I almost wrote a feature story for the Let’s Go best-selling travel guide series.
The key word is almost.
I’ll elaborate in a moment. I first want to pay homage to Thom Singer and Chris Brogan, who, respectively in new posts today, ponder why C-level executives aren’t active in social media and why social networking is necessary.
In 2003, the concept of social media was barely on anyone’s radar, let alone the publishing world &mdash indicative of Writers Market entries from five years ago that rarely included editorial email addresses.
That year, on the heel of adult education classes I taught in Boston and Cambridge, I received an unsolicited email from two Harvard University students, Julia Reischel and Kathy Lee, who were editing the first edition of a roadtripping guide.
They reached out to me to cull my expertise from a 24,000-mile roadtrip adventure in 2001, encompassing over 20 U.S. states and half of Canada, which was the subject of my “Great American Road Trip” classes.
Piquing my curiosity and always willing to share my inveterate travel stories, I met with the young women for about an hour and answered their extemporaneous questions about themed travel, my favorite destinations, lodging, photography, and other subject areas.
They paid me $50 for my time.
Shortly thereafter, the editors propositioned me with the opportunity to expand my blossoming freelance writing career with a bylined feature story in the guide. I was asked to either write about my roadtripping experience or offer advice for wannabe roadtrippers.
Then, I saw the contract.
I could write 800 to 1,600 words easily, and I wasn’t complaining about the $300 fee either. But the contract stipulated the publisher would buy all rights, not to mention there was no guarantee the article would be published.
Looking at my archived email response, I requested to amend the contract and offer First Global Book Rights to retain my serial rights, else a greater per-word fee.
The publisher denied my amendment, I chose not to write anything, and we agreed to disagree.
I remember first seeing the book, after its publication, at Harvard’s bookstore. It looked sophisticated enough, but the content would have been much better had my story been included. But I’m biased.
Imagine how the above anecdote could be exaggerated today, had email played a lesser part and social media a greater one. For instance, suppose I was contacted after someone had seen my e-book, podcast, or blog on travel. Or, I could have been contacted after seeing Flickr photos and Twitter updates about roadtripping adventures. And so forth.
But even with email alone, social media (in its infancy) played a part: had I not been teaching adult ed classes on roadtripping, the editors would not have reached out to me, and the publisher would not have considered amending its contract to me.