Writing for LAUNCHSPACE magazine

Phillip Clark (psclark@dircon.co.uk)
Sun, 11 Jul 1999 18:33:48 +0100 (BST)

I realise that this posting is away from the normal ones for this
newsgroup, but I would be interested to hear from anyone with whom it
strikes a chord and such people might well be reading on-line
mailing-lists and newsgroups connected with spaceflight.

Basically this message can be considered to be a warning about writing
for LAUNCHSPACE magazine.

I would be very interested in learning whether there are any freelance
writers (like myself) who have written for LAUNCHSPACE magazine and
who (unlike me !) have actually been paid for their work.

To date I have just been given the runaround by the company with
nothing resolved with regard to the $1,864 which they owe me.   Fees
for the material which I sent to LAUNCHSPACE were agreed with
Jefferson Morris at the time of submission, so one assumes that there
was an intention to make the payments.

Back in March this year I had a little correspondence with Judith
Maresca in the LAUNCHSPACE accounts department and she told me
that the payment would be made before the end of that month.   The
payment did not come through, so I e-mailed her to try and discover
what the situation was.   In fact during April and May I must have
e-mailed her a dozen times and not once did she (or anyone else within
LAUNCHSPACE) have the courtesy to respond.

On June 8th I telephoned and ended up speaking to Marshall Kaplan, the
chairman of LAUNCHSPACE, and he expressed little interest in what I had
to say and transferred me as quickly as he could to a Ron Burr (I
think this is the correct spelling, but I have never seen the name in
writing).   Mr Burr could tell me nothing because - he said - he had
just joined the company and was trying to find his way around the
accounts, etc.   He told me that if I called back on June 30th he would
have some answers for me.

Incidentally, Dr Kaplan claimed that that none of my e-mail messages
about the outstanding payments had been received by LAUNCHSPACE.
One must therefore wonder at the technology which the company uses
which allows e-mails which include articles for publication, etc to be
received but which selectively manages to lose all e-mails about the
money which the company owes.

Wednesday and June 30th arrived and so I telephoned Mr Burr.
He claimed that since "the bookkeeper is away I don't know what the
situation is".   We arranged that I would telephone him again on July
6th when the bookkeeper had returned and he would be able to give me
some definitive information.

Along came July 6th, another trans-Atlantic telephone call to
LAUNCHSPACE and guess what ?   Neither Mr Burr nor the un-named
bookkeeper were in the office because of the holiday weekend !
Presumably both had decided at the last minute to take an extra day
away from work.

I spoke with Marshall Kaplan on July 6th and he told me that Mr Burr
would have returned to the office on July 7th, so I spent an hour
on the 7th trying to reach a human being in LAUNCHSPACE.   All I got
were voicemail messages - even from the switchboard operator !

Finally, on July 8th I managed to have an all-to-brief conversation
with Mr Burr.   He did not consider it worthwhile apologising for not
having been in the office earlier in the week when we had arranged I
would be calling.   Also, the bookkeeper had already left for the day
(at about 2pm EDT) so he said that he could not find out anything about
payments.   In fact, Mr Burr stated quite bluntly that he did not wish
to discuss the funds owing to me because he was too busy, did not
have the time and did not care that the company owed me money !

One assumes that Mr Burr has not graduated in diplomacy in connection
with people who are owed money by LAUNCHSPACE, the company which he

As a result I sent Dr Kaplan a draft copy of this message for his
comments, but also suggested a compromise if LAUNCHSPACE was in
financial problems: rather than pay the full amount owing now, I
suggested splitting the amount with $900 being paid now and the
balance of $964 next month.   No response to this offer has been
received from LAUNCHSPACE.   Also, since Dr Kaplan has not responded
to my description of my attempts to obtain payments from LAUNCHSPACE
he must accept them as being an accurate statement of the situation.

The LAUNCHSPACE magazine appears to survive on the basis of
advertising from aerospace companies, and the majority of articles
are contributed free of charge by people working in the industry in
order to give their work and researches publicity.   On this basis I
assume that LAUNCHSPACE can continue to survive without requiring
material from writers like myself who make a living out of such work.

I do question the ethics of LAUNCHSPACE is being perfectly willing to
agree fees for work which is both submitted "on spec" and also which
has been commissioned for the publication, and then refusing to make
those payments - especially while it continues to publish.   I assume
that the companies who advertise with LAUNCHSPACE and the company
employees who are contibuting free articles are not aware that
LAUNCHSPACE appears to have no interest in paying the agreed fees to
other contributors.   One would hope that these companies and writers
would be willing to take some kind of moral stance if they were aware
of the situation, but to be honest I am not holding my breath.

I suppose that the thinking at LAUNCHSPACE is "why should we
bother paying these freelancers their promised fees because we really
don't need them ?".   In addition, with regard to my own situation
there appears to be the additional attitude of "why bother because
financially it's not worth the while to sue from the other side of the
Atlantic Ocean".

Anyone who wishes to respond can do so either via this newsgroup or to
me direct.   Direct responses to me will not be otherwise circulated.

Phillip Clark

Phillip S Clark                                       25 Redfern Avenue
Molniya Space Consultancy                             Whitton
Compiler/Publisher, Worldwide Satellite Launches      Middx   TW4 5NA

Specialist in "space archeology" - the older and more obscure the more 
interesting it is !