The Squawking Bird Gets the First Payment!

Dear Angela,

First, thank you for your commitment to writers and your hard work on our behalf. I’m a long-time subscriber in Canada and eagerly await each issue of WritersWeekly.

By always reading Whispers and Warnings, I’ve avoided some problem publishers.

A publishing firm owes me payment for a British-English copy edit completed in late August. On 23 September 2008 I sent an invoice for an American-English copy edit. Those are the only jobs I’ve done for the firm.

The evening of 24 September, the firm sent me the email pasted in below this note. I suspect the email is a form-letter response to my second invoice and that the same email is going out to all freelance editors owed payment. That could be a substantial number, or it could be a dozen; I don’t know how large the firm’s freelance stable is. I’m overdue getting US $368, significant for me, but what should be a paltry amount for a firm that advertises itself as working with writers worldwide.

The email’s attempts to be soothing and its “regret” for “not writing sooner” when I hadn’t yet queried non-payment of my first invoice suggests that it is meant to pacify those who’ve already complained.


Subject: Late payments
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2008 15:52:07 -0500

I apologize for not contacting you earlier about late payments. While we attempt to mail paychecks to freelancers about two weeks from when they submit their invoices, because of late payments from our clients, we cannot always do so. Recent economic problems are further causing our clients to delay their checks to us….

(Remainder of email removed by WritersWeekly.)

Here is the sequence of events:

On 28 August 2008 I completed a copy edit for the firm and invoiced it US $368.00.

By early September, I was deep into the second edit. Bound and determined to meet the deadline, I barely paused to eat or sleep. In consequence, I didn’t write the firm to ask where the first check was. More fool me.

Yesterday, I rechecked the stack of paperwork I got when I signed on as a freelancer (June 2008) and found that the pay policy, dated 15 January 2005, says, “ALL freelance checks will be mailed the second Tuesday following the end of the freelance pay period.” Nowhere does the pay policy state what the “freelance pay period” is, clearly a point I should’ve noted and queried before I took the first job.

On 23 September 2008, I completed my second edit for the firm and invoiced it for US $639.00.

I’m pretty sure that (the POD publisher’s) clients pay in advance; if not, I very much doubt that it provides service without at least a hefty deposit.

That the firm “hopes” to pay “soon” and “in a timely way” leaves me sputtering.

I’ve drafted an email to the owner, stating that while I can sympathize with the problem of late-paying clients, I need to know when the firm is going to mail me the check for each invoice. I’m letting that email sit in the draft box overnight will look at again before sending it. Tonight, I’m too knackered to be sure that it’s what needs to be sent.

I don’t think I have enough at this point to ask Whispers and Warnings to intervene. I would be grateful if you could suggest any steps I should take besides emailing the publisher and asking for the dates on which I can expect payment for the two invoices.


In situations like these, the bird with the loudest squawk gets the worm (the check). If you want to be the first in line for payment, you need to start squawking very, very loudly.

Please read my article, More Than One Way to Expose a Deadbeat, here:

Lots of readers have used the advice there to get paid quickly.