Re: Agency Response - margins

Subject: Re: Agency Response - margins
From: Richard Yanowitz <ryanowit -at- NYCT -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 09:20:34 -0400

>I happen to know the markup that the agency I work for is getting. They
>didn't tell me, but then I didn't ask them. I was given a good rate, so
>what do I care how much they make? I don't suppose they would take
>kindly to my disclosing that rate to you without asking, so I won't.


I want to say the following without intending offense (which so easily
results in chat line exchanges, where we're not talking to people in the

I think it's important to share information like rates we get and other
working conditions. Not doing so is encouraging the kind of closed-off
status quo that keeps us all in the dark and makes it harder for working
writers to know what is reasonable and realistic. As free-lancers, we're
relatively fragmented, isolated from one another (which is why chat lines
like this are such a good idea). The employers have a much stronger
position. To be at our own best strength in relation to employers, we need
to share our knowledge not just of how we do our jobs (which is good) but
also of how we deal with working conditions and employers. We need not to
get caught in the trap of feeling it's indelicate or insubordinate to level
about money.

[Your position reminds me a little of what it used to be like in the
teaching profession (of which I've also been a member), where teachers
would argue that because we were "professionals," we were above "labor"
attitudes and shouldn't rock the boat--much less join an organization
geared toward improving working conditions or salaries.]

What I'm arguing for doesn't necessarily mean antagonism to employers, and
it certainly doesn't mean betrayal of an appropriate trust (such as
promising not to expose a client's trade secrets--assuming there's nothing
intrinsically unethical in those secrets). But it also shouldn't mean
confusion about where our loyalties and best interest really lie--which I
personally believe is (a) with other working writers more than employers
and (b) our direct clients for whom we want to do a good job. Sometimes,
of course, employer and client are the same; in such cases I haven't yet
found a real conflict between (a) and (b) because I'm not negotiating in
the dark as I do with agencies.

(With clients, the main issues that can cause difficulty are not about
money but about contractual (including getting paid on time) and ergonomic

This is a very quick summary of a complex matter, but for me it gets to the
core of a key issue for all of us about solidarity, loyalty, self-interest
and responibilty.
Richard Yanowitz, NYC
ryanowitz -at- bigfoot -dot- com

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