How Come Only Journalists Have to Deal with Kill Fees?
Occasionally — very occasionally — I’ve been asked to accept a “kill fee” from a newspaper or magazine I write for. That means that an editor has decided not to publish an article, and offers me 30 or 40 percent of the payment I was promised.
This would make (some) sense if the article was poorly written. But, invariably, articles are killed for reasons outside the writer’s control. For example, a newly hired editor decides to change a publication’s focus. Or the story is fine, but the photos aren’t good enough. (This happens more often than you’d think.) Is there any logic to making the writer pay, under these circumstances?
Here’s what about.com (which is owned by the New York Times) says under the heading “Kill Fee”:
Example: The magazine ended up going from 64 to 58 pages, and so they didn’t use my assigned article. However, they had promised me a kill fee of 25%, so my work wasn’t a total loss.
Logically, that’s equivalent to:
Example: The homeowner decided to move to a smaller house, so they didn’t really need the furniture I built for them. However, they agreed to pay me 25% .
Can anyone think of any other field where a professional is hired, performs a service, and then waits to find out if s/he’s going to be paid?
If you can, let me know.
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