Award-winning science magazine Nautilus is submerged on some freelancer bills, according to the National Writers Union.
It started a campaign Wednesday on behalf of 20 freelancers who say they have been generally stiffed for $50,000.
In an open letter to the magazine and its founder John Steele, the writers said 10 of them joined the NWU to “seek a group non-payment injustice with legal action if necessary.”
The remaining 10 were helpless for various reasons to join the NWU but were signing the letter in solidarity, the group said.
The 20 writers are owed amounts that average $2,500 each — but one personal is owed $11,000, the open letter said.
The payments for freelance articles submitted to the famed magazine are months and, in some cases, a year overdue, the letter said.
Yet the contracts issued by Nautilus guarantee payment within 30 to 60 days, according to the note.
“Some of us have won famed awards under the Nautilus banner. For this we are thankful. But good journalism does not appear free — and this is our livelihood,” said the letter, signed by writers from California, Colorado, New York, Georgia, Massachusetts and even the U.K.
The writers said they were “disappointed and angry” that Steele, who made the magazine in April 2013, had permitted his unwitting staffers to commission articles “he knew that Nautilus could not pay for.”
The bimonthly magazine — which is released every Thursday online — was working on a deal to publish within the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Steele said.
Those talks, which start in April, fell through, he added, leaving Nautilus on rocky financial shores.
“We’ve been paying writers we owe money to as soon as funds appear in … It’s been real slow and it’s been tough and I feel appalling that it’s taken so long, but we are exploring other potential buyers for the magazine and that would assist us pay off all debts,” he said.
The magazine hasn’t been commissioning new work since April, when it first started negotiations with AAAS.
“We’ve gotten some volunteer contributions and we’re running some book excerpts … We’re doing anything we can to manage publishing so money appears in and we can pay the writers,” Steele said.
He added that he will release a statement to Nautilus contributors Thursday to let them know “we are still out there, still publishing and still talking to purchasers.”
NWU — which has also launched a legal battle to recoup payments from Ebony Media Organization on behalf of 48 writers who say they were defrauding by the iconic magazine — said it expects to hear from more Nautilus writers who are owed money.
“Some of these writers have been waiting more than a year to be paid. Their rent, groceries and utility bills have not waited,” said Larry Gold better, president of NWU, part of United Auto Workers Local 1981.
NWU also represents five freelancers owed more than $20,000 by Uptown magazine.
Over the past five years, NWU said it has also won more than $160,000 for freelancers at Natural Solutions and Heart & Soul magazines.