Report: #936692

Complaint Review: Wil Byers

  • Submitted: Tue, September 04, 2012
  • Updated: Thu, October 04, 2012
  • Reported By: Textie — United States of America
  • Wil Byers
    5790 W Van Giesen St
    West Richland, Washington
    United States of America

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Wil Byers and I communicated by email last summer regarding my writing for his magazine Inland NW (formerly known as Mid-Columbian). Byers publishing line also includes RC Sport Flyer Magazine. I advised Byers that my standard rate per word was 25-50 cents per word, but he told me that he told me he paid 20 cents a word. I agreed to that rate. Byers e-mailed me a few months later with a list of content that we MUST publish the following year. Such a list is also known in publishing as an editorial calendar. I was directed by Byers and his editor Erica Wolfe to write and provide photos for two articles. The first article, scheduled for their May issue was due February 1st. The second, scheduled for the July issue, was due April 5th. Wolfe noted her credentials as a Brigham Young University alum in her email.

On December 30th, his editor Erica Wolfe e-mailed me to remind me of the February 1st due date for the first article. [continued below]....
..... I replied with additional questions about the article specifications including length and scope, and upon her answers, I worked accordingly. I submitted the first article and dozens of photos in January.  The following week, I e-mailed Wolfe twice for feedback and received no response. I telephoned her in early February and she told me the article was great, needed no corrections and would run in May.

Believing everything was in line for the publication for the first article, I began work on the second feature and submitted it on April 5th. Two days later on April 7th, Wolfe advised me that the first article would not run because we have more content than we can publish and money is tight right now.  This was an article sent to a writers as a MUST publish. She did not explain why, in December, she reminded me of the February due date rather than just cancelling the article, why she didnt cancel the article in January rather than answering my questions. She also did not reveal why, if they were so backlogged on content due to their own disorganization, she didnt simply cancel the second article in February or March, before I began or continued working on it. The first article was an evergreen, meaning its content was not time-sensitive and it could have easily taken the place of the second article.

To date, I have not received payment for either article. I have been a published writer for over a decade and have never encountered another publication that failed to pay for assigned articles written. Apparently the second article did run, although the magazine did not send a copy as is a standard industry courtesy. I spent 33 hours on the first article including research, contacting and interviewing sources, travel to the city in question, visiting venues, sourcing photos and writing the article. I spent 22 hours on the second article including research, contacting sources, travel, touring facilities, sourcing photos and writing the article.  That is a total of 55 hours of unreimbursed work.

 I have been asking for my payment since April by e-mail, telephone and certified mail.  Byers finally replied on August 17 with the claim that Times are tough right now to excuse his lack of payment. Byers has gone on expensive personal trips fairly recently (including China), has recently purchased and upgraded a number of luxury recreational items (motorcycles, expensive car, remote controlled airplanes) and lives in a very upscale property. Lack of finances do not appear to be an issue.

I asked two other writers, both members of the very highly regarded professional group Society of American Travel Writers, about their experiences working for Wil Byers/Kiona Publishing/Mid-Columbian/Inland NW. Each of them have indicated that they are owed several hundreds of dollars for their labor, with one indicating a payment that is over a year overdue. They further advised that Byers also commonly promises one rate of pay when soliciting work from writers, then after the work has been completed and published he will arbitrarily pay the writer a lower rate than promised, that is, if the worker is paid at all.

Last week, I was surprised to receive an unsolicited message from a Mid-Columbian writer who noticed my byline in the magazine. The writer has not been paid for work that appeared in the magazine in 2009, and contacted me to ask if Id had similar problems. Therefore, without aggressive research, I am now aware of three other workers who are experiencing payment problems with Wil Byers and Kiona Publishing.
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#1 Consumer Comment

Wil Byers/ Bess Belleau Byers/ Inland Northwest Magazine

AUTHOR: Chuck Woolson - ()

While the other writers here have been far too tactful, I won't mince words: Wil Byers is an unethical, two-faced liar. He and I specifically discussed dollar amount per story in his office, and then shook hands. When I finally received payment for my assignments, after I sent several invoices to Wil and Bess Belleau Byers, and after much whining on Wil’s part about how much money he's losing on the magazine, the amount was about half of what we had agreed. I strongly urge writers to steer clear of this magazine and both Wil Byers and Bess Belleau Byers.
Byers is lying in his rebuttal that assignments are documented by written contract or email. In fact, he'll do his best to avoid written correspondence so that there isn't a paper trail that can be used against him. If he tries to get you to call him or speak to him in person or over the telephone rather than by email, that's your first clue of what he has planned.
If Byers decides to take the original poster of this complaint to court as he seems to be implying he could do, please contact me. I am happy to share my story, including in court. I also know an attorney who may be helpful. You can reach me through the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.
Chuck Woolson


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#2 Consumer Comment

And now, a warning from a freelance photographer.

AUTHOR: Dave Ronald - ()

Fair warning for writers. As a freelance photographer, I had also payment issues with Byers. He ultimately paid me, although he wanted to trade advertising for my work. Beware the first contract he sends out to photographers - though he denies it, two separate attorneys I hired to look it over agreed it gave him ALL future rights to any images submitted. I received a new, acceptable contract.

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#3 Consumer Comment

Yet another writer with a Wil Byers and Bess Belleau Byers story...


I was one of Byers' first writers. I introduced him to many people in the Yakima area plus wrote a ton of articles. Then the market crashed and Wil became very nasty to me. He even said that the articles I wrote for him were terrible after he had printed them and told me they didn't sell magazines.

I wrote my last articles for him when he still had an editor. She assigned me two articles that I wrote. The first article I wrote featured 15 restaurants, but it was printed with about 24 restaurants, with copy I hadn't written. They did not give me the courtesy to inform me that they were going to drastically change my content. The other article about public art, for which I had consulted with the editor many times over the course of a month, was rejected outright by Wil. When I said I should get a kill fee, I heard nothing. I found out later he hadn't even read the article. Yikes! I don't think he ever read any of my articles. He didn't pay me for these February articles until almost September after many emails and a threatening final letter from me.

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#4 Consumer Comment

Wil Byers


Thank you for sharing this. I make my living as a writer, and in my 18 years of freelance work have never been treated as poorly as I was by the Mid-Columbian, specifically Wil Byers.
I finally was paid for an article I wrote almost a year ago. To complete the article, I went on the road for two days, paying for meals in restaurants I was writing about, and paid for my lodging and and gas. I spent hours tracking down photography for the venues I covered. The check I reveived was for $200, the least I've been paid by a magazine for the word count. It was also less than what I was led to believe would be my compensation. I lost money on the deal, and I don't write for a byline or for the "exposure"; I freelance write to get paid what I am worth.
Additonally, for the same issue, I was assigned an article to create the top ten wine lists in eastern Washington. I was working on numerous other projects at the time, including the release of my book, and recommended a writer for the article that is an expert in the area of wine lists. He agreed to take on the article with a tight deadline, and I agreed to help him round out the copy. I also agreed to track down all the photography for the article.

The piece was beautifully researched, but we had to abort certain restaurants along the way and scramble to find new ones because the editor informed us (after the fact) that they were venues that were already being covered in other articles. The piece never ran. When I asked repeatedly when it would, I was brushed off. You can imagine how relevant those wine lists are now, almost a year later. And, you can imagine how awkward I felt after handing the story over, only to have the writer not end up in print or paid.
Wil Byer's emails and phone conversations were the most unprofessional I have ever experienced in the wacky world of freelance. This experience has left me disappointed in the lack of respect that some editors and publishers have for the talent they are lucky to have access to. The worst part is that while on the road, I spend a great deal of time talking up the magazine to potential advertisers. I'm good at this - I used to sell advertising. I'll happily forward this email to those I spoke to. 
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#5 REBUTTAL Individual responds

Why Not Call Me?

AUTHOR: WilByers - (United States of America)

What I don't understand about this person that has filed this MALICIOUS and VINDICTIVE claim, is why they never called me and talked directly to me. They obviously don't understand how difficult it is to run a small business where the owner is typically wearing lots of hats and juggling lots of tasks trying to complete projects on time and schedule.

I can assure all that read these posts that Kiona Publishing, Inc. is not some huge company with money to burn. To think that this person would stoop so low as to post a photo of me and my daughter and then to follow it up with a photo of the gals from the booth across from mine at the Shanghai Model Expo is just plain beyond pale.

I don't understand either why they don't want to use their real name in this report. Now I refuse to answer any further claims by this individual. It is obvious that they are trying to destroy my GOOD reputation by posting on this site. So, I hope they enjoy themselves from here on out. Any other authors that want to discuss content with me for Inland NW magazine please give me a call.

Wil Byers
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#6 Author of original report

Disappointing rebuttal from Byers.

AUTHOR: End - (United States of America)

Byers' assertion that he was unaware of recurring payment issues at his magazine is disingenuous.  Workers have already directly contacted him, and he has unprofessionally replied to them. 

Indeed, many writers have a habit of retaining data for possible future use, and have saved communications they had directly with Byers regarding assignments and payments. His flippant and callous responses to them are verifiable and accessible.

In addition, reputable publishers keep records that track their editorial calendars, assignments issued, assignments submitted, and payments made to those who completed that work. 

While Byers can make legal threats and allege "SLANDER"--the correct word, if valid, would have been "libel"-- this writer welcomes the opportunity to formally substantiate this complaint. If he believes the criticism is false, or that the grievance should be solely directed at Erica Wolfe, he can utilize this websites arbitration process. Byers should be forewarned, however, that this route could reveal additional problems that were previously concealed.

Per Mr. Byers' offense that Bess Belleau Byers, Vice President and partial owner of Kiona Publishing, was present in a supplied photo, she is absent from the image supplied with this rebuttal.
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#7 REBUTTAL Individual responds

Disgusting Post

AUTHOR: WilByers - (United States of America)

What is disgusting about this post is that the person in question will not identify themselves.

Moreover, if they had such an issue with Kiona Publishing, Inc. (two plus years ago) why didn't they call and talk directly to me--Wil Byers? My phone number is: 509-967-0831. I'll be glad to take any and all calls. 

It seems the person filing this report is somewhat of a coward when it comes to confronting the issue like an adult. Just maybe they are afraid of getting sued for SLANDER.

Wil Byers

p.s. The photo in this individual's post is of me an my daughter, who was 23 years old the time. We were attending an annual event in the Tri-Cities, WA. How utterly audacious of this person to post my daughter's picture.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention in the previous post that my trips to China were by way for frequent flyer miles that I've earned over the years.
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#8 Author of original report

Byers' rebuttal

AUTHOR: End - (United States of America)

Wil Byers' rebuttal contains a number of inaccuracies; his claims about his allegedly modest lifestyle and Kiona's payment histories are particularly laughable. For brevity, however, this rebuttal will address his assertion that Erica Wolfe was a "just an assistant" who did not have a role in "content acquisition". 

Quoted below is the email that Wil Byers sent to writers, with Erica Wolfe on CC:

"Dear Writers,

Please visit our new editorial calendar as time allows. It represents the content that we MUST publish over the next year and one half. If you have a want to write one of these articles we must know your intentions as soon as possible. Also, the editorial calendar will now be updated at least every two months, so point your browser there from time to time to get the latest edition.

Please interface with our new Managing Editor, Erica Wolfe, to express your desire to write one or more of these articles. You'll find her e-mail address on the CC or you are welcome to call her at 509-967-0830.

Best Regards,
Wil Byers"

Byers clearly approved of Wolfe's role in "content acquisition". Moreover, Byers was CC'ed in Wolfe's subsequent emails that issued the assignments, and those emails specifically noted that "Wil" had actively determined which writers should receive the assignments.

Wolfe's email address was "", which, in addition to Byer's referring to her above as "Managing Editor", suggests she had a role greater than that of "just an assistant".

Furthermore, as mentioned in the original complaint, one of the articles in question was not published. If this had been a case of Byers unknowingly issuing the same assignment to one writer while Wolfe assigned it to another writer, logic would suggest that at least one of the articles would have been published.  No article covering the subject in question appeared in the magazine.

To imply that Wolfe was a renegade employee who haphazardly issued assignments without Byers' knowledge is erroneous. Byers himself compiled and issued the editorial calendar with the assignment in question, yet that article did not run and the writer was not reimbursed. The buck stops with him.
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#9 REBUTTAL Individual responds

Wil Byers is Honest & Trustworthy

AUTHOR: WilByers - (United States of America)

What this person is saying is not the case with Kiona Publishing, Inc. Let me explain:

1. If a writer is contracted to write for Inland NW (formerly Mid-Columbian) magazine they would get a writer's contract. They would agree to the terms of the contract or they would have an agreement that was done by e-mail. Either way, the terms of any agreement would be documented in writing between Kiona Publishing and the writer.

2. If this person was dealing with Erica Wolfe that would have been over two years ago since she left the employment of this company September 9, 2010. Also, Erica was never the Editor In Chief. Rather she was just an assistant to the editor, so she had absolutely no authority to make any decisions with respect to content acquisition or payment.

3. I would need to know the articles that are in question here to know what, if any agreement was made between this writer and Erica Wolfe.

4. Again, Erica Wolfe has not worked for Kiona Publishing since September 9, 2010, which means that any communications with her would have been more than two years ago.

5. Also, I would add that my luxury car is a 2006 Toyota Corolla, my motorcycle is a 1998 Honda VFR 800 (which I traded some model airplanes for to purchase), I've taken two trips to China for business in the last three years (I publish a magazine about model airplanes. Now almost 100% of all the models in the world are built in China. So I went two trade shows. And my tickets were purchase during low travel season), my home is in a very modest neighborhood in Richland, WA (my home is more than 12 years old and was purchased used, not new), and I do fly model airplanes but I rarely if ever buy them because I publish RC Sport Flyer magazine, so nearly all the airplanes and gear are contributed by the distributors for review and assessment purposes.

6. If any writers have questions about working with me or Kiona Publishing, Inc. I would ask that you point your browser at our website and then send me an e-mail message.

7. In the 17 plus years Kiona Publishing, Inc. has been in business it has never once failed to pay a writer that had an agreement with Kiona to publish an article, even if the article was not published.

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