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How I Ego Surfed My Way to a Paycheck (And How You Might Too)
by Melaine Ryther
I have a confession to make: I ego surf.
If you're not familiar with that term, it means running a search of your own
name through an Internet search engine. I engage in this seemingly narcissistic
behavior for two very good reasons: (1) to keep track of my published articles,
and (2) to find out if anyone's talking about me.
Not that I'm paranoid or anything.
Usually my ego surfing turns up no surprises. Until recently.
There I was, scrolling down the Google list of familiar web entries bearing
my name when I saw one I had never seen before. Hmm. Point. Click. There was my
article, all right, When Mans Best Friend Becomes a Foe, a little
perennial piece about preventing dog bites I had shotgunned out to several
regional magazines a long time ago. Reading through it, I noticed some new
information had been woven into the text to give it a local, south Florida,
slant. Then I saw the date that the article had been posted. It had been
floating around in cyberspace for over a year!
By now I vaguely remembered submitting the piece to this Florida parenting
mag, but decided I better check with my foolproof record-keeping system before
taking righteous action. Sure enough, I found a short e-mail from the editor
saying she was accepting the article and that a check would be coming shortly.
That was the last remark I had noted. Okay, I know I should have followed up
better. But you see, thats why my record system is foolproof: If you forget to
actually use it, it proves youre a fool.
Back to the story. I decided to approach the magazine in a friendly and
professional manner. There was no need yet to expose anyone to the wrath of
my alter ego, Ripped-Off, Ticked-Off Writer, so I e-mailed the editor whose name
I had recorded and inquired about the article, admitting to the ego surfing (how
else would I have found it?) and stating that according to my records, I hadn't
been paid. Was payment still forthcoming? Did they need an invoice, perhaps?
Two days later the now ex-editor of that publication replied, expressing her
surprise that I hadn't been paid. "That was over a year ago!" she wrote. "I
know!" I cried, to no one in particular. She gave me the e-mail of the new
editor and wished me the best of luck. For some reason, I felt I needed it.
Smelling blood as R.O.T.O. Writer struggled to emerge, I dashed off an e-mail
to the new editor. I have to admit that in the back of my mind I wondered if
maybe I had made a mistake and forgot to enter their check into my records. The
more I thought about it, though, the more ridiculous that idea seemed. It's not
like I'm inundated with checks from my freelancing. I know each and every one
that comes through my mailbox. I can tell you its color. I can describe its
Anyway, about a week later I heard back from the magazine. And whaddaya know?
Their records showed I hadn't been paid! Would I accept their apology and send
in an invoice? the current editor asked.
No sweat, I replied. But what amount should I put down, as no fee was ever
agreed upon? I was fully expecting to be offered a reprint payment (aka,
laughable), as the piece had since appeared in several other regional
Well, you could have bowled me over with a goose feather when she asked if
$150 was okay. Okay? I chuckled to myself. A week ago I didn't even know the
article was in existence!
So, what's the moral of this story? Take up ego surfing, my friends. The
results could very well fatten your wallet as well as your head.
Tips For Better Results:
If you have a commonly misspelled name, do a search on all possible versions.
(I always check both Melaine and Melanie Ryther.)
Dont rely on just one search engine. A recent test of my name in Google, Northern Light, and Alta Vista resulted in 39, 22, and 7 hits, respectively.
Check your local librarys website, if they have one. Most offer links to
document databases like Proquest and Electric
Library, which you cant access via a general search engine. You will need a
library card number in most cases to use these services.
Set a reminder (like youll need one) to ego surf every month or two. New
content by the zillions is added daily to cyberspace. You might be in there,
rightfully or not.
© Copyright 2001, Melaine Ryther
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