An Ethical Dilemma

Well, I have a “personal drama” type of thing happening here. Now, if that kind of deal annoys you, you can skip the rest of this post. I want to do you, my readers, that favor. If this is the kind of thing you just can’t stand, then I want to let you know, right up at the top of the post, that this isn’t your cup of tea, so that you can bail on it. I won’t be mad, and hell, if it was me reading somebody else’s publication, I’d jet, too.


I have an issue with my former publisher. And I could use some assistance. I left Spinfuel Magazine for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest ones was a completely unrealistic word count per day expectation.

Now, during the good months, when exports from Chinese manufacturers of vaping hardware is full and rich, I can easily throw down 3,000 words per day. But what I didn’t know what that the Chinese New Year takes about a whole frickin’ month, and that month is February.

So — come February — there isn’t jack shit to write 3,000 words about. Not in a week, let alone every day.

So I did what I could; I burned my fingers down coming up with enough fluff and padding and bullshit to satisfy — to the best of my not inconsiderable abilities — that 3,000 word per day quota.

But I failed. Some days, there just isn’t 3,000 words worth of shit to write about. And I started getting harshed on for that, hardcore, from someone who was god damned well and all in a position to know better than that.

So I stepped out of that position. I was — let me get pathetic for just a second — only making $125 a week for this job. When you consider that the title of Managing Editor comes with a five figure income, minimum, I was working for thrift-store rates.

But here’s the rub: one of my signing bonuses was a new (well, not actually new, it was refurbished) computer. And now that I’ve stepped away from that publication, the publisher wants the computer — that was a signing bonus — he wants it back.

Now, I’m not going to say that that makes him a skinflint. I’m not gonna say that. People are gonna come to that conclusion, and I’m not gonna say they shouldn’t, but I’m not gonna put it out there.

But what I am going to do is, I’m going to try to reimburse the publisher for all the tens of thousands of dollars (I’m exaggerating, of course) that he spent on this basically used computer he sent my way.

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  • John, I like your writing and the information you have enriched me with. That being said, I completely understand your position. February there is NO new products to write about due to the holiday. As for the signing bonus, well, if you’re the better man, which I believe you are, than reimburse him. But I wouldn’t. A signing bonus is just that….a bonus. Bigger and better opportunities are sure to come your way!!!!


    • John Castle

      Thanks, Joe. Now, I should make it clear — when I call it a ‘signing bonus’, it’s because that’s the only context into which I can put it. I mentioned to them before they offered me the gig that my computer (at the time) was about to go belly-up. So when they made the offer, there were conditions I had to meet as part of writing for them — but no conditions were ever mentioned on receiving or keeping the new computer. Guy just threw that in there. The only thing I can think of that describes it is ‘signing bonus’.

      But that’s sort of the crux of the dilemma — the only thing that was put down as far as what was expected of me was a certain number of words per day and that my articles written for Spinfuel would be exclusive to Spinfuel while I worked for them.

      Which, I admit, I accidentally reposted full articles here after I left them. Those were *supposed* to be saved as drafts and not published, and I edited them later to go up the way I intended them to — but oh, MAN, you should have seen the juvenile threats I got from the guy via email. “Take them down IN FIIIIIIIVE MINUTES, OR YADDA-YADDA-YADDA!” Crap like that.

      Anyway. Lots of drama, and I could SEE the drama lurking under this veneer of professionalism on his part, and the veneer was starting to get thinner than I believe I need to tolerate. Saw it comin’, in other words.


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