Dealing with Late (or Missing) Payments

Q: If a writer has jumped through all the hoops (finished the assignment, submitted a proper invoice, etc.) and is not being paid, what steps should he take before resorting to having a lawyer write a letter or taking their case to small claims court, etc. —Anonymous

A: Always contact the editor first (second and third) and try to work through the issue. Editors typically aren’t out to stiff you. Many of them have been on the freelance side of things, too, so they know how important it is to get you your money. Sometimes it’s as simple as the editor nudging the accounting department.

Also, don’t forget to carefully read your contract. Accounting departments differ with each publisher—some pay 30 days from the day the invoice is submitted, some pay 60 days from the publication date of your piece. Be sure that the proper time period (plus an additional two weeks) has passed before raising the red flag. And remain calm, cool and collected when you send your “checking in” e-mail.

If e-mails or phone calls go unreturned, or the editor can’t offer a resolution or an acceptable explanation as to why it’s taking so long, then it’s time to contact a lawyer—and the Better Business Bureau. Keep in mind, once you do that you’ve burned that bridge with that editor/publisher once and for all, and you may not want to do that. But if they weren’t paying you to begin with, what did you really lose?

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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0 thoughts on “Dealing with Late (or Missing) Payments

  1. cindy

    i need help, i’m in total shock. i have just got ripped off. i am a writer who has been published in a popular magazine previously. i have also been rejected many times. however, i mailed a story to a magazine, who would not respond back to me, nor would they respond to my follow up letter, and now i found out why. they stole my article idea and published it under someone elses name. i’m just so shocked that a professional magazine would do this and i’m not sure what to do about this, i don’t have alot of knowledge and i’m only beginning. this has scared me enough to stop attempting to publish my work. thank you so much for your time and help.