ATTENTION DEADBEAT PUBLISHERS: Trying to Threaten Your Victims Into Silence DOES NOT WORK!

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Every once in awhile, I write an article with the sole purpose of having a place to send people later on, when a specific situation arises. This one’s for the deadbeats who try to silence their victims.

If you’ve ever threatened to expose a publisher for non-payment, you’ve probably heard this one.

I’ve heard it from dozens of deadbeats: “If you publish a negative report about us online, people will stop doing business with us and then we’ll never be able to pay our bills!”

Their victims have heard it all, too. “Since you reported me to WritersWeekly Whispers and Warnings, nobody else will send me money so it’s your own fault I can’t pay you or anybody else! You did this to yourself!!”

In their own “victim mentality”, some deadbeats apparently fail to see the big picture (or they’re trying to shut freelancers up just long enough for them to grab the last of the money and run).

Here’s the big picture:

1. IF YOU CAN’T PAY PAST FREELANCERS, STOP HIRING NEW ONES!

Many deadbeats keep hiring more people, which just creates additional victims. Their past victims, in speaking up, are the ones who are bravely alerting potential future victims. Freelancers are a tight-knit bunch and we absolutely let each other know who to avoid at all costs, regardless of your threats.

Continuing to hire people and promising the same old payment terms, when you know you can’t (or won’t) pay them on time, is fraud.

2. ADVERTISERS TALK TO WRITERS, AND VICE-VERSA

While a deadbeat may be upset that their potential advertisers won’t be sending them any money, we see the warning as an opportunity to protect businesses from throwing their money at a deadbeat who may very well go out of business before their ad is ever published. Advertisers like writers and writers like advertisers. If a writer completes an advertorial for your advertiser, yet you don’t pay that writer, don’t think they’re not going to speak up. Likewise, if an advertiser pays you, yet you lie to writers, telling them they didn’t, your advertiser is going to hear about your lie from your writers.

If a publisher is stealing from Peter, not paying Paul, and hoping nobody’s connecting behind the scenes, they’re a fool.

An attorney for a notorious deadbeat actually warned me that WritersWeekly Whispers and Warnings was preventing her client from collecting advertising dollars and, thus, paying the very freelancers who turned her in for non-payment. It was clear the attorney knew her client was going out of business, and had no intention of paying anybody (while she kept collecting advertising dollars from unsuspecting businesses). Maybe the attorney hoped her bill would get paid if the publisher kept the scam running long enough. We saw right through that one! (Writers, never assume a publisher’s attorney has your best interests at heart, nor that they have any intention of getting you paid.)

3. INVESTORS SHOULD ALSO BE WARNED TO AVOID A DYING COMPANY!

Many publishers blame their own investors for leaving them high and dry. They then claim to be soliciting new investors, hoping to silence their victims for a bit longer. If they haven’t been successful in running the business thus far, why would any investor want to give them more money to waste? It seems some owners of dying businesses consider new investors the source of their last paycheck.

Continuing to solicit new advertisers and/or investors in an attempt to pay off old debts is like using a credit card to pay off another credit card. If you chase your own tail enough, you’re eventually going to bite it off.

4. PAY YOUR VICTIMS FIRST AND YOURSELF LAST

Yes, I’ve heard of deadbeats who pad their own pockets with their advertising and investor victims’ money on their way out the door, ignoring their freelancers’ and employees’ pleas for past-due payments. Your name will absolutely get published online if you do this and any future employer / investor / partner will be able to easily learn about your actions using their favorite search engine.

5. DON’T BLAME YOUR VICTIMS FOR YOUR OWN FAILURE

This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway. If you’ve failed to accumulate enough working capital to stay in business, and if you’ve failed to create a publication that attracts enough readers to entice paying advertisers (of if you’ve lied about your circulation to attract advertisers), and if you continue to hire new people without paying the old, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Trying to pin your failures on innocent freelancers is laughable and will only raise their hackles, making them even more likely to expose your deeds.

If you feel your business going under, it’s best to cut your (and your victims’) losses quickly, and to bow out in the beginning, with your reputation intact. Be honest with your victims. Get a real job and pay them back over time, according to a written, signed payment plan. And, stick with it!

If you hire people, knowing you can’t pay them, and if you collect money from investors and/or advertisers, knowing you’re going out of business anyway, you’re running a scam. In the age of the Internet, any activities on your part that may be considered dishonest or downright illegal will all be listed alongside your name, online, forever. And, if you leave enough victims in your wake, law enforcement will get involved and you might just find yourself wearing jail jammies someday.

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing emag for writers that features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is one of the top-rated POD publishers in the industry.