Giving away one's writing without monetary compensation has been the subject of debate for years. I've written for free to build my portfolio of publications, but this last go-around, I decided that my time and effort were worth more.
In the last 12 months or so, I've developed a decent relationship with the submissions editor of a local newspaper in which a few of my opinion pieces appeared. Earlier this year, I submitted another piece for consideration, which the editor deemed "strong" work. However, the political season was upon us, and publication of that work would be put off until May. Indeed, during the third week of May, I received a follow-up email from the editor who invited me to update my submission since considerable time had elapsed. The plan was to publish it before California's June 7 primary election.
I updated a couple of national stories cited in my 740-word essay then resubmitted. The editor asked me to remain on standby in case additional changes were needed, which has been the protocol for past submissions. However, four days before the primary election, she informed me that a backlog of other submissions precluded publication of mine. In addition, she requested that future pieces on national issues better reflect the local community, and she suggested that I write a piece about the upcoming Juneteenth holiday.
My first thought was, Why didn't she mention this deficiency when I was asked to update my work? During the three months that it sat, I could have easily made that change if the need had been identified. Moreover, my earlier submissions on national topics had not been subject to this directive. I'm guessing that the backlog of submissions was not the main issue and that the editor felt a tinge of guilt about not recognizing the need for further revision of my work, which someone else apparently deemed necessary. So she threw me a bone by inviting me to submit on a different topic.
I realize writers are at the mercy of publishing industry whims; however, I believe a promise of publication for an imminent date should not be made without the identification or mention of deficiencies that, if not corrected, would quash such publication. While I appreciate the significance of being published, I declined to put other projects on hold for what felt like a token request to satisfy the paper's last-minute editorial needs. Call me naïve, but it was time to stand up for the value of my work.