Writing Job Offer

I’ve been offered a writing job that for one reason or another I don’t want to take, so I’ll throw it out here for anyone who’s interested.

Its from a local publisher looking to grab a slice of the textbook market that’ll open up when English classes become compulsory in schools.

The publisher has purchased a whole series of book illustrations from an Italian company, with the intention of adding bilingual text and putting the finished product out as classroom readers.

Ten books in total, mostly classic novels, as I understand. I don’t have a full list as yet, but the sample he sent me was a set of (very nice)illustrations for “The Wizard of Oz.” He also mentioned “Gulliver’s Travels.”

Oh, and its a six-month project, which means you have a little over 2 weeks per book.

You would be expected to basically abridge the originals into 5,000 word versions suitable for children aged between 7-10 years, in English and Chinese, for around NT$20,000 per book (so you would need to be doing this out of interest or love, not for the money!).

If this post generates any interest, I’ll get more information and maybe hook you up with the publisher.

Hi Sandman,

It’s nice of you to post this, but I hope no one takes you up on the offer. Accepting wages that low perpetuates the idea among the Taiwan publishing industry that (presumably) skilled writers can be had cheaply. I faced the same problems as an editor in Taipei. I charged at least US$12/double spaced page to edit scientific manuscripts, while others were charging much lower rates. The editing agency I used to work for paid only about $4/page for fairly experienced editors, which is one reason I left.

If you have experience, don’t sell yourself short by taking this as a charity case. I’m guessing the publishers aren’t treating it as such. On the other hand, if you’re new to the industry and want to do it for the experience, it might be worth a shot. But try to negotiate the price!

I agree with Jeff. Don’t take this offer! I am in the process of suing my old publisher for breach of contract, and general ass-hole like behavior over a period of three years. Taiwanese publishers constantly take advantage of new writers with promises of future work, higher pay in the future, blah, blah, blah, blah. Basically, if it doesn’t pay now, it never will.

As Jeff said, the publisher is certainly thinking of making a profit from this venture. Why then sell your intellectual capital for such a low price? The publishing mentality is similar to the bushiban one: there’s always another foreigner (sucker) out there who’ll take our price. If we can’t get the best, because the best is too pricey, or too demanding we’ll take anyone, because it’s Taiwan and no one will notice the difference.

I remember reading a while ago about some Hong Kong actor who’d made it big in Taiwan. Refering to his struggles in the beginning he quoted some ancient Chinese nonsense: “Sometimes it’s good to be cheated.” Interpretation: let yourself get taken advantage of in the beginning so you can build your reputation and experience until your strong enough to demand better. Well, it’s a lot of bullshit. This only works if your the one in a thousand (million) who actually luck out and make it big. The rest will be taken advantage until they’re smart enough to get out of the industry.

Get paid properly for what you do. End of story. And don’t work for royalties either unless you can keep the copyright for your work. Otherwise after a year or so the company will simply rewrite the books (which they have every right to do if they own the copyright), republish them and you’ll be off the gravy train despite your years of work. They know all the tricks here.

Sorry for the rant, but this issue really hits home right now. Sandman, nothing personal.

I hear ya, people, but as I said, I decided not to take the job “for one reason or another.” Actually, it was one reason ONLY – the silly money, so you’re preaching to the converted here.

That’s why I suggested that the person who takes this job will be doing it purely out of interest or love (because I think it WOULD be fairly interesting). I just figured there has to be at least a few hacks out there less cynical than me, or maybe someone who’d get a kick out of seeing his or her name on the cover.

And do you know what? I had five emails this morning from people who think the money’s “not bad for the work involved.” (direct quote!)

Go figure.

And please, don’t make me out to be a pimp – its not an offer, its just passing on info. I don’t even know who this publisher is, have no relationship with him, blah blah blah, etc.

Again, nothing personal Sandman. I certainly wasn’t venting any spleen on you or your offer. My words were only for those, as you said, foolish enough to take the offer. It reminds me of some work I did a few years ago, rewriting classic fairy tales. The publisher, who also claim to be a writer, invited me and several other foreigners to be her co-authors. Co-authors my hairy-ass. All the real writing of course was done by us foreingers. The publisher/author writes about as well as your average Taiwanese with average English ability. That is to say, badly.

Anyways, she paid not that well, and after one story I asked for more money, saying that as all the real writing work was mine I should be paid properly. Of course her reply was that there are plenty of other suckers (or did she says foreigners) willing to write the stories for her. My reply was to make that one story my last.

Bottom line, she is now getting 10% royalites for others’ work.

So once again: don’t take on this offer. If you do (for whatever perverse reason), make sure you are paid in advance (at least half the money). It’s very common for publishers here to cancel work after a month or two and offer no compensation for work you have already done. It’s also common to hold payment on completed work to get you to commit to more. What bargaining power do you think you will have after you deliver the final product?