We recently ran a warning under WritersWeekly Whispers and Warnings about an individual who owed a writer money. It wasn’t a huge sum, but enough to feed a small family for a month or so. Shortly after the warning ran, I started receiving a string of emails from this individual (I’ll call him Deadbeat Dan). The emails were poorly written, almost illegible because of the spelling errors. I couldn’t believe this person supposedly published a line of magazines. One funny thing about his emails is that he inserted a copyright statement under his letters. That made us laugh out loud. I guess he’d never heard of paraphrasing and I guess he figured we’d never be able to share his words with our readers if he copyrighted his “work.”
Anyway, Deadbeat Dan never disputed the fact that he owed anybody money. He just said that I couldn’t get in the middle of disputes like that. He apparently assumed that I had posted the complaint on the website myself. But, as I explained to him, forum users can post directly to the forum and the posts appear instantly online. I even explained to him how to post to the forum so he could post a rebuttal. He never acknowledged that part of my email.
A few weeks later, I received a certified letter from an attorney (it, too contained a copyright statement!). Deadbeat Dan had hired an attorney in the state of Maine just to try to strong-arm us into removing the post. Wow, that must have cost a lot of money! Our attorney (I’ll call him Halo Harry) assured us the lawfirm Deadbeat Dan hired was a reputable one…but we started having doubts about the attorney working for Deadbeat Dan (I’ll call him Gullible Gary). And it was disturbing that Deadbeat Dan was willing to pay an attorney considerably more than he owed that writer! What was going on?
The letters started flying back and forth between Halo Harry, and Gullible Gary. It was obvious that Gullible Gary didn’t understand how Internet forums work. We sent him a very detailed letter explaining exactly what had occurred and thought that would be the end of it. Surely if Gullible Gary understood exactly what had happened, he’d tell Deadbeat Dan to jump in a lake.
But, no, Gullible Gary fired a letter back, saying our letter proved his point and that he was right, we were wrong, and that we had to remove the post.
No, Gullible Gary, YOU are wrong and we explained why once again. During that time, we also divulged that we had been contacted by another one of Deadbeat Dan’s alleged victims. We thought certainly Gullible Gary, since he was with a reputable and large law firm, would start to see the light. If his client had two people complaining they were owed money, and if both parties had agreed to speak with him directly about their problems collecting, certainly there must be something that Deadbeat Dan wasn’t telling him?
Even though we’d provided Gullible Gary with names, addresses and phone numbers of the two alleged victims, he continued to send letters, not even mentioning those victims, just repeating his allegations and threats. I contacted the first victim and asked him to intervene, to contact Gullible Gary directly to discuss the problem. He was happy to do so. He called and left a message on Gullible Gary’s voice mail stating his name, that Deadbeat Dan owed him money, and also explaining that he had posted the message to WritersWeekly Whispers & Warnings, and repeating that I myself had not personally done so.
I spoke to the writer a week later and Gullible Gary had still not returned his call. The writer followed up with a letter to Gullible Gary. No response. And, the threatening letters to us stopped. I can only guess that one of two things happened. Either Gullible Gary finally saw the light and realized his client was a true deadbeat, or perhaps Gullible Gary turned into another one of Deadbeat Dan’s victims…meaning Deadbeat Dan didn’t pay his legal bill. We assumed that would happen all along. I hope Gullible Gary learned a lesson from all of this. I certainly did.
I learned that some deadbeats won’t pay a small invoice from a writer but they’ll gladly spent thousands to threaten innocent people. I learned that lawyers get lied to everyday and I wonder if they ignore those lies just to charge one more hour to their clients. And I learned that, even though it might be easier to give in to a mean person’s demands, sometimes you have to be willing to pay your own Halo Harry to defend you. Doing the right thing is expensive sometimes, but it’s the right thing to do.
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of Booklocker.com, Inc., an author-friendly POD publisher that takes no rights, pays high royalties on a monthly basis, and treats authors like people, not numbers. Booklocker.com is happy to work with the parents of child authors! She also publishes WritersWeekly.com, the free marketing emag for writers, offering paying markets and freelance jobs every Wednesday at no charge.
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