Stem stealth syndication
OFTEN THE first news a freelance gets of a being published is when family, friends or colleagues read it in print. Another phenomenon is "stealth syndication", in which you google yourself to find an article you wrote for a London paper a few months ago has been published by a newspaper in, say, Belfast or Johannesburg. You've no idea whether this was legitimately syndicated by the London paper you sold it to, or whether it's been pinched.
And if it was sold on in good faith to another paper, you may have no idea what the deal is with regard to your original licence, and how much money you may be due from the sale, because said media group of course hasn't bothered to tell you about it. Some newspapers will syndicate your work and not have the courtesy to tell you, and then, in a passive-aggressive-type way, sit forever on your money from syndication because they only send it to you if you ask them for it.
Letting freelances know they've got money due from a syndication sale - or informing them what they have to do to get it - is a basic courtesy that we deserve from our clients. We suggest you consider some wording to put on your confirmation of commission.
- (Name of publication) will inform me promptly as soon as the commissioned article is published, in which publication, and in which issue number with which cover date, for my invoicing purposes.
- (Name of publication) will instruct its syndication department or agent to inform me promptly of any sale of the work to any other publication, the terms of the sale, under which terms of the licence the sale was agreed, and for each sale to inform me of any payments due to me, and of any procedures that I need to complete in order to receive these payments.
We'll return to dealing with syndication departments in a future Freelance. Meanwhile, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your good and bad experiences, tips on finding out whether your stuff's been sold on, and how to get what you're due from it.