Monday, May 2, 2016

My editor was fired. And other American writing curiosities.

Now she knows: During her freelance writing career, Writer Abroad has been fortunate. She has never before had a piece accepted, edited, a contract signed, and then, after turning in the final edit after many hours of work, had a piece fall into a black hole only to find out via Facebook of all places that the editor of her piece was laid off.

It seems like a common problem in the United States, based on other writers’ experiences, but the entire situation—trying to email the publication’s other editors only to get no reply on the piece’s status, along with silence from the contract department—feels rude and unprofessional.

So many American publications rely heavily on their freelance writers, and yet, treat them horribly at the same time. It makes Writer Abroad wonder—why do we, as American writers, accept such treatment?

Why do American writers accept things like work for hire contracts, poor pay, no pay, or lack of respect? Because when one of us accepts that, it forces others to enter into these kinds of situations as well. And while Writer Abroad won’t write for free, always asks for a better contract, and doesn’t mind saying “no” anymore, the lack of respect situation, like the one she has just experienced, she has no answer for how to handle, other than to shrug it off and move on.

But here’s what bothers her: there is a lack of respect for many employees and contractors across the United States these days. The fact is, editor layoff situation Writer Abroad just experienced wouldn't have happened in other parts of the world. That’s why Writer Abroad thinks Americans need to fight back and realize that some of this horrible treatment is an American phenomenon. We deserve better.

In Switzerland, for example, if you are laid off, you have a three-month notice period. This means you can finish up projects and collect what you need for three months before you are simply cut off from your employment world.

When Writer Abroad’s editor at a Swiss publication was laid off, for example, Writer Abroad knew in advance and then could work together with her to finish up pieces that were in process. There was no silence. No piece half-done and left hanging. No rude lack of reply for a piece that she had put hours of work into. And while no system is perfect (since knowing you are laid off and still having to work for three months brings on its own issues), it sure beats the rudeness that comes from the immediacy of an American firing.

What do you think?


  1. Yikes! What a mess. I wonder if Americans would have the loyalty to keep working for three more months after discovering they were being laid off? It would certainly buy them time to find a new job, but I think a lot of American workers would feel resentful of the expectation that they continue showing up for three more months.

    In your situation, have you tried calling the other editors after the dust settles? It's harder to ignore a phone call than an email. I know we often don't even have the phone number of our actual editor, much less a different editor, so I would call the main number of the publication, say you're a freelancer with a signed contract, and ask for the extension of [name of other editor] or ask to be connected to that editor.



  2. I'm wondering if we have the same editor. I have just had to e-mail someone else at the company because I haven't heard from my editor in over a month and one of my missives to her was an invoice for work I had done!

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