Tips on Avoiding Writer Scams

Posted by Chika On 2:36 PM

Anne Lamott at Home in Marin County

The following three profiles and subsequent tips are aimed at the general writer's market, but could also be applied to prospective travel writers seeking a book contract.

Avoiding Writing Scams: Advice From Those Who Know
Writing-World
by J.A. Hitchcock


You've probably heard about online writing scams and told yourself, "I'd never do anything as stupid as that. How could someone not know that this literary agent (or publisher) wasn't a scam?"

That's what victims of three well-known online writing scams thought after they'd been pulled in by scam artists. Why did they let themselves get hooked like that?

Staying on Guard

"Newbie writers think, even after reading the fine print, that they're dealing with legit publishers," Crispin says, "especially when vanity/subsidy publishers claim that new writers are rarely accepted and make regular publishing look like a lost cause and impossible. There are no shortcuts to getting legitimately published and getting paid for your writing."

Rasley agrees and adds, "To guard against being cheated, you'd have to investigate all the prospective publishers, check out customers (satisfied and unsatisfied), call the Better Business Bureaus and attorney generals in their home states, have an attorney check out their contracts... and even then, you could get taken. Is it worth the risk?"

Beware of:

Requests for up-front fees (i.e., any money due out of the writer's pocket before a book is actually sold -- this includes all "expense" or "marketing" fees).

Referrals to paid services, such as editing.

Recommendations to use the agent's/publisher's own paid editing services

Offer of a "co-publishing" contract.

Being asked to buy something (such as a certain number of copies of your book) as a condition of publication.

Offers of representation/publication that come after reading just a synopsis and a few chapters.

An agent who won't reveal details of his/her track record of book sales, or claims his/her client list is confidential.

In addition, make sure any publishers an agent claims to have worked with are real ones and those you can easily find on bookshelves. Perhaps most important, don't let your desire to be published overcome your good sense. Join a local or national writer's organization and see if they have a list of known writing scams. Get involved in an online writing newsgroup, forum or message board; if you have a question about an agent or publisher, you may get answers there.

Victims Klatt, Edwards, Rau and Esrati offer this advice:

Always have a lawyer look over a contract with an agent or publisher before signing it.

Avoid agents/publishers who come to you first.

Edit your manuscript yourself or join a local writer's group to get feedback on your work.

Keep sending your manuscript out, even if you get a lot of rejections. If your work is good enough, it will eventually find a "home."

Never, ever pay any money; as someone once said, "Money flows to the writer, not away from them."

Recommended web sites:

SFWA Writers Beware - http://www.sfwa.org/beware/
Todd James Pierce's Literary Agents List - http://mailer.fsu.edu/~tjp4773/litagent.html

Agent Research and Evaluation Site - http://www.agentresearch.com

Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) - http://www.sfwa.org

Romance Writers of America (RWA) - http://www.rwanational.com

Preditors & Editors - http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors

National Writers Union (NWU) - http://www.nwu.org

Writing World Link

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