DISCLAIMER: Many deadbeats use legal threats and intimidation to try to scare their victims. These bullying tactics are common when you’re dealing with psychotic, anti-social crooks. While anybody can sue anybody for anything these days, you should remember that they would have to open all their books in the event of a lawsuit and many deadbeats don’t want to do this. In addition, they would likely have to sue you in your own state. And, defamation lawsuits are hard to prove and may be very expensive, especially if they are out of state. Ironically, some deadbeats would rather pay their attorney thousands than pay a writer the hundreds they legitimately owe. But, their legal hot air is usually just that – hot air. You may want to consult an attorney if you plan to take the action below against the deadbeat. We aren’t attorneys and none of this should be considered legal advice.
In January, 2005, I published what would soon become one of my most popular articles, Deadbeat Editor Giving You The Run-Around?. I later heard from dozens of writers who used the advice in that article to collect money from deadbeat editors and publishers.
There have been lots of updates online, of course, and today I am adding a supplement to that article.
So, someone (a deadbeat!) owes you (your grocery money!) and you aren’t having any luck collecting? Are you truly, rightfully owed the money and is this deadbeat being a total jerk, even threatening to sue you if you tell anybody about your experiences (trying to frighten you into silence)? Is he/she trying to accuse you of being a crappy writer (a common excuse), telling you the situation is somehow all your fault (denial… denial… denial…), arguing that email correspondence can’t be considered a real contract (an ignorant deadbeat), or even claiming he already sent the check and that it’s not his fault you didn’t get it (uh huh)? Maybe he even sent you a letter laced with legalese, perhaps even sent from a real (or fake) attorney?
Well, there are ways to make a publisher pay, if not in money, in embarrassment. If someone owes you money and you have been screwed, it is your right to share your story with others. And, exposing a deadbeat helps your fellow writers avoid this jerk in the future.
If you are owed money by a deadbeat publisher/editor:
1. Read this article, which gives advice on sending one last threatening letter to the deadbeat. This letter as been very helpful to many writers and has resulted in thousands of dollars being paid quickly by deadbeats. It’s HERE.
Warning: If you publish a deadbeat’s emails, they might accuse you of copyright infringement. For that reason, you might want to include this statement in all your correspondence with them: “All correspondence is subject to publication.” You can, of course, paraphrase their emails. I always have fun doing that. Just post the email headers and then type what they said, in your own words, while occasionally quoting them. You can see a fun example of this here: http://forums.writersweekly.com/viewtopic.php?t=6144
Search the page for the word paraphrase to see where it starts.
2. To read about the different types of deadbeats and what might be on their mind about your situation/you, please read Angela’s article, Do You Owe Writers Money? Advice For Deadbeats!, here: http://www.writersweekly.com/the_latest_from_angelahoycom/003628_09132006.html
3. If they ask you to call them, DON’T! Tell them all correspondence must be in writing. A common ploy deadbeats use is to make promises/threats by phone that can’t be proven later. STOP corresponding with them by phone. Period.
4. Give them five business days to respond.
5. If they don’t respond (and even if they do respond and just give you more of the same run-around), compose a short, factual letter about your experience with the deadbeat. Be sure to tell the truth, and only the truth. Hint: The less emotion you portray in your note, the more serious and reliable you will appear. Using profanity, tons of exclamation marks and capital letters will only make you lose credibility. Keep it short and professional. Let the deadbeat’s behavior speak for itself. Include copies of emails under your note that prove your side of the story. (See note about paraphrasing above.)
6. Submit your complaint letter to:
This site is very easy to join and use.
b. AbsoluteWrite.com Bewares and Background Check
This forum is very active and you will likely hear from other victims if you post here.
Contact Victoria Strauss through: http://www.sfwa.org/beware/
e. The Better Business Bureau
You will need the deadbeat’s contact info. They will forward your complaint immediately to the deadbeat and offer them the chance to respond.
f. The attorney general’s office in their state
This is helpful if there are many victims. However, if there are only one or two, the AG will probably not launch an investigation. Google “attorney general” and the name of their state. All the AG offices have websites and most have links where you can instantly file a complaint online.
h. Your own website/blog
g. The FBI Internet Crime Division
Send the links to the posts above to Angela Hoy at:
angela – at – writersweekly.com
You can send them as they are posted. No need to wait and send an entire list
If a deadbeat owes you money, don’t get mad, get….active!
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine 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.
This article may be reprinted/redistibuted freely, as long as the entire article and bio are included.
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At this moment, thousands of would-be authors are slaving away on their keyboards, dreaming of literary success. But their efforts won’t count for much. Of all those manuscripts, trade book editors will sign up only a slim fraction.
And of those titles--ones that that editors paid thousands of dollars to contract, print and publicize--an unhealthy percentage never sell enough copies to earn back their advances. Two years later, most will be out of print!
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