say that they either had not been paid, or had extreme difficulties or very long waiting times being paid.

Well, time to stand up and be counted.  Back in March, the Escapist published my article Myth-Takes and Other Oddities.  I was paid around 110 days later.  And the only reason that it didn't take more time was that at around day 100 I threatened to consider them in breach of contact and take any necessary measures.  Payment was in the mail two days later.

At the time, I had rather hoped that I was the exception, and that if it was a trend, it was at least one of late payment, rather than no payment.  As it stands, I have no intentions of contributing to the Escapist again, unless they mend their ways, get their house in order, and pay in a reasonable time.

It wasn't always this way.  Back when I started contributing to the Escapist, they were a class act.  They made a point of at least trying to pay out within 30 days - it usually meant within 60 days, but in the writing business, that's still a reasonable time.  To put it into perspective, I have a 90 day payment lag from my printer for the books my company sells through Ingram.

But 90 days is where the reasonable timeframe ends.  When I was considering what to do, I contacted some of the other writers from the issue I had contributed to, asking if this was an isolated incident.  I was told by one of them that he had to budget six months for the Escapist to pay him.  That's not reasonable.  In fact, I'd challenge you to find a single business that would accept a 180 day timeframe for payment for contracted services.

And now, I'm going to address the Escapist directly, or more specifically Alexander Macris, its CEO.  Alexander, here's the thing - if you are running a business and you reach the point where you can't make your payments, then you have overextended.  At that time, you need to consolidate what you do have and what works, drop any deadweight, and bring yourself back to the point where you can pay your bills.  Then, once you're back on firm ground, you can start expanding again.

That is not what I have seen the Escapist do.  Instead, I've watched it undergo an aggressive expansion, to the point where the site is actually cluttered.  While I understand that business is slow - my own business is expanding fairly slowly as well, and current economic factors play a part in that - if you are in a position where you cannot pay your bills, massive expansion does not make that better.  All it does is leave you with even more bills that need to be paid.  If you can't pay your contributors in a reasonable timeframe now, you can't afford to acquire new columns, news writers, or video features.

But, with this one, now you've got an even bigger problem.  A good name means a lot in the world of publishing, and the last thing a publisher wants or needs is a reputation for stiffing its contributors.  Once you're known for not paying people, potential contributors go elsewhere.  And now this has gone far enough that you're at least partway down the road of having that reputation.  This has now exploded in your face.

As a business owner myself, I understand what it is like to want to keep your business afloat and expand it.  And I don't envy you the damage control you now have to do.  But you've already lost me as a contributor, and you will lose more.  It would be a pity to lose the Escapist's voice, and I certainly want to see it keep going - but this is how a death spiral can start.  So, please - pay your contributors, consolidate what you have, and get back to a sustainable level.

Edit: Alexander Macris has posted something about what the Escapist has had to do since the recession to keep afloat.  And, as much as it breaks my heart, well, I'm sorry, but my comments stand.  I understand the need to cut back - it's one of the things I specifically mentioned doing - but I'm still seeing a lot of content along with a contest to find new news writers.  A shotgun approach does not work here on the content end.  What is needed is a serious streamlining, along with additional revenue.
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User: agent_bj
Date: 2011-08-15 04:01 (UTC)
Subject: The Escapist
I have to agree on this, as I am a businessman myself. Taking on more than you can reasonably pay is never a good thing for a business, and in the case of this event with Extra Credits, it's starting to break the camel's back, if it has not already.

I tried for the Newsies contest myself, and ultimatly did not win, but knowing what I do now, if I had won, I would be quite worried about not being paid for the work I would be doing for the site.

Hopefully, The Escapist can mend it's ways before long and get back to a position where it can earn some good revenue and rebuild. I wouldn't mind seeing some content stop appearing for a few months while they start saving up towards the site's total revenue again.
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