Cheeseburger Gothic

Why advertising guys should not write novels

Posted March 19, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Because we'd never see cool shit like this, wot I stole from Buzzfeed at lunch. Go on, read it. I resisted the big slab o' text too. But then I gave in.

It's great.

23 Responses to ‘Why advertising guys should not write novels’

Jacques Stahl mumbles...

Posted March 19, 2013

And I'm thinking they might have the Buffy book, n'est ce pas?

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M. puts forth...

Posted March 19, 2013

That could also be the synopsis of the next Nicholas Cage movie.

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JG asserts...

Posted March 19, 2013

Terrific ad, with a quirky twist. Hey ho, let's go. Hooked me in and I kept reading.

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Lobes puts forth...

Posted March 19, 2013

I cried a bit when he got dumped again.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 19, 2013

We've all been there.

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Murphy asserts...

Posted March 20, 2013

I think there is surprising depth to what it says. Especially that bit about needing movies and literature that are not like our lives.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 20, 2013

I liked that too. And I'm at the age where "You think about what you want to be when you're grown up. You realise you are grown up" pack a bit of a punch.

Dick mumbles...

Posted March 20, 2013

@Nocturnalist, and what age is that? I'm 51 and still sometimes wonder when I am going to grow up. So does the missus.

insomniac asserts...

Posted March 20, 2013

You know the bit at the end of Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell, the Giant Baby bit ... that's me

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TC swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 20, 2013

As if we don't get enough narcissism these days, we need more from ads? Not that I didn't find it a thought provoking read...

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted March 20, 2013

Hipster douche bullshit.

Dave W ducks in to say...

Posted March 20, 2013

I read it all because JB said that it would be worth it. About halfway through I realised just how indulgent it was and where it would be heading. I find it sad that the modern take on Irvine Welsh's 'choose a big car' speech would be a hipster dog-whistle (because clearly this is speaking to some inner-city hipsters and not to the rest of us) advertisement for a book shop.

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Rhino reckons...

Posted March 20, 2013

Off topic - suggestion on blog design ... would it be possible to have the button that expands/collapses the comments move to the bottom whenever the comments are expanded?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted March 20, 2013

Already on my to do list. Or my 'get Dan to do' list.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted March 20, 2013

I can only imagine what he would have prodcued if he had been a sign writer.

Nocturnalist is gonna tell you...

Posted March 20, 2013

I imagine that pool balls are what he would have prodded with his cue, down at the pub after a hard day's signwriting. /lowhangingfruit

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w from brisbane dolefully is gonna tell you...

Posted March 20, 2013

You move on. You get tired….. You escape. You get dumped. You get tired… You get tired…..You get tired…. You get divorced. You get tired….. You get bored…

I sense a pattern.

You get an offer to become a copywriter.

You write an ad that expressed your boredom with copywriting.

w from brisbane apologetically mumbles...

Posted March 20, 2013

Oops.

Dave W mutters...

Posted March 20, 2013

And ironically mirroring the whole "you do this" theme, so clearly that wasn't a mistake, right?

w from brisbane mutters...

Posted March 20, 2013

You make a mistake and most of your comment is a meaningless code dump. People say it is better your usual crap.

w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted March 20, 2013

* better than your usual crap.

< Sigh, so typical. >

JG puts forth...

Posted March 20, 2013

I didn't read all of your post-modern comment, Warren. After scanning it, I felt sick. Coding is so not me, nor maths. I'm a left-side-of-the-brain type. Creative, expressive, unpredictable. I thank you for your 'oops'. You are forgiven.

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted March 20, 2013

That was an amazing story W I lauighed I cried it changed my life.

Also Joanna the whole left/right brain analystical/creative neuroscience tends not to support such a division.

Here is quite a good piece about it in lifehaker but there are plenty more

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Three Crooked Kings.

Posted March 14, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

<span style="line-height: 1.6em;">I jaunted across town to Matty Condon's book launch on Monday night. Three Crooked Kings, a kick arse piece of literary non fiction that's the first real, long horizon view of 1980s Qld I've seen anyone take. I'm glad to see Matt turning his hand to long form journalism/history. He's an amazingly talented writer who seems a little out of favour with the judges of literary competitions. He should have shelves full of glittering prizes and I'm kinda hoping this one carries off all of this years non fic baubles. It deserves too.</span>

Today's Blunty is really just a pimping effort on its behalf. We may even do this one in bookclub later this year. On which front I am sorry to report that tomorrow night I will trapped inside yet another parental commitment. I seem to do nothing but drive from one to the next at the moment.

36 Responses to ‘Three Crooked Kings.’

Surtac reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
Ah well. So it goes.

I was planning to use the bookclub as an excuse to lock myself in the study well away from the girlie cosmetic 'party' planned for the other end of the house.

Such is life.

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Murphy is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
Ah, the Land of Mad Cab Driver. I have indeed been there.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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johnbirmingham has opinions thus...

Posted March 14, 2013
I could post something to kick off, I guess, but I wont be here to contribute to any actual discussion.

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Surtac would have you know...

Posted March 14, 2013
Oh, I'm ok with re-scheduling it.

I feel your pain, btw. The amount of re-scheduling and child taxi/ferry duties going on here at Chateau Dysfunction since SWMBO has started Uni studies has to be seen to be believed.

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Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14, 2013
I'm cool with rescheduling too, or just holding it over and doing it in April. I have the book now, but something's odd on the Kobo and I can't increase the text size. Only being able to read the thing in the brightest of light with glasses on (which I don't wear for anything else) is slowing me down on it a bit.

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14, 2013
I hate to ask but what was this month's book going to be?

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Surtac asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
Murph, it's Iain M Banks' The Player of Games.

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Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14, 2013
This Crooked Kings sounds like the kind of thing I'd enjoy, and according to the website for my local library several people agree - already got 4 reserves on it.

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yankeedog mumbles...

Posted March 14, 2013
Pardon my ignorance of the local politics, but was that when Bjelke-Petersen's bunch ran Queensland? Old Joh would have been a perfect American Southern governor ala Faubus, Wallace, and the Longs from Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana respectively. Ran their states like little medieval fiefdoms, they did, and with a heap of patronage and a bit of the iron fist. Won't see the likes of those guys again...

What am I saying? We put our last two governors in jail. Of course we will!

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JG mutters...

Posted March 14, 2013
Good on you for putting Matt's book out there, JB. It's doing so well. I enjoyed the book launch of it at the State Library of Queensland. I've lent Three Crooked Kings to my daughter, Tina. She's in her final year of a BA in creative and professional writing at QUT and wants to review it for a course in non fiction. I'll read it after her. So many good things have been written about it. Can't wait. It covers an important part of Queensland's dark history.
Joanna :)

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JG puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
Speaking of CBG book club, John (I know it's tomorrow night for The Player of Games), will Gone Girl still be on Friday, 5 April seeing as this month's has been put back a week? Also, how about doing Three Crooked Kings as a book club book -- for May perhaps.
Joanna :)

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johnbirmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
Joanna, I think the entire month is written off, so we're gonna push Player back til next friday, and Gone Girl into the following month. I'm getting buried by parenthood at the moment.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted March 14, 2013
Ah, that is why I didn't remember it.

I'll see about getting Gone Girl and reading that. Banks is pretty much a wash for me.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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JG mumbles...

Posted March 14, 2013
OK. Cool. Thanks, John.

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pitpat ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
No wuckers. Planet parent hood has a heavy gravity all it's own.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted March 14, 2013
Cool with first Friday in April for Player of Games, gives me more time to craft awesome critical analysis of PoGs comparing it to the The Crisis of the Late Middle Ages as reflected in the power dynamic of Jernau Morat Gurgeh as a future Michel Eyquem de Montaigne and Azad signifying a Foucaultian response to the archaeology of the Kant's philosophy.

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pi is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
Would definitely like to see that in a book-club review.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
I believe there are contexts that define a childhood. For Greybeard it may have been the late cambrian. For me it was the late Joh years. It surrounded me like the sunny yellow paint in the dining room of my parents house, the cordorouy pants my mum made, the Simon & Garfunkle albums. I probably have a closer emotional association with the resistance to Bjelke-Peterson & Co than either set of grandparents. The SEQEB protests were more real than some uncles. The Springbok Tour, Sand Mining Fraser Is, Drilling for oil on the GBR, Gordon below Franklin and other protests were fodder for dinner table conversations, where as other families discussed the footy.
It probably inculcated me just as effectively as if I'd been raised by evangelical Jeebus jumpers.

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Therbs would have you know...

Posted March 14, 2013
Mr Barnes - Emmanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable.
Mind you Renee Descartes was a drunken fart, "I drink thereofre I am".

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Nocturnalist asserts...

Posted March 14, 2013
I have the same sort of background, NB. One of my earliest memories is my mother sitting on the end of my bed explaining to me how a man named John Kerr had told Mister Whitlam he couldn't be Prime Minister any more.

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Brian ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
Barnes. . .bloody Kant. He was just regurgitating late Stoa propaganda. (rushes to the Plato cabinet . . .oops thats the Pluto and Mickey stash). . .mumble. . .bloody Greeks . . . .

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
We did the vote with your feet thing and left Queensland. Came back in '88, just in time for Fitzgerald and the first time I voted was to vote the buggers out.

I remember being in a supermarket in Adelaide with my mum in '75, the "well may we say God save the Queen" speech was framed by Jif commercials on a black and white TV on a plastic bucket chair almost on the footpath (remember when supermarkets were not all air conditioned and had vast open doors that almost embraced the entire street?). And remember the commercial with the ice skates (because apparently the only two ways to clean a stove were to scrape it with ice stakes or use Jif)? On an unrelated note I seem to find myself spending hours flicking through photos on the Lost Brisbane page on facebook at the moment, usually late at night.

Everyone's perfectly aware that the gang who rolled Ahern never went away, right? You know the "agrarian socialism" view of the Nats is a crock, too? The main message is that a sharklike eat-the-weak libertarianism applies to people the Nats don't like, while they think people and activities they do like ought to be supported and subsidised to whatever extent is feasible. The difference between being liked by the Nats and not is a cultural one, where the in-crowd is relatively exclusive compared even to the Libs. That's because it's as much hereditary as anything else. I'd be in, even though I've been an unapologetic and feckless lefty most of my adult life, on the strength of my rural connections and roots, being capable of conversing at length about cows, and that not-quite-secret fascination with country music.

I'm horrified that a stretch of the Warrego Highway has been renamed Darren Lockyer way. Partly because it suggests after enough time people will assume the whole valley was named for that fuckwit. It sidelines the real hero with that name, Paul. Frankly if I had the spare money and time I would take an industrial shredder on the back of a ute, spend a few weeks carefully removing and shredding every single sign (this would do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHSwy6Goej4). Which is another way of saying I dislike (well that's an understatement... "despise" would be an understatement too) things the Nats like, and I am quite sure they feel the same way about things I like. Hence axing the Premier's Literary Award at the same time as devoting 3 x as much to the Western Queensland Camel Festival. Not that I have anything against camels.

Anyhow... Bill Gunn was my grandad's local MLA. Which is another way of saying quite a few awesome things came from the Lockyer Valley tyvm.

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Bunyip mutters...

Posted March 14, 2013
Mathew, as a ten year old, I used to get taken by my mum when she attended the local ALP branch meetings. I can remember sitting up the back of one meeting, trying to complete my homework, whilst two little old ladies told everyone about their last successful visit to Canberra. Apparently they had definitely managed to hit the GG with one, possibly two eggs.... I cannot remember more, as it was a long time ago, and I was actually trying to do my homework.

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted March 14, 2013
NBlob is right (except about the Cambrian) and brings back vivid memories of that era. I was a pinko student street marcher and Fifi was on the receiving end of the infamous police charge during the Springbok tour - not the 15 yo calmly batoned about the head by one of Qld's finest fortunately. And I still like Simon & Garfunkle.

Damian is also right about the Nats/Country Party. I met Joh BP at a do in Surat. As authors often say, his smile never reached his eyes. What stunned me a bit was that everyone there that night seemed to have a derogatory story about him. Illegal clearing, illegal air-dropping of bulldozer parts, misusing govt staff & equipment. Not even "ho ho, what a lad" stuff - most of the locals seemed to vaguely dislike him and wouldn't want to do business with him. But they voted Country Party anyway. One localish member was famed for shooting dogs from his verandah, just for fun. Also reputed to have some family ties that wouldn't be out of place in Game of Thrones. He won every election with an absolute majority, thanks to the very people who told & retold those stories, I guess because he was "one of us".

Also camels may be pests, but I've often ridden them and sometimes eaten them.

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Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14, 2013
Bunyip, my folks were too bourgeois and respectable to throw anything, but my mother got photographed by the Canberra Times standing in a demo in front of Old Parliament House. We still have the "Kick The Squatter Out" sign she was holding up somewhere. (But she was very displeased about the caption referring to her as a "Canberra housewife", she being a senior lecturer and PhD student at the ANU at the time.)

Greybeard, what's camel meat like? One of the butchers in Fyshwick sells it and I'm curious.

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Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted March 14, 2013
Matthew, I guess more like lamb or even mutton than beef. Definitely not like chicken! It's always been fairly well spiced but quite pleasant.

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ShaneAlpha ducks in to say...

Posted March 14, 2013
Only in Joh era Queensland.

Russ Hinze gets pulled over for speeding by young constable. Whips out a map of Queensland from his glove box and says " Show me where you're going to be transferred to son."

"There are no illegal gambling establishments in queensland."
Ignoring the time they closed down half of Ann Street on a Saturday morning to crane the new gaming tables through the front wall of the illegial casino. The early Les Norton story by Robert Barrett is the fiction version.

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Nocturnalist is gonna tell you...

Posted March 14, 2013
Hm, cool. There are some pretty good lamb curry recipes floating around in the GF's family (lots of keen cooks and several marriages to Indians and Pakistanis) and it sounds like those might adapt pretty well. On the other hand, I suggested buying some camel last time we passed that place and got a Look. So we'll see.

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Bunyip mutters...

Posted March 15, 2013
Mathew, that was in Sydney, at the Lane Cove branch of the ALP. IIRC, the local member was a then youngish suburban lawyer called John Winston Howard.

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insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted March 15, 2013
Just make sure you get a good clean camel


One time there was an army camp in India that just received a new commander. During the new commanders first inspection everything checked out except one thing. There was a camel tied to a tree on the edge of the camp.
The commander asked what it was for, one of the soldiers who had been stationed there for a while explained to him that the men sometimes get lonely since there where no woman there so they have the camel. The commander just let that go, but after a few weeks he was feeling very lonely so he ordered the men to bring the camel into his tent. The men did, and he went to work on it.
After about an hour the commander came out zipped up his pants and said, “So is that how the other men do it?”
One of the men responded, “No we usually just use the camel to ride into town.”

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JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 15, 2013
Hehehe. Funny sick joke, Sleepy :D

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NBlob mutters...

Posted March 15, 2013
I suspect there is much to be learnt from Pre-Fitzgerald QLD WRT entitlement.

It was explained to me that QLD cops felt that kickbacks and Special gifts were an accepted part of the salary.
Having worked in law enforcement I can see just how easily people of otherwise good character could slip. Parallels could be drawn with unhealthy eating; it would be just so easy to grab a donut, or a burger. The “right” path is almost always the more difficult, the one that takes moral backbone, the one that requires will power. The dark path is just so painfully easy to self justify, “just one won’t hurt,” “No-one will ever know,” “I deserve it” they don’t know what it like,” “It’s victimless.”

If you think it’s easy I’d suggest you place yourself in the shoes of a police officer; paid a pittance, under manned, under gunned, under resourced compared to the dark forces you battle, conducting a raid and faced with a fat wad of folding. No dealer is ever going to complain that he had more ill-gotten funds than appeared on the evidence sheet –to do so would be self incriminating. How easy would it be to just misplace a percentage? Welcome to the dark side.

I consider myself acutely aware of the principles and practice of Justice and the little abuses that undermine it, yet I’ve found myself *this* far away from verballing villains, “enhancing” testimony etc. It is Siren easy to justify it; after all “he’s a grub and deserves it,” “its effectively impossible to gather enough evidence for a slam dunk,” “chicken sh!t prosecutors require an impossible evidentiary level before proceeding” and Hey presto I’m just as bent as an ’85 Qld Cop.

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Timmo mutters...

Posted March 15, 2013
Thanks JB, picked this one up on my way home last night - it looks like interesting reading. And I'm pleased to see there's a second volume due out towards the end of the year.

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damian reckons...

Posted March 15, 2013
Of course I'm right ;)

Bob, I think most ofbus get what you say and most of us wiuld find that kind of behaviour understandable, maybe even ultimately forgivable if not actually excusable. But I think the Joh era history was chockers with examples that went a long, long way beyond. These were blokes content to rewrite the parameters of the job, the focus and purpose of police work in Queensland, into stbuffing their pockets and getting their dicks attended to. It's one thing to verbal some scumbag who'd otherwise walk free, it's another to verbal him because he didn't give you your cut.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted March 15, 2013
@PTSD, I certainly agree.
Its one of the few valid Slippery Slope arguments and a place were absolutism is unhelpful.
All I *know* is that my perceptions have been altered by 7+ years of chasing ne'er do wells, without the resources to do so properly and the ease with which one could slip into injustice.

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Sturt mutters...

Posted March 16, 2013
Really looking forward to reading Condon's book. It's an absolute travesty that The Trout Opera isn't as famous as Cloudstreet.

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Respond to 'Three Crooked Kings.'

Free stuff.

Posted March 13, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

Nothing flushes away the unpleasantness of dealing with the tax collectors like free stuff.

With that in mind, here's a bunch of free Philip K. Dick ebooks and audio books, for free.

Courtesy of Open Culture.

5 Responses to ‘Free stuff.’

An Idle Dad reckons...

Posted March 13, 2013
You've published that link before, haven't you?

In any case, is great stuff.

Beyond Lies the Wub - awesome

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HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted March 13, 2013
hey!, I watched REDTAILS last night.....FKN AWESOME, foreget all the ......subliminal supposed fkn shit ra ra ra ......its HOLLYWOOD and AND its Speili berg baby. FKN WICKED!

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johnbirmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 13, 2013
Don't think so. I thought it was a new offer. But at any rate... free shit!

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted March 13, 2013
Did his android head ever turn up?

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Jacques Stahl would have you know...

Posted March 13, 2013
iTunes says no can download, only available to American customers........?

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Respond to 'Free stuff.'

A pretty massive deal.

Posted October 12, 2012 into Writing by John Birmingham

No, I haven't signed any movie contracts. I grabbed that phrase from an email sent to an aspiring freelance writer, Matt Smith, by Joe Hildebrand of the Daily Telegraph. Hereinafter known as The Terror.

The Smith-Hildebrand imbroglio has gone a little bit of viral on the fringes of Media World. Mumbrella has a great writeup with contributions from both Smith and Hildebrand here. I want to grab a couple of highlights, but for baby writers just starting to make their way in the game the original piece is worth reading in full.

You'll accept our lousy per word rate and you'll like it!

Long story short. Smith, who is a part-time freelancer with a reasonable track record of getting his byline into places like Crikey, The Drum and The Punch had an idea for a quick piece about reality TV and the travails of the Ten Network. Hildebrand found it "vaguely interesting" and offered to print it. (I've never before heard of an editor offering to print something they found only "vaguely interesting", but he coined that description after everything turned to custard, so maybe it's a bit of retroactive sub editing)

Smith was understandably excited at the 'commission'. (There's a reason for the air quotes, which I'll get to). He'd never before submitted any copy to The Terror, which is far and away the most successful newspaper in Sydney. At least in terms of circulation. Hildebrand had asked him for a headshot to run with the piece, and Smith wrote back asking what dimensions he would require. He also, a little late in the piece as it turns out, asked about the word rate. The what now?

How much he would be paid.

Hildebrand replied via email: “Sadly we’ve got a moratorium on paid contributions at the moment mate, so I can only offer you fame. Any dimension headshot will do.”

Smith, somewhat taken aback, volleyed a return: “Hi, Joe. That’s a tough ask for an emerging/aspiring journalist – especially when sites like Daily Life manage to give contributors some money – so I hope you can understand my disappointment. Please run the twitter handle at the end at least, and let me know when the piece will run. Photo attached.”

The photo would not be required. Hildebrand informed the would-be tabloid columnist that getting published in The Terror "is a pretty massive deal for an aspiring journalist mate and you just blew it. Take your piece elsewhere."

And that's it, the shareware lite version. Writing for Mumbrella, Matt Smith makes some reasonable points about the iniquity of successful tabloid newspapers expecting freelancers to work for… well, free, and you'll damned grateful for the opportunity to do so. (An opportunity for free exposure that isn't offered to The Terror's advertisers).

Hildebrand points out that successful tabloid newspapers are inundated with unsolicited copy, contributor budgets are minuscule (he's not lying) and there are any number of other 'aspiring' writers who would be happy just to get that byline published. (Again, he's not lying).

I could take sides in this, but I'm not going to. Well, not much. As a lifelong freelancer my sympathies obviously lie with Smith. When a large commercial operation such as a newspaper accepts a piece for publication, they should pay for it. Even if the payment is only a token amount. Little fish are sweet, as Terry Lewis the famously corrupt former Police Commissioner of Queensland once said. They may not feed you, but in the world of freelancing, especially when you're just starting out, those little fish do help convince the tax office that you're serious about running a business. Even a token payment allows a freelancer to begin claiming tax breaks on their costs.

The equation begins to break down when you move into web publishing where the advertising revenue model is much more precarious and the precedent of free copy, aggregating and bottom feeding has "long" been established. But The Daily Telegraph is not a bottom feeding website.

On the other hand, I have some sympathy with Hildebrand who would spend a significant proportion of his day dealing with entitled lackwits. Just to be clear, I don't include Smith amongst their number. Anybody who has spent any time in publishing or media will have had the experience of clueless amateurs pressing upon them crumpled handfuls of poorly written notes, sometimes with diagrams, outlining some earthshaking story that needs to be published but can't be because the mainstream media is in the thrall of hidden powers and dark forces and yada yada yada.

And shit writing, of course. You see a lot of shit writing.

You also see a lot of hungry, hard eyed young chancers, hundreds of them emerging from campus writing programs and communications degrees every year. All of them getting up in your face, ready to chew out your eyeballs if it moves them that little bit closer to their career goals.

So yeah, I can understand Hildebrand's snark and disgruntlement. But as a freelancer I just don't give a shit about it. His problems are not mine. Me and my people, we got our own problems.

So, let's get to the meat of this. What should Smith have done?

First of all, he should never have written the piece. At least not in the way that he did. On spec, without even testing the ground before he stepped out. If you want to avoid wasting your time as a freelancer, do not go writing stories for editors who have not commissioned them.

Got a great idea? Or what you think is a great idea? Then you ring up somebody like Hildebrand, or email them, or DM them on twitter, or whatever. And you pitch them the idea. Apparently, if it's even "vaguely interesting" you're in with a shot. But a pro-tip from JB? Why don't you try and make it something more than "vaguely interesting".

If the idea is appealing to them and they agree to "take a look at it" – and that's all they will ever agree to – then you can ask them about the contributor budget. The word rate.

Your payday.

Prepare yourself for disappointment.

They didn't ask for your story. They don't need it. They might eventually want it. But unfortunately, Hildebrand is right. There are plenty of other writers and an almost unlimited supply of other stories going cheap, and in most cases free. And it's not just baby writers cutting the legs out from under the market. Politicians, lobbyists, academics, shameless self promoters, urgers, pimps, front men, agents… They are legion, and they don't care about getting paid. They really do just want the exposure.

What do you do if someone like Hildebrand says there's no money in the kitty. Or that there is money, but it's a laughable amount, an insult?

That my friends is down to you. Personally, I mostly tell people to fuck off these days. Not always. I'll do a couple of worthy charity gigs every now and then. But mostly it's fuck off. This is how I pay my mortgage, feed my children, keep the hovercraft afloat, you know the sob story. The guy who turns up to fix the filter on my pool doesn't do it to "get his name out there in front of people". He does it for $140. Although, while we're here, Brisbane Pool Boys – I can't recommend them highly enough.

It might be, that if you are in the position of a Matt Smith – you're a young, reasonably established but still "aspiring" freelancer – you just swallow your pride and take the hit. Give them the copy. Clip the article. Add it to your portfolio. If your portfolio is looking pretty thin, especially for print-only material, a couple of pieces like that can help. But only a couple. You don't do yourself any favors by becoming known as someone who will give it away for free. If your copy is that good they will eventually have to pay you for it. I'd suggest a maximum of two or three freebies before you turn off the tap. If they're not paying you by then, they never will. They're just exploiting you.

How then to deal with an editor like Hildebrand who has told you the cupboard is bare, but he'd like to take your lousy, only vaguely interesting story anyway?

If you've decided to wear the humiliation, accept the power imbalance, and grab the marginal utility of getting your byline into hard copy, then don't be a dick about it. The cheap fucking prick who's stealing your story is being a big enough dick for both of you. You don't need to come over like 'umble Uriah Heap, bowing and scraping and grateful for the chance to kiss their unwashed arse. But I wouldn't go showing them how much you've been hurt and offended by getting corn holed on payment either. Hard to believe, I know, but editors have feelings too, and mostly they're even more embarrassed than you are about the payment issue. You want to take it up with someone? The people who are really responsible for this? Get yourself a cheap flight to Google HQ and go kick down the doors of the boardroom.

Bottom line. There are occasions, very rare and mostly to be found in the earliest days of your writing career, when giving it away for free will work in your favor. But always remember you cannot make a living out of doing that forever, or even very often. If Joe Hildebrand doesn't have the money to pay for your article, perhaps Joe Hildebrand can do without it. I'm almost certain he'd agree.

52 Responses to ‘A pretty massive deal.’

HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted October 12, 2012
Its never ceases to amaze me really, how the print industry in general is a dog of a fkn place when it comes to paying people. I should mention, I mean, for starters and quite possibly those with some longevity too.

When yo read that, add in what you know about all the other heart aches and issues ( most;ly these have been found out, but listening to JB recount his so dire trials and tribulations as a baby starter outer writer and living of basically fresh air) and you wonder why we even have books at all. I'm also wonder what the TOP'em self rate is amongst writers...I fear the answer is not what it should be, or maybe just they die of starvation, either way, one thing is for sure............FK THAT FOR A BOWL OF GOLD FISH and I'd be inclined to ram the fkn ed as well!

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Ross reckons...

Posted October 12, 2012
I was once contracted as one of a number of feature players in a commercial. Commercial had a cast and crew of about 150 and was for a UK liquor brand. The contract covered all media, including posters and film screenings.

After the commercial wrapped, they later decided they didn't want to go for the print ads, and contacted my agent asking me if I'd take a lower fee "as a favour for the industry."

My agent rang and asked me what I thought, and I said, "They had about 150 people on set, a movie director doing it, and two fucking helicopters in the thing and they want to cut my agreed and contracted fee by a grand "as a favour"? What favour does that do me excatly? What are they gonna do if I don't, not cast me in the lead for the next "Mission:Impossible" franchise? Tell them to go fuck 'emselves with a stick."

My agent was in agreement.

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Ross ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2012
blockquote>On the other hand, I have some sympathy with Hildebrand who would spend a significant proportion of his day dealing with entitled lackwits.

Piers Akerman?

And shit writing, of course. You see a lot of shit writing.

Piers Akerman?

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caldron_baidu asserts...

Posted October 12, 2012
now that's what I call "Fair and Balanced" with insight and 'teachable moments' to boot

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Timmo is gonna tell you...

Posted October 12, 2012
Yean I folowed this one off your Twitter feed JB and it's an interesting point - in my mind mostly for the almost equally balanced comments on the "that's unfair, exploitative and just plain rude" side vs the "suck it up, whiny princess, that's how the industry works" side.

It's a really interesting view into the insider/outsider mentalities in the media industry. As I said in a post on the Mumbrella article:

'This reminds me much of the kitchen culture of chefs abusing kitchen staff (a la Gordon Ramsay), it’s offensive and unacceptable to those outside the industry but accepted as “just the way the industry works” by those in the system. For those wanting to get into the system, like Matt, I guess they’re in the two worlds balancing between “this isn’t OK, and I want to fix it” and “this is how it works and I can’t change it”. It’s just about picking a stance that suits you and being happy with it, I guess.'

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JG reckons...

Posted October 12, 2012
I would never do any writing or editing work for free. Never. Just not on. I have an Master of Arts (MA) in writing, editing, and publishing from The University of Queensland. I didn't study my butt off for nothing.

Thankfully, I no longer want to work as a professional writer or editor, but if I was looking for freelance writing or editing gigs, I would only accept work that paid, and paid well. I named my price in the past--a respectably high rate--and would do so again if I worked a writer or editor.

Do not work for free.

Joanna :)

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JG ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2012
^a Master of Arts, dammit.

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JG puts forth...

Posted October 12, 2012
^fuckn hell. just can't get it right today. Fuck'n Friday. Your fault, Havock. Meant 'as a writer or editor'. *$#%((4! I spit in your face, editing.

;)

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Blarkon would have you know...

Posted October 12, 2012
People expect to read shit without paying for it, yet get awfully shirty when writers aren't paid shit for writing the stuff that the people want to read for free.

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spokenoise has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2012
Joe won't mind if I don't pay to read the articles he doesn't pay for then will he?

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HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2012
FKN HELL! JG..SICk'EM REX!

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SmartMonkey puts forth...

Posted October 12, 2012
Print newspapers have 5 years of life left, 3 if your pessimistic. Then ol' Joe Hildebrand will be singing for his supper along with everybody else who used to make a crust out of the tabloids.

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JG puts forth...

Posted October 12, 2012
Yes. I will go get them, Havock, and I will chew their dopey, frugal balls off. If necessary. I trained in dinosaural arts from a young age. Rex Hunt has nothing on me.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2012
Ha, spokennoise wins.

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damian mumbles...

Posted October 12, 2012
"But The Daily Telegraph is not a bottom feeding website."

That's a matter of opinion, Shirley? I'm quite sure they have fed and continue to feed many "bottoms".

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2012
Actual payment for my first published short story?

1. A full color illustration of said story.

2. A payment amount so low that I did some horse trading for a six month subscription of said publication for myself and one for a friend of mine in New Zealand.

That was it.

For the record, the same story has been republished twice, once online for free (that place now pays ten bucks but for me it was free) and once in audio format, again for free.

At the end of the day, it doesn't anger me much. How I was treated by that publication in subsequent months and years angers me. That said, I had a pretty good idea going in what might happen. On the other hand, I got a certain level of credibility as a writer with that first publication.

The second one? Originally slated to get one cent per word, they upped to pro US rates before publication. They could have told me to fuck myself and take the one cent but they gave me the five cents per word.

Good people at Apex Magazine, run by Jason Sizemore here Stateside. That story was reprinted in their anthology and it is still available. The previous publication, on the other hand, has been more or less scoured from that mag's website.

In any case, it is a judgement call. However, writing for free is so much bullshit. One may as well stick to blogging.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2012
Every time you read about a paywall going up - you get a certain segment of people saying "Well I'm not fucking paying for content, I'll just go somewhere else". These are the same people who run adblock software and never click on advertisements.

I'm firmly in the "Harlan Ellison "Pay The Fucking Writer"" camp - but a substantial part of the Internet has an insane sense of entitlement when it comes to free access to the fruits of other's labors - just because those fruits can be copied endlessly at no cost.

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2012
It's not that these sites don't think writers shouldn't get paid - as Arriana Huffington said - it's that the:

*AUDIENCE DOESN'T THINK THE WRITER SHOULD GET PAID BECAUSE THEY REFUSE TO PAY FOR CONTENT*

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zeniph is gonna tell you...

Posted October 12, 2012
An example of how emails, compared to verbal conversations, can so easily go so badly wrong - perhaps especially between Gen Y - X.

On principle I’m on Matt’s side - you want you pay, even a nominal amount. If I read his email response putting myself in Hildebrand’s shoes though it does sound ever so slightly rude. Assuming that it’s the first time they’ve corresponded.

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TC is gonna tell you...

Posted October 12, 2012
If you've got something good enough for people to come back for, there's never any harm in giving some out for free to get people interested. Drug dealers have known this for decades (centuries? millenia?) and there's never a shortage of them or their product.

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Bec Waterhouse reckons...

Posted October 12, 2012
So you don't work for corn chips then?

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WarDog swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2012
@Blarkon I have some good stats on how many people run ad blockers (at least for word games on the Android platform). It's about 1%. Frankly it's a low enough percentage that I don't give a toss about that miserly lot.

The majority of people are happy to trade a few targetted ads for content. In this case game play instead of prose. But it's all ones and zeros in the end.

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Naut swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2012
I read this as a case of "just because you CAN be an dick, doesn't mean HAVE to be a dick" rather than whether it's right or not whether he should be paid.

Supply and demand suggests that if your product is desirable enough, people will pay our for it.

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Paul Nicholas Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2012
It is the same story when it comes to academic writing. I wrote this really fascinating piece on the rule against perpetuities. It had a lot of footnotes so I knew it was good. So I sent it off to the Harvard Law Review. They sent the envelope back with a note thanking me for my submission but stating that the Harvard Law Review doesn't accept unsolicited articles. I thought, what the fuck? Are there agents who represent academics? Hell no. So I called the Editor in Chief. I told the phone receptionist I was his doctor with some news on his recent AIDS test so I got right through to him. And I told him, hey, chump, I wrote the most exciting piece on the rule against perpetuities that has been publishes in over a century. Well, he asked me to send it, and I did, and he read it, and he loved it! He said he wanted to publish it in the next issue. So I asked how much pay I could expect and that asshole told me that they didn't pay anybody for articles because it was an honor just to get an article accepted by the Harvard Law Review. I told him to go fuck himself and that was that.

Never did get that article published. I read it every now and then to refresh my understanding of the rule against perpetuities. That law never gets old.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 12, 2012
Except, Naut, that the internet supplies an infinite amount of alternative product for free. Product that can be copied and distributed without cost or constraint.

It has broken the old model of media and publishing. New models will arise, but they wont look anything like the old supply and demand equation.

That's the delicious irony of this. Hildrebrand will be Smith's position after News collapses. (Although Hildebrand is building a personal brand, so in a sense, unlike Smith, he won't be selling copy, for which unlimited supplies of free alternative product are available. Rather he'll be selling 'Joe', perhaps to TV or whatever replaces it, for which he is a monopoly provider).

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Therbs mutters...

Posted October 12, 2012
I reckon Hildebrand came off as a smug entitled git here, but that's probably because I already had that perception of him. Didn't realise he was one of Unky Rupes. Not that there's anything wrong with it, I just thought most of them were rabid brown shirts; not smug, ABC doco flouncers.

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Jeni Bone has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2012
Hi JB, it's the other JB here. I have lost emails in hard drive explosion (one in a million Toshiba tells me . . . ) I wanted to ask you to come to the GC as guest/host of Media Club Awards. There's a fee, accomm at swanky Marriott, plus a bottle of booze in it for you! And our adoration. What's your email again and I will fill in the deets???

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John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted October 12, 2012
A juicy fee, free hotel room and booze. See, Padawan, that's how you do it.

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Jeni Bone swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2012
Juicy? No, but because they wouldn't have to pay for airfares since you're Brisvegas and GC is a burp down the road, they will give you the princely sum of whatever last year's guy got. E me and I can beg properly . . .

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Jennifer Morton asserts...

Posted October 12, 2012
JG, thanks for the laugh, I really needed it .....Have a great weekend dammit!!!

JB, love your work. Thanks!

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Jeni Bone mumbles...

Posted October 12, 2012
How do I get my face on that id thingie???

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JR has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2012
Hilda comes across as a petulant git here. Smith might be guilty of being naive in expecting payment for unsolicited copy during the great newspaper crash of 2012 but Hilda didn't act professionally in dealing with this. Should he be professional? When you work for News Corpse and you're dealing with people, I'd say the answer is yes.

Maybe I'm a bit old school, but if something is good enough to publish and slap advertisements around, then you pay the damned writer.

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damian asserts...

Posted October 12, 2012
http://en.gravatar.com/

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DrYobbo swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 12, 2012
Thanks Spammy Fucker, I am also a massive One Direction fan but that's not important right now. The moral of this story is the same one I understood to be the case many years ago at university entrance time: writing for money is a mug's game and will keep you poor forever, unless you have an exceptional point of difference.

Unfortunately I figured SCIENTS would be a more reliable source of coin. More fool me.

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DrYobbo reckons...

Posted October 12, 2012
Also, Hildebrand is a massive twunt and I'd be moderately pleased if he caught syphilis from a donkey.

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2012
Catching syphilis from a donkey is complicated. How about if he just caught fire?

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Sir Henry Casingbroke reckons...

Posted October 12, 2012
Well, actually, JB, nobody knows how shit your writing when it has been published because an experienced, wise and often clairvoyant sub has been through it and gave it a decent clean. Joe is no exception.

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w from brisbane ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2012
Certainly that Joe Hildebrand media persona, which I would describe as Piers Akerman after 5 schooners, is shown not to be a put on.

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w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted October 12, 2012
Here's a clip for Dr Yobbo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTQem4e9rGM

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted October 12, 2012
Sir Henry: this is the "wire brush and dettol" sort of clean? Is it at least a bit gentler than an ammonia enema?

w: I am frightened of this "Piers Akerman after 5 schooners" concept. Surely Piers is close to a normal person after 15 schooners and then a brief empathy scouring (in amalgam of mercury) and a sobering brace of sea water delivered at 80 knots.

So if Hildie is Piers after 5, surely we can just push him into the sea?

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NBlob mutters...

Posted October 12, 2012
There is demand, but no market.

There is plenty of examples of producers developing a product, then a market EG Pikachu, or vacuum cleaners. But I don't think I could name another situation quite like this.

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Lobes would have you know...

Posted October 13, 2012
I'm giving you this comment but I want payment for the next one.

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John Birmingham reckons...

Posted October 13, 2012
Sorry Lobes. I already torrented your next comment.

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tqft would have you know...

Posted October 13, 2012
This is amusing to me as I had an idea I was going to write up and flick to the BrisbaneTimes to see if they would publish it.

Deprive JB of some extra disco balls and hovercraft polish

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MickH would have you know...

Posted October 13, 2012
YAY! Damian!

I've been trying to find that site again for ages

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Spanner mumbles...

Posted October 13, 2012
This sort of guff goes on in some other professions, photography is prime example. I've even had land developers try it on with me in my field of town planning when I was doing some consulting work outside of local government.

A land development company called for expressions of interest to prepare town planning reports for a new subdivision. I submits me a response the the brief. Then the project manager, whom for the purposes of this retelling we shall call Simon Scrotum Face, calls me and say they would love for me to prepare the documentation but they don't have a budget to pay me. Can I do it for advertising exposure?

I asked SSF if the civil engineers and surveyors were being paid. SSF said of course because they are important. SSF tells me that I just "put the words together to keep Council happy and anyone can do it". SSF and I parted ways.

What I draw from this is that people whose skills are poorly understood, photographers, some tech writers, most or all freelance writers and even some professionals can be offered this kind of "do it for free" crap offer.

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted October 13, 2012
Hi, Cheeseburgers

Though I won’t comment on the money thing, Joe does irritate me. His metier is to sling inaccurate insult. Here he does it again. A grievous and incorrect attack on another writer’s commas!!!

Matt Smith began his email : Hi, Joe

Joe sniped: Notwithstanding that he clearly does not know how to use punctuation in greetings.

Matt Smith’s use of the comma was entirely correct as the greeting was in the direct address form. Put “comma greeting direct address” into google and you will get link after link advising that "Hi, Joe" displays the correct positioning of the comma.

This is typical of most of Joe Hildebrand’s zingers. They are wrong.

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yankeedog mutters...

Posted October 13, 2012
"Hildebrand informed the would-be tabloid columnist that getting published in The Terror “is a pretty massive deal for an aspiring journalist mate and you just blew it. Take your piece elsewhere.”"

I dunno. I think when young Henry Ford went to the buggy whip company to apply for work, he heard something similar from the Buggy Whip Boss. And I think conventional publishing is going the way of said buggy whip.

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petebowes puts forth...

Posted October 13, 2012
$140 ..?

They saw you coming mate .. who needs to sell words

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Abe Frellman mumbles...

Posted October 13, 2012
Good call, Spanner. I know someone who makes a very decent living from drafting DA applications who used to be in town planning. If people get something for free, why will they value it? (Which is sort of the point - and one both Mr H and his employers are going to have to face into at some stage. )

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 14, 2012
OT, sorry.

A cracker read, if a trifle heavy for a Sunday Morning.

http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4308906.html

Ten years on: Indonesia's anti-terrorism advances

Looks like the Caliphate was strangled at birth due to the combined efforts of Densus88 & the AFP.

I may mock the constabulary, but this shows the real benefit of slow, methodical, careful & collabrative policework. Not so much kicking in doors waving guns, more financial analysis and painstaking chemistry.

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Dokter’s Weekly Report #10 | Dokter Waldijk asserts...

Posted October 14, 2012
[...] pretty massive deal – Read it This is a too common misconception I am met with very often. That you should write a story, then [...]

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