The Importance of a Writers Agreement

Travel Writers Agreement
22 February 2010 Post Author:
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In today’s world the economics of writing have changed.

As a small publisher, (and YES every blogger is a publisher), you have access to many writers that will write for free or almost free.

Some write for the thrill of writing and others are motivated more by the “perks”.

While “perks” vary from niche to niche, most travel bloggers will at some point be invited to review a product or visit a location for free.

As you begin to enlist other writers to join you, the issue of how to assign reviews will become more and more of an issue, and so will how those writers represent you and your site.

My site, ManTripping is going through this process right now.

While no agreement can solve all problems, the real value is in setting expectations and understanding between you and your writers.

I have no budget to pay writers, I get requests by people to write, and I receive offers for trips and product reviews on a fairly regular basis.

My answer to this situation is to create a Writer’s Agreement so that anyone that writes for me on a regular basis (i.e. those that might be eligible to receive “perks’) has a clear understanding of what I expect from them.

This agreement should be designed not only to protect you, the publisher – but also to protect the rights of your writers.

Important things to include in your writers agreement

Blog Description and Coverage Areas

In your description of the blog, it is essential to include what the parameters for your site are. This will help to ensure that your writers are on the same wavelength as you are. For instance, for my site – about Men’s Travel and Mancations – I have certain areas (such as sex, drugs, and strip clubs) that I don’t cover and don’t want coverage of.

By making sure that our writers know what is and isn’t in our coverage area it will help avoid future issues where a writer spends time on an article only to find that it isn’t right for the site. Additionally, by making sure that writers understand the site better it will help them focus and think of great topics to make the site even better.

Review Policies

The next section that you should include is exactly what your review policies are. This is absolutely essential so that freelancers who are approached by PR people know what you expect out of them. For instance, at Man Tripping, I require that anyone receiving products or trips must disclose the following: estimated cost of goods and the contact info of PR representative.

In addition, I offer to return items over $100 and I don’t ask for review samples unless it is essential to the article being written. For instance, for a gift guide it is nice to know what a piece of clothing feels like but it is not essential. However, for an article about Rum Tasting, it is essential that we have samples to taste.

I also make it clear to my writers that “perks” are not payment and that I will decide who gets opportunities based on quality and frequency of articles submitted.

In other words, just make it clear to the writers how your review process works so they won’t be disappointed, confused, or have a false impression about compensation.

How Writers Should Represent His / Her Relationship to Your Site

During the process of writing, it is likely that your writers will contact CVB’s, PR people, and other businesses, potentially on your behalf. When they do, it is important that they know how to represent their relationship to you.

Additionally, this could be important if something happens during the process of writing for you, such as if they plagiarize, defame someone, or commit a crime while on a media trip for your site.

Rights and Licenses

Finally, and possibly the most important, is an agreement on who owns what with respect to submitted articles. This is essential so that should you decide to sell your site it doesn’t get messier than it has to. Additionally, this agreement should grant you the rights to re-print the articles for marketing or other purposes.

Personally – as a freelance writer myself – I also feel that you should grant your writers the ownership of their writing, but keep a use and reprint license for yourself. This is especially true if the writer is not being paid and is not an employee.

In conclusion

While no agreement is ever going to solve all problems, and it is unlikely that your Writers Agreement will solve all problems you may have with freelance writers, the real value is simply in setting expectations and understanding between you and your writers.

~James

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2 Responses to “The Importance of a Writers Agreement”

  1. JoAnna
    Twitter:
    says:

    While I agree these guidelines are important, as a freelance writer, I think it should be in the writer’s rights to request that the post/article be taken off the site – especially because no pay is involved. While I agree exposure is great for travel writers, I do get concerned when sites want reprint and resale rights for posts that have been written for free.
    .-= JoAnna´s last blog post: Pampered at Sea: A Holland America Spa Experience =-.

  2. Rebecca
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thanks for the information! I’m a guest blogger on a freelance writing site and we had to sign an agreement. They allowed us to put an affiliate link on the website, we get a byline (link to our website), and we can post our own advertisement to sell our products/services.

    It’s important to get everything in writing to ensure you’re clear about what is expected of you and what you can expect from the site administrator.

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