Freelance writers’ agency open for business

The Canadian Writers’ Group, an agency for freelance magazine writers, has launched with a group of 50 writers on board.

The agency, run by former Toro editor-in-chief Derek Finkle, has been in the planning stages for months after Finkle announced plans for the company back in September.

According to a Toronto Star report, the agency currently has fifty writers signed on, including Gerald Hannon, David Macfarlane, Don Gillmor and Trevor Cole.

While fifty signed clients is fewer than Finkle had orginally planned for, he told the Star that it was “a strategic decision to start with fifty.”

He added:

“We could easily be representing a couple of hundred writers. But
starting with a smaller, more identifiable group sharpens the focus.”

In an interview with the Ryerson Review of Journalism, Finkle said the idea for the agency came to him during Charles Oberdorf’s speech at last year’s National Magazine Awards. He added:

“He actually
spoke about the problems in our industry in relation to freelance writers.
He said, that most Canadian consumer magazines still pay freelance writers
about what they were paying 35 years ago when he was a young freelancer.
A few exceptions only pay about 25 to 50 percent more than they did
then, while the cost of housing in Toronto, for example has multiplied
by 400 percent.

And things haven’t really
changed despite the fact that we’ve been in a pretty good boom time
for a decade or more, up until recently. But one of the huge problems
for freelancers, being independent contractors, is that they don’t
have much power at the negotiating table because there are so many other
people who, theoretically, could replace them. And that’s why so few
freelancers even try to negotiate.”

Of the launch of the agency, Masthead Online editor Marco Ursi is supportive, but said:

“It’s hard to go to the magazines and ask for more money, when the
magazines can say, `Our advertising is down 25 per cent this quarter.
How can you expect us to pay more?’

All editors want
to pay the writers more, but it’s the publishers who control the money.
And the publishers need to balance the books.”