Boating Writers International IMTEC 98
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Boating Writers International

Boating Writers International (BWI) is an organization composed of freelance and staff writers in the boating industry. This year they moved their meeting to Saturday morning. A group of them form the selection committee for the Innovation Awards. Usually they are announced at the BWI meeting. This year the All Industry Breakfast was moved to Friday and the Innovation Award announcements were made there. It kind of "stole the show" from the BWI meeting.

Their president, Dean Clarke conducted the meeting. He announced their new web site would shortly be running at

Greg Proteau of the NMMA spoke and passed out some materials on the California emissions situation and MTBE. Seemed as if he was trying to encourage us to write about the issue, but he never came right out and said what he wanted. He said that MTBE was a carcinogen. Per my recollection it is suspected of being one and I think it probably is, but I do not think it has been proved. I would not be telling people it was, if it has not been proven. After the meeting told him we had a California MTBE Coverage on our web site.

Panel Discussion

The gentlemen were freelancers and the ladies were from publications.
Dean Clarke, president, is at the podium.
A Panel discussion on the relationships and differences in staff and freelance writers was conducted. It was pretty animated as many people present had strong feelings on some of the issues raised. Staff writers get the perks, are involved in decisions and planning, plus get paid regularly. Freelancers must supply whatever materials are needed, when they are needed, in the format they are needed in and hope they get paid someday. One gentleman said, "Its got to be a serious hobby or you will starve."

Freelancers also must pay their own way to trade shows and industry events, be their own collections department, shoot photos in multiple formats, cultivate connections, and be able to generate material from wherever they may be when someone calls. Submissions must be on time, word count, in the style they want, and in the format they want. You are the seller - they are the buyer.

Staff writers talked about receiving submissions that obviously did not "fit" their magazine, receiving multiple submissions (sent to several magazines) and the crush of being under the deadline three weeks out of four for a monthly publication.

Numerous comments were related to receiving payment. Freelancers should submit an invoice with their article and be paid upon acceptance, not upon publications. Staff writers said "the cycle" of being under deadlines keeps them from responding or corresponding with freelancers as much as 3 out of 4 weeks. If they miss being paid or have problems, it may be the next cycle before the magazine can contact them.

The amount of money per article was also discussed. Most felt the "going rates" were too low to support freelancers. Both staff and freelancers receive less pay than writers in other industries; however, publications in this industry are much lower volume than in many others.

"Packets" containing everything for publication (text, photographs, references, artwork, etc.) were discussed. Writers supplying "packets" that effectively meet the needs of magazines can command higher than published rates for their stories.

The unending need for strong communication between magazines and freelancers was repeatedly mentioned. Letters confirming the specific assignment should be sent so everyone is "on the same page."

Some magazines try to allow freelancers to proofread their piece by fax before publication, especially of technical articles. But, many free lancers cannot be reached in the short time available before publication.

The need for stock photography was pointed out as a possible source of income for free lancers. When the room was polled, almost a dozen publications said they need stock photography.

Fact checking is very important. Often facts change between writing and publication.

Freelancers were encouraged to ask up front for a "kill fee" if the article is not published. One gentleman present, said he had worked on an article for Playboy which was recently killed. He, photographers, and graphic artists would receive a "kill fee" because they completed their assignment to specifications - the magazine just decided not to run it.

Assigning rights was discussed. Some sell first time North American rights, others have other agreements. They mention several magazines are taking their stories and publishing them on their internet sites without specific permission. When the internet was discussed with the magazines, they said they were not making any money off of it and could not pay for the rights of stories to be published there. That got the group going real good for a few minutes. Then I mentioned that even if they do sell the rights once for internet publication the opportunity for other internet sales may be non-existent as other sites can use "framing' techniques to frame the existing site and make it look like theirs. I could tell pretty fast that I was "over their heads" on this one as no one seemed to know what I was talking about. I bet they will by next year !

The Panel discussion concluded, and another NMMA rep spoke on the conference moving to Orlando next year. A lively discussion on the date problem (too late for dealer shows) and other related issues ensued.

Several comments from the speaker did not agree with each other. First he talks about trying to raise money for the "Promote Boating Fund" by moving dealer meetings to IMTEC. This would reduce boat builder cost by only having one show. We were told that dealers do not have much time to attend these shows and they should be as short as possible. Then he promoted IMTEC promoted as a 3 week event. Dealer meetings the first week, IMTEC the second, and local tourist spots the third. Having tour packages the third week was an attempt to prevent defection to local well known tourist spots. As one BWI member put it, "They may hit the hall for an hour and then we loose them to the "rat." The "rat" being a reference to Mickey Mouse / Disney.

The logistical problems of having to setup builder displays twice because they could not share the hall with other builders for their private show and concern of loosing their dealers to other builder shows was also discussed. The speaker then said they might send everybody to Disney for a day while they reset the exhibits, but some exhibits cannot be restaged in a day.

He said builders "want to have a controlled environment at their dealer meeting." It does not sound to me like this blends with putting everybody together at once in "rat land?" Seems like their are a lot of details yet to be worked out, including the problem of available dates for the show being much earlier and then gradually moving back over the next several years.

RBBI Comments

I really enjoyed the BWI meeting and it was interesting to hear others discuss the same problems I have encountered in writing for the our internet site and some freelance work I have been involved in with other industries. I also met Andy Hahn, a fine young man who quite recently returned from living in Brazil for several years to write for Sport Fishing magazine. I enjoyed visiting with him as I had an opportunity to spend some time in Brazil in 93. Its interesting to visit with an American who has been out of the country for a few years. They say things like, "O.J. trial??"

After the meeting I made a couple suggestions to Mr. Clarke. I suggested they obtain photos of the award winning products to use during the Innovation Awards ceremony. At the All Industry Breakfast they just flashed text of the company name and product on a screen and had a representative come forward. A photo would have done wonders for people wondering what they were really talking about. He agreed, but said time between selection and making the awards was quite short. I suggested requesting a photo with the application. He thought that might be a good idea.

I also said giving awards in 11 different categories seems to "water down" their significance to me. In years past they only awarded one, then to allow the accessory companies to compete they created several categories. He did not share my feelings, that's fine, that's what discussion is all about.

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