Add A “Publish-By-Or-Pay” Clause To Your “Pays On Publication” Contracts


A publication pays upon publication. Now, it could be months before they publish the piece…but in the meantime, they don’t pay the writer, but have yet to publish the work after three or so months.

Is the pub considered a deadbeat in your view ONLY IF they publish the work and don’t pay?

Please advise.


This is a very common problem in our industry.

If a magazine pays on publication, but then holds the article hostage, for lack of a better term, for weeks, months, or even years (yes, that happens all the time), this is grossly unfair to the writer. However, the writer understood the terms of the contract before they did the work so there’s really not much they can do. I tell all writers they should have a publish-by-or-pay clause in their contract.

Add a line to all “pay on publication” contracts that says: Payment will be made upon publication, or by MM/DD/YY, whichever comes first.

The writer could use a date a year from now, or only a few months from now. I would make it no more than 30 days after the publisher believes the piece might run. Any publisher who contests such a reasonable clause should be avoided.