At the beginning of August, I got a question about Laray Carr Publications, a magazine publisher whose ads on Craigslist and elsewhere offered writers a fee of $50 per article for ten articles on subjects to be provided by the publisher. My questioner was concerned because she couldn't find any information on the company, and its answers to her questions were vague and evasive.
(Parenthetical note: I know that tons of people think Craigslist is fab, but I mostly hear about it in connection with scams. Please, writers, treat any writing-related opportunity advertised on Craigslist--or any other free jobs listing--with extra care. If your research doesn't turn up enough information to absolutely satisfy you that the company is for real, move on, no matter how tempting the opportunity seems.)
I looked at LCP's contract and accompanying material, did some additional research, and noted the following issues.
- Apart from the aforementioned Craigslist ads and one or two other job postings (the multiple grammatical and spelling errors in these ads aren't tremendously confidence-inspiring), information on LCP was nonexistent. No website. No press releases. No publications. Not even a street address or phone number.
- LCP's contract (which, like its ads, was punctuated with errors) was exclusive for only one month after first publication, but gave the company unlimited rights to re-use and re-publish articles without further compensation to authors. Publishers re-using articles without compensation has been an item of major contention in the writing world over the past few years, and the subject of legal decisions (such as Tasini vs. the NY Times).
- No word count was specified for the articles. $50 for a capsule review isn't so bad, but for a 1,000-word or longer article, it's pretty poor. (Apparently, LCP is actually paying only $25 for shorter articles--see some of the complaints linked in below--but this was not mentioned anywhere in the materials I saw.)
- Payment was on publication--which in real-life terms means "possibly never," especially where, as in this case, the company hasn't actually published anything yet.
- Did I mention that LCP hadn't published anything yet? Nevertheless, it was planning to launch 35 different magazines--with titles such as Foodie ("focus on good living and fine food"), Shake 'Em ("written for the specialty drink and cocktail consumer"), Satire ("features fashion, beauty, health and entertainment news"), Urban Bride ("a must have for the African American bride to be"), Scope and Barrel ("ultimate sportsman magazine"), and Tricked ("for enthusiast [sic] of the specialty culture of the fixed up rides")--on September 20, 2007.
Say what? 35 different magazines? All at the same time? By September 20? When here it was the beginning of August, and they were short enough of articles to still be advertising for writers??? I've been involved in a magazine startup, so I know a little bit about the enormous amount of time and money it takes to launch just one magazine, and the intense effort that's required to shepherd it through the promotion, publicity, and distribution process after it's published. Even with a successful launch, it can be a long time before the publisher sees a profit--if indeed it ever does. No publisher in its right mind would try to launch 35 magazines simultaneously.
All in all, LCP seemed extremely suspicious to me. Not a scam, maybe, but certainly not a professional endeavor. I suggested that my questioner steer clear.
Fast-forward to September. LCP is still running ads (in addition to writers, it's now calling for sales reps--note the familiar spelling/grammatical/typing errors), but there's still no sign of a website, advertising, or any other publicity for the imminent magazine launch. Nevertheless, LCP's web presence has dramatically increased, due to a burgeoning number of comments from writers who are skeptical about LCP's credentials or are having second thoughts about writing for the company. See, for instance, this post from Matt Finley's A Musing Scribe blog; this thread from the Absolute Write message board; and these two threads at Deborah Ng's Freelance Writing Jobs blog (LCP staffer Hope Hunt shows up in the second thread to defend the company). Another thread posted at the Online Writing Jobs website, in which Roger Owens of LCP appeared to make legal threats against writers who voiced doubts about the company, has been removed.
Summing up writers' concerns:
- LCP's pay rates are not as advertised. Ads say $50 per article, but writers have been told that shorter articles pay only $25.
- LCP's business plan is insane. See above.
- Questions about the company and its magazines yield vague, contradictory responses. LCP staff don't seem to know anything about the company, its finances, its goals and objectives, or its personnel.
- Little hard information about LCP can be found. No website. No street address or phone number--not even on LCP's contract or in its writers' guidelines (I have copies). One writer alleges that the fax number provided by LCP staffer Hope Hunt in her emails traces to a steam cleaning company in Virginia. I've confirmed this. It's actually not so surprising, considering that the cleaner's website is registered to Hope Hunt. (Here's Hope Hunt's own website; note the similarities.)
- Will writers be paid for their work? Many writers have turned in articles. Given the questions about LCP's viability and the fact that payment is on publication, they're concerned about whether they'll ever see a check.
Writer Beware is concerned as well. We advise writers and other job seekers to be extremely cautious with this company.
Names under which LCP has presented itself: Laray Carr Publications, LCP Media, LC Publications.
Staff names associated with LCP to date: Austin Beck, Howard Davis, Hope Hunt, Roger Owens, David Person.