You know, I don’t really understand why some people in the publishing business don’t pay their debts. I’m not talking about the people who are open scammers. I’m referring to the people who start publications that end up underfunded or unsubscripted and, thus, leave writers unpaid.

When an editor runs a story online, in print, or elsewhere, he has to pay for it. Period. End of story. By publishing the story, he has devalued the writer’s only currency. Once the story is published, first rights are gone forever. It takes a writer’s time and energy to create those first rights and he should be compensated if you use them.

Attention deadbeat publishers! Here is a simple plan for getting yourself out of the hole. It’s not easy, but it is doable.

1.STOP INCURRING MORE DEBT WITH WRITERS! Don’t think that publishing more content will draw in more advertisers that will subsequently pay your old freelance bills. You can’t get out of debt by getting more into debt. You’ve exceeded your credit limit You’ve been cut off. Stop hiring people if you already owe other people money!

2.COMMUNICATE THE SITUATION TO YOUR WRITERS! I, personally, am so heavily in debt to various credit card companies, it’s not even funny. My phone doesn’t ring off the hook because I CALL THEM! They don’t need to call me! I have their phone numbers and at least once a week I get on the horn with them to update them on my situation. You should do the same!

3.STOP LIVING LARGE. In one of the writer complaints on the Whispers and Warnings forum, the one about New Mexico Voice (New Mexico Voice), the writer says the editor “was in a restaurant and his words were slurred.” This editor owed this writer just over $500. But, wait. He can go to a nice restaurant but he can’t pay his writer? The restaurant tab probably would have covered one-fifth or more of what he owed her!

I pay pretty much every dime I get to the credit card companies, because I OWE THEM MONEY. I haven’t had takeout in so long, dear God, I salivate when I think about it! I’ve been living on beans, cornbread, mac ‘n cheese, and popcorn…BECAUSE I OWE PEOPLE MONEY AND THEY COME FIRST! I’d kill for some Chinese or a large pepperoni pie but it isn’t in the cards BECAUSE I OWE PEOPLE MONEY! If I can get a grilled cheese sandwich, I’m in heaven! This guy owes more than I do and he’s going to dinner in restaurants.

I just did two loads of laundry yesterday for the first time in two months, because I just barely managed to spare ten bucks for detergent and washer and dryer time. As far as I am concerned, clean laundry = livin’ large. BECAUSE I OWE PEOPLE MONEY. What is so difficult about this? It’s certainly hardscrabble but it isn’t forever…and I am known as someone who keeps his word. Eventually, my FICO score will go up. No problems here, and when I want to buy a home…we’ll see what happens. But, my chances will be much greater because I will have paid off my debts instead of ignoring them.

4.MAKE PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS! Dig this: Offer what you can really afford over time and then PAY IT. If you can offer a writer five bucks a week until the $500 is paid, DO IT. They might not like it at first, but by the third or fourth time a good check arrives in their mailbox every Friday, they’ll be okay with it, trust me. They might even work with you again, because people look at that as a mark of honesty, when people go to any lengths to pay a debt. What makes you think WE should be the ones to get shafted? When you owe money, YOU make sacrifices, not the people you owe money to!

It drives me crazy. Some “editors” owe thousands of dollars and drive sports cars and live in nice apartments in the city. That blows my mind. SELL THE SPORTSCAR and PAY WHAT YOU OWE! Dig it? It’s not rocket science!

“In-Debt Chet” lives in New Jersey and gets along with most editors really well, almost all, in fact, except for the guy who held his article hostage for seven years when he was a newbie. Now he insists on payment on acceptance or “publish or pay by” clauses in his contract. He thinks that’s reasonable. When he’s not on the phone persuading his credit card companies not to break his kneecaps, he’s at his desk writing magazine articles. He’s written for Backpacker, The Fine Tool Journal, Pit and Quarry, The Well Water Journal, Bartender, and many others. He’s partial to guitars and Amtrak. He hopes someday he will be out of debt with his kneecaps intact.