Calling all Ghosts! (Or Why Not a Byline for Medical Writers?)

I’m so excited to be at the American Medical Writers Association Meeting (AMWA) in Washington, DC this week.  As I sat in my first workshop this morning, I could feel the “whizzzz” of smart minds around me, evidenced by the soft clicking of typing fingers like crickets calling to each other on the last warm night of fall.  I wondered: of the tens of thousands of pages created by that room of 20 writers, how many included bylines or acknowledgments crediting my colleagues?

At the Adobe Learning Summit earlier this month in Las Vegas, it was great to be among talented content developers and to learn Adobe Captivate 2019. During his closing address, Adobe Senior Product Manager, Tridib Roy Chowdry talked about what learning professionals can leverage from pop culture. He reminded us that people learn most easily when they are engaged and having fun.

At one point, Chowdry looked out into the audience of over a thousand instructional designers and asked, “How many of you create content or write copy for adult learning?”  Almost everyone either raised their hands or nodded. “How many of you are named or given credit for the content you create?” Only a handful of people raised their hands.  Chowdry challenged the audience to find new ways to include instructional designers, writers, and other creative professionals in the credits of their eLearning.

For years, agencies have played a shell game with freelance and internal medical writing talent. Often afraid to admit to clients that a writer is a contractor, they’d pretend the writer is staff or assign a manager or editor to represent the work to the client.  Years ago, for an agency that no longer exists, I was on the phone with the MD who “wrote” a monograph listening silently and texting him the answers about why I wrote the content. The thing is: many of the best writers and creatives are consultants.  The best writers deliver great copy and meet aggressive deadlines, and then take a break. They take the risk of not having a salary or benefits because they can make 2-3 times what a salaried writer makes and set their own schedule.

Many medical writers create 1,000 of pages of content and never receive a byline.  Medical illustrators spend their careers creating art and never sign their names. I’ve listened as a physician or attorney takes credit for a writer’s work and on the other hand, sat on review calls where no one took responsibility for the copy created. I’ve seen poor writers paid excessively for mediocre work because of multiple revisions, while excellent writers are paid less because they knocked it out of the park in one draft.

If writers and creative talent are compensated appropriately, why does it matter?  At Alphie, writers and SME reviewers both receive credit and take responsibility for the content they create.  Our goal is to hire the best person to help create the content and to give them credit.

Medical writers and creative professionals: if you feel like it’s time to be credited for your work, send me a message! Let’s roll up our sleeves and create content we’re proud to put our names on!

Ann Hill