Cricket Media describes itself as a global education company, with products that include mentoring platforms, language instruction, and a suite of well-known children’s magazines for kids of all ages. Having a story, article, poem, or illustration published in one of these magazines is a coveted credit for kidlit writers and illustrators, and can provide a real boost to a writing or artistic resume.
Cricket is a paying market (rates are posted on its Submittable page). However, over the past few weeks I’ve received multiple complaints from writers and illustrators who say they’ve had tremendous difficulty getting paid–or have never been paid at all.
The range of reported problems is wide, and also somewhat random. Some creators told me they were paid promptly for some works but very late (like months or even years) for others. Some said that persistent emails or invoices eventually pried a payment loose–though far later than the promised payment date–while others received repeated form responses but no check, or no response at all. Several told me they have never gotten the money they are owed (the longest reported time lag: two and a half years). Some are still invoicing for these missing fees–but others said they’d just given up.
Reported amounts due range from just over $100 to more than $1,000. Complaints cover the whole slate of publications, from Babybug to Muse Magazine.
Cricket pays after publication–but contracts don’t specify a time period within which payment will be received (something that, when evaluating contracts, I always flag as a problem, for exactly the reasons I’m writing about now). Here’s the entire payment clause:
Timing is mentioned only in acceptance letters. Examples I’ve seen from 2017 promise payment 90 days after the pub date. As of 2018, that had increased to “several months”; in 2019, it stretched to “six to eight months”. Most recently, creators are being told that payment will take up to a year–and some report that even then, it doesn’t arrive on time.
Not only is this a problem of long standing, it’s one of which Cricket staff and administration are well aware. The ever-extending payment timelines reflect this; I’ve also seen multiple responses to creators’ questions that admit the problems and cite various reasons for the delays: tight cash flow, turnover in the accounting department, a low-revenue year, a change in payment methods. These responses come from Accounts Payable, from editors, and from other staff, and go back at least to 2018. Here’s an example, from 2019:
Identical responses were received by creators in 2020. Here’s a 2021 response: same tight cashflow excuse but now the plan is “a recurring payment schedule flow”, whatever that is:
Since the exact same response was received in 2022, it seems the schedule flow is still pending. Note also the second to last line, which refers to a “temporary state.”
A number of the writers and illustrators who contacted me said that they will no longer work with Cricket because of these problems. But I was struck by how many creators said that they continued to submit, even if they were still owed money, and knowing it might be a year or more before they were paid, because they love the magazines, or value the credits. Cricket continues to benefit from its reputation, and its long track record of quality publications, even as it does not appear to be able to address one of the most important issues for any creator: consistent, timely payment.
I sent emails to several Cricket addresses, requesting comment. I received one reply indicating that my email had been passed on to Cricket’s editorial director. As of this writing, I’ve received no other response.
POSTSCRIPT: Here is the grant of rights clause from Cricket’s contracts (I’ve seen multiple examples):
It’s pretty sweeping, in that it allows Cricket to make multiple uses of creators’ work–reprints, licensing, derivative works–without further payment and without seeking permission or providing notification (and Cricket does actively engage in third-party licensing). Something else to be aware of, if you’re thinking of submitting to one of Cricket’s magazines.
UPDATE 11/23/22: On the issue of Cricket being active with third-party licensing, I received the info below from an education professional with first-hand experience:
Stories, poems, and articles from the Cricket magazines are commonly licensed for use in large-scale statewide testing programs and electronic test banks by test publishing companies and agencies. In high-stakes programs, the test contents are “secure and confidential,” meaning that it would be impossible for writers to find out where, when, how frequently, and in what form (digital or print) their works have been used. I have also seen many Cricket texts in formative assessments, which are not secure and so may appear on school district websites.
In my opinion, the fact that Cricket is reaping financial rewards from licensing–a use of creators’ rights for which, by contract, creators receive no remuneration–makes the lack of payment for Cricket’s use of primary rights even more shameful.
UPDATE 5/31/23: I continue to hear from writers who are owed money by Cricket (including some of the writers who originally contacted me), and who say they receive no response to their questions or overdue payment notices.
Shortly after publishing this post, I reached out to SCBWI’s Marketing and Communications Director, Tammy Brown, to highlight the problems discussed above and ask if SCBWI might consider making a public statement. I received no response.