May 24, 2006
Top 10 Signs You've Been Scammed Into Writing for Free By Angela Hoy | printable version
I receive complaints about unscrupulous publishers daily. Sometimes, it's hard to tell if you're being scammed or not. Today, I thought I'd share some common excuses we see for non-payment. In all cases below, if the writer had obtained a contract, they'd have had an easier time securing payment.
10. "I've run out of money and I can't pay your bill. Can I offer you free ad space instead?"
9. "I never received a contract from you, so I don't have to pay you anything." (We actually read one email from a publisher that called a writer "sucker" because they'd worked without a contract!)
8. "Your writing isn't what I expected and, while we did have to use the material because we were in a hurry, we're certainly not going to pay for it."
7. The writing you submitted was just a sample. Somebody else did a better job so we're going to use his/her submission instead." (This, too, is a common scam in the industry. The publisher/business owner pretends they're hiring you but they actually have several writers working on the same project simultaneously. They will, likely, never pay anyone for the work done and they may, in fact, use all submissions, unbeknownst to the writers.
6. "We've changed our editorial focus/editorial calendar and are no longer in need of your article. Sorry..." (If the writer had obtained a contract that stated pays on acceptance, or demanded they pay within a certain time-frame, regardless of date of publication, they'd still be entitled to payment.)
5. "I am out of business and can't pay my bills." (You often find these jokers setting up new websites the next day, hiring writers again, shutting down, starting over yet again, etc.)
4. "I never said when I would pay you so I don't owe you anything yet." (Never assume you're going to get paid when someone doesn't give a firm dollar amount up front.)
3. "Yes, I know I owe you money, but you're just going to have to wait until I can pay you." (They then give excuses for months or years.)
2. "I was going to pay you, but you got hostile so I've decided not to. And if you post your complaints on the Internet, I'll sue you." (Please don't fall for this common scare tactic!)
And the #1 Sign You've Been Scammed Into Writing for Free
1. "I (or my child, spouse, parent, sister, etc.) have been diagnosed with cancer (or insert your favorite deadly disease here) and have had to put this project on hold. I will contact you at a later date." (And, of course, you never hear from them again. Most writers assume the person has died. However, this is a common scam.)
NEVER, EVER WRITE WITHOUT A CONTRACT, even if you have to create one yourself!