When Editors Hold Articles Hostage

Hi Angela –

I was given your name on Linked-In regarding advice about editors reneging on agreements. I am a British writer and two years ago had a pitch accepted by a Canadian magazine, wrote it and sent photos as specified. I was given a series of publication delays, then nothing. I followed it up to more or less a dead end and the editor had left. It is possible she and others are still out there, continuing to make false promises for their convenience.

I now have three pieces that have been awaiting publication for several months – around £1000 worth. One has to speculate on new markets and is reluctant to insist on contracts, prepayment, etc. but this is a source of concern. The material is tied up and responses are vague. How far can one go with demanding a better deal? I understand the pressures editors are under but, after the above project failing, I am wary of more wasted time and effort. This behaviour seems rude and an abuse of power and trust.

Best regards


I always tell writers to demand a clause like this in their pay-on-publication contracts:

Payment due on publication, or by mm/dd/yy, whichever comes first. 

Choose a reasonable date, no more than 90 days after submission. Any editor who refuses to sign such a reasonable clause should be avoided. You can bet they don’t have to wait 90+ days to get their paycheck and I doubt they give their advertisers 90+ days of credit!

Unfortunately, it’s not unheard of in the industry for editors to hold articles hostage in this fashion. Only when writers demand different contract terms (like the one above) will these publications change the way they do business.

Have a question for Angela? Contact us here.