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 it’s my understanding that 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.
I wrote two articles for MUSE which were published in early 2020. At the time, the editor told me there was a six month delay in payments. I am still waiting to be paid three years later. Multiple messages have gone unanswered or I receive the standard “we are running behind” response. My editor has since left and apparently the only way to reach them is by a generic email.
Does anyone have any information about any ongoing or potential class actions? I think everyone having to run to Illinois (at least my contract stipulates that Illinois law applies and parties waive the right to dispute jurisdiction) small claims court separately is unlikely to yield anything, but perhaps a larger collective action might be more effective.
For $3000 can’t you sue? Have you spoken with an attorney? I had a place not pay me $100. I took them to Small Claims. It took me two years to get my pay, but I did it more out of principle than money. Laws of course vary from state to state, but 3K is not small change. This amounts to theft.
One more thing: they turned a an illustrated short story I did into an e-book without even telling me. I signed away my reprint rights, so, fine. But they could have at least given me a heads up.
I’m an author/illustrator and I’ve done a fair amount of work for them over the years. I used to be able to get payment within 8 months. Now it’s well over a year and they owe me over $3000. My agent has sent them multiple invoices. Still waiting. Children’s lit is such a competitive field, I think they prey on newbie writers and illustrators who are just glad to see their work in print.
I’ve just had a short story accepted by Spider, and slated for their 2023 July/August issue. While I’d love the publication on my CV — it would be my first published short story — this makes me very leery. I can’t afford a contract lawyer to go over the contract with me (I’ve always done that for previous projects), and it sounds like even if I had one Cricket Media may not hold to what we agree to. I’m not sure what to do.
I think you’re right to be concerned. Cricket’s issues aren’t just that they are unreliable about paying, but that their contracts give them a huge amount of latitude on timing (the 12-month payment window)–something that IMO would be problematic even if they met their own timelines. The best I can suggest, if you decide to sign the contract, is to be pro-active and persistent if you encounter problems.
They’re sending me a contract “soon,” which I’ll go over with a fine-toothed comb. At this point I’m willing to go ahead. They’re also considering a second story of mine. Whether or not they accept it, I have no plans to submit anything more to them. Which is a pity, the magazines are still lovely and have fairly high standards. There’s nothing else like them for children’s short stories.
Which I think is one of the things they count on to shield them from repercussions and keep people submitting–despite the well-known payment issues that they do not appear to be interested in addressing. It’s really a shame.
I received my contract. In a reply, I drew their attention to this line:
“2. Cricket Media agrees to compensate You with a one-time payment of [ amount ] and You agree to accept such compensation as full consideration for the rights granted herein.”
I asked for a payment window. I was told:
“Regarding your inquiry about the payment window, I regret to inform you that we are not able to specify a payment schedule in the agreement at this time.
“I understand that payment details are an important aspect of any agreement, and I’m sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. Unfortunately, due to certain unforeseeable circumstances, the company is currently unable to make any assurances about a specific payment schedule.
“We assure you that we are doing everything in our power to address the situation and to process payments as quickly and efficiently as possible. We value our partnership with you, and we are committed to finding a solution that works for both parties.”
I was not happy in the least, but sad to say I wasn’t surprised, due to other contributors’ experiences.
I weighed the pros and cons. I decided that since it has always been a dream of mine to have a story in Cricket or Spider, and that this was the first short story I ever submitted and it was accepted the first time out, that I would risk never being paid in order to have this gig on my CV, for when I begin querying agents for a middle-grade novel I’m writing.
However, I immediately withdrew another story CM was considering. I informed them that I would never again submit anything to them, and that I would warn others about the unlikelihood of being paid, and of CM using their work in other ways in other media, without further compensation and possibly without further acknowledgment.
Here is most of the contract. I’m sharing it for writers who are considering submitting to Cricket Media. As most Intellectual Property attorneys would tell you, this is not good. I’ve added arrows to highlight the more questionable parts.
1. You hereby grant to Cricket Media and its Affiliates (as defined below in Paragraph 11) a non-exclusive (except with respect to the rights in Paragraph 1a) license in the Work and the copyrights corresponding thereto that allows Cricket Media and its Affiliates:
a. the right to be the first to publish the Work, or any part thereof, anywhere in the world in any language or in any manner and to be the sole publisher of the Work or any part thereof for a period of sixty (60) days after such first publication;
>>>> b. the unlimited right to reprint all or any part of the Work in any manner, volume, anthology, publication, language, or format for sale or otherwise; [ without further compensation ]
>>>> c. the unlimited right to reproduce, distribute, or display the Work on electronic databases, online networks, interactive multimedia, digital-based media, or other electronic systems or mediums now existing or developed in the future;
>>>> d. the right to license the Work on a non-exclusive basis to any third party that is not a commercial stock art system or company and convey the rights granted to Cricket Media to any such third party;
>>>> e. the right to make, produce, sell, or to otherwise use in all respects the Work or any part of the Work in a derivative work;
f. the right to reproduce or otherwise use, in any manner, the Work, or any part thereof, in promotions, advertising, documentaries, or in any other form or format where the Work is not offered for sale but is, instead, used to promote the Work itself or the publication containing the Work; and
a. the right to use Your name, biography, comments, and/or likeness, in printed, audio, video, or other format, in connection with the publication, display and/or promotion of the Work. (Contributors within the United States will receive two complimentary copies of any printed issue in which the Work appears upon publication. Contributors outside the United States will receive a digital copy of any printed issue in which the Work appears upon publication.)
>>>> 2. Cricket Media agrees to compensate You with a one-time payment of $209 and You agree to accept such compensation as full consideration for the rights granted herein. [ no payment window ]
3. If known, the Work is expected to be published in the [ date ] issue of [periodical ] magazine. If publication of the Work is unscheduled at the time of signing this contract, Cricket Media will attempt to advise You as to when the Work will be published. However, failure of Cricket Media to inform You of an expected publication date shall not invalidate or otherwise modify this binding contract.
4. You will retain any copyrights and other rights in the Work, subject to the rights You have granted to Cricket Media. If requested by You in writing, Cricket Media will display the appropriate copyright notice in connection with any publication or other display of the Work or any part thereof. [ I did this. ]
5. Cricket Media shall have the right to review the Work for accuracy, appropriateness, and quality and the right to edit, modify, revise, animate, and adapt the Work, or request that You edit, modify, revise, or adapt the Work, as determined in the sole discretion of Cricket Media, without payment of any additional compensation.
6. If the Work is artwork or other pictorial material, You agree to be bound by the general artwork specification as set forth by Cricket Media in the commissioning of the Work. Any original, physical artwork will be returned to You, if requested in writing. If Cricket Media determines that artwork or pictorial material cannot be reasonably modified but, instead, determines in its sole discretion that the quality or appropriateness of the Work is unsuitable for publication or use, the compensation set forth in Paragraph 2 will be reduced by fifty percent (50%) and if it has already been paid to You, then fifty percent (50%) will
be returned by You to Cricket Media.
7. You warrant that the Work is original; that it has not been published previously in any form; that You have full rights and power to make this agreement; that neither the Work nor any part of it (unless specifically identified) is in the public domain; that neither the Work nor any part of it is copyrighted by a third party or possibly infringes on a third party’s copyright or other rights; and that the Work does not invade a third party’s right of privacy.
8. You also warrant that You are the exclusive owner of the Work and any copyrights therein and that no third party has any rights in, to, or arising out of the Work that require a separate license for Cricket Media to use and enjoy the rights being conveyed hereunder.
9. You agree to indemnify and hold harmless Cricket Media, and its assigns and licensees, from and against any and all loss, damage or expense, including court costs and attorneys’ fees, that Cricket Media and/or its assigns and licensees may suffer as a result of a breach or an alleged breach of this agreement, including any breach of the warranties set forth in Paragraphs 7 and 8 or as a result of claims of any kind or nature resulting from any manner of use of the Work.
10. The representations, warranties, and indemnities in Paragraphs 7, 8, and 9 shall survive any termination of this Agreement.
11. For purposes of this Agreement, Affiliates means: (i) any individual or entity that directly or indirectly controls, is controlled by or is under common control with Cricket Media; or (ii) a joint venture between Cricket Media and a third party or a joint venture between an entity that is under common control with Cricket Media and third party. As used in this definition, “control” means either (a) the ownership of nineteen (19%) or more of an entity’s voting securities, or (b) the ability, through ownership of voting securities, contract or otherwise, to determine an entity’s operating activities.
12. This License is governed by the laws and in the state and federal courts of the State of Illinois and both parties waive any objections to the personal jurisdiction and venue of such courts. Except to an entity that is a parent, subsidiary, or Affiliate, neither party may assign any of its rights under the Agreement without the prior written consent of the other party. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Cricket Media may assign its entire interest in this Agreement to an entity into which it has merged, or an entity to which substantially all of a party’s assets or equity are sold.
Personally, I wish no one else submits work to Cricket Media until all contributors who have not been paid are, and until Cricket Media puts a payment window in their contract. They are currently making their living off the hard work of we writers and artists. If we turned off the creative tap enough, even altogether, their periodicals will suffer from lack of material to fill their pages, and possibly from a significant drop in the quality of the works submitted.
I second what Alan Mark just commented above, almost identical issue – I have worked for Carus, now Cricket, it was always slow but not it’s terrible, I have also not received payment in 2 years, I’m thinking of taking legal action now, what do you recommend Victoria?
Legal action is expensive (there’s some info and resource suggestions in the Legal Recourse section of the Writer Beware website), but it’s possible you might not have to go beyond a warning letter. Given how extensive this problem seems to be, I wonder if there isn’t the potential for some sort of joint action–not a class action lawsuit necessarily, but a group of writers/illustrators banding together to seek representation collectively and sharing costs.
Another idea, if you’re a member of a professional organization: there may be a grievance committee that could intercede, or a legal advice service that could assess your options. The Authors Guild and the National Writers’ Union both offer such resources.
On a broader note…if you’re a member of SCBWI, I think it would make sense to lobby for this as an issue for the organization to get involved in. Cricket obviously doesn’t care if it’s outed by small potatoes like Writer Beware, but having a major writers’ and illustrators’ group take it to task might have an impact.
The SCBWI recently mentioned the problems with Cricket: https://www.scbwi.org/creator-beware-payment-problems-about-at-cricket-media/
Do you know when this was published? (There’s no date on it.) Thanks.
There was a link to the article in my SCBWI Winter Insider PRO newsletter, which I received on Fri, Dec 16.
Thanks. My post was written in mid-November; it appears they spoke with some of the same writers who contacted me. I reached out to SCBWI about this issue, but they didn’t respond.
Yes I worked with a company that was working on licensing basically their entire catalog so that they could turn it into a monthly subscription for an unlimited
Amount of users. The fact that they are reselling the entirety of the work and still not even compensating the illustrators and writers for their paltry sums is astonishing.
I have worked for Carus Publishing and then Cricket Media many times over a long career. The magazines have always been good. Payment was sometimes slow but not a huge problem. Now I am owed money for work done nearly three years ago. The current situation with payment is unsustainable, and an insult to writers and illustrators. I have written to Alex Wang, who, I believe, is the CEO but have never had a reply. Does anyone have any other contact details?
Please email me. email@example.com
They are awful to writers and artists. The owners are billionaires!!!! (Miles Gilburne & Nina Zolt https://cricketmedia.com/board-of-directors/) Get their attention, shame them online!!!! #payusmiles #payusnina #payuscricketmediainc
I was published by one of these magazines years ago, and it was no secret even back then that they were slow to pay. I think I had to nudge once or twice, but I did get paid eventually. Sad that the problem has apparently never been fixed.
Thank you for this detailed information!
I was told payment would be made six to eight months after publication when I illustrated a piece for Ladybug earlier this year. It will be eight months in a couple of weeks and I expect I will have to inquire about payment. I’m wondering what the response will be…
I would assume that a “recurring payment schedule flow” would mean they want to pay out in smaller installments instead of everything at once. In that way they could pay out the same amount of money but over a longer period of time. But if they’re still taking submissions it seems like that would only keep aggravating the problem. It sounds like they need a complete pause on submissions until they can catch up on paying authors. That or they need a big influx of revenue/capital.
FINALLY!!! I had this problem nine years ago when they published my story in the January 2013 (“The Penguin Whisperer”) issue of CRICKET. After two months, I emailed both the editorial department and the business office and got no response. I finally, reluctantly, asked the editor I worked with if they could do anything. I DID get paid several weeks later, but that editor is gone now and I have never had a story accepted there since (I’d had two others in CRICKET and one in CICADA after my initial publication in 1997 — excluding “Penguin”. All these years, I just thought it was me…