These days, publishers and editors can be pretty creative when coming up with reasons to not pay writers. We’ve heard it all at WritersWeekly.com Warnings!
“That article was horrible. Sure, I ran it, but my readers hated it. So, I’m not paying!”
“Yeah, I published it, but the article was two days late. That’s a violation of contract, so I’m not paying for it.”
“I don’t have any money so I don’t have to pay you.”
“This is a non-profit organization. We’ve decided to stop paying writers.”
“The editor is in the hospital and the payment is being sorted out.”
“I was in the hospital.”
“My dog was in the hospital.”
“My aunt is on her death bed and I can’t do anything until she passes.”
“We never sent you a contract, so we don’t have to pay.”
“I filed for bankruptcy. Now I don’t have to pay you!”
“Sure, I sent a contact, but I never signed it!”
“I’m broke. Can’t I just send you a free book or something?”
“I’ll pay you half your invoice. Take it or leave it.”
“Yeah, I owe you money, but if you say anything about me online, I’ll sue you.”
Some publishers even include a clause in their contract that states the writer has to sue them in the publisher’s state for any grievance. Some say the writer has to attend mediation in the publisher’s state before they can sue. This usually means the writer has to travel in order to collect or sue, which pretty much eliminates your chances of ever getting paid.
Think it’s impossible to get revenge and your money? Think again!
Print this article and hang it by your desk. The next time an editor hassles you about payment, do these things:
Let’s face it. Email goes awry. People get sick. Building burn down. Things do happen. Before you take drastic collection efforts, send a certified letter to the editor. Five days later, email that letter to as many email addresses at the company as you can find. To get a firm’s mailing address and even an alternative email address, look at their website or search for their domain at:
Include a note telling the editor that if you don’t hear from them about this matter within 10 business days, you’re going to do the following:
Report them to the Attorney General’s office in their state. It is best to name the attorney general in the letter. You can find a listing of all the attorney generals at: http://www.co.eaton.mi.us/ecpa/proslist.htm
Report them to the Better Business Bureau. Reports can be filed online. You can find a list of BBB sites at:
Report them to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center (only if they owe you $5K or more). See: http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp
Report them to the National Writer’s Union (you must be a member). See: http://www.nwu.org/alerts/alrthome.htm
Report them to the Absolute Write Bewares Board at:
CONTACT THE PUBLICATION’S ADVERTISERS: A publication’s advertisers are their main source of financial survival. When a media giant (television show, magazine, etc.) does something to harm their reputation, advertisers start pulling the plug to distance themselves from the offender. This works with small publication, too! If a publisher owes you money, their advertisers deserve to know what type of publication they’re attaching their product’s name to.
USING EMAIL BOMBS AS COLLECTION TOOLS: Awhile back (several months ago), we ran a letter here about email bombs that was quite a hit. What’s an email bomb? If a publication owes you money and refuses to pay, have everyone you know on every writing list send that editor an email that says,
“Please pay [insert your name here].”
And, have them sign their name with “Freelance Writer” after it. This way, the editor knows that word about their unethical, non-payment practices has gotten around online to thousands of freelance writers. And, they will usually pay you quickly in an attempt to save their already quite tarnished reputation. This drastic yet very effective method usually works.
Join some of the largest freelance writing discussion lists and post messages about the firm to warn other writers about that firm!
One of the largest usenet groups is:
An excellent group is MomWriters at:
More lists can be found at:
Report them to WritersWeekly Warnings. See:
For illustrative purposes, I’m going to pretend the publication is in New York City.
New York, NY 99999
(You can usually find this info. on their website, in their publication, or at:
This letter serves as written notice that your firm owes me $________ and is ignoring my emails. If I do not hear from you within 10 business days concerning this matter, I will be forced to notify the following:
1. Eloit Spitzer, New York State Attorney General
Department of Law – The Capitol / 2nd Floor
Albany, NY 12224
2. BBB of Metropolitan New York
257 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010 -7384
3. FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center
4. WritersWeekly.com Warnings
WritersWeekly is the largest freelance writing ezine in the world serving 67,000 freelancers every Wednesday. Their warnings page has successfully put deadbeat publishers out of business. http://www.writersweekly.com/warnings/warnings.html
5. National Writer’s Union
6. Absolute Write Bewares Board
7. Your advertisers
[Insert a brief list of the biggest advertisers/partners you find on their website or in their print publication.]
8. My peers
There are hundreds of thousands of writers online that can easily be accessed within one hour by the click of my mouse.
Remember…when an editor owes you money and ignores your letters and emails, they are WRONG. They are unprofessional deadbeats and the freelance community deserves to know about their actions!
Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com, a FREE emag for writers featuring freelance jobs and new paying markets, and Booklocker.com, an epublisher that helps self-published authors turn their books into a business.