Tips for Wary Writers
There’s always a scam. Someone’s always trying to pull something over on someone else. There’s a specialized scam for each industry, for demographic, even writers. On one hand, one thinks, “Wow, this is so elaborate it’s got to be real.” Then you come to your senses.
But if you’re new to an industry, breaking in to writing and publishing for example, you might not know what to look for in a scam. With the Interwebs extending the reach of everyone, making marks and tracks in otherwise unattainable terrain, a writer has to be especially savvy to avoid some of these pitfalls, booby traps and cons.
Here’s a quick list to shuffle through and keep in your back pocket.
Paying to be published
This is an absolute scam. If an agent, publisher or any claiming to be affiliated with either asks you for money, it’s a scam. That’s not how it works. You have the talent and the craft. They market it. You both get money. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this con. “The Literary Society of Peewackanee has chosen YOUR short story for inclusion in their latest anthology. To be included, send $10.00…” Yeah, that’s a scam.
Paying to be entered into contests
This is not a scam. It’s crappy and an unnecessary drain on the oft already strained wallets of struggling artists with true talent, but it’s something that is considered legitimate. Entry fees range from $5.00-$50.00 (though I’ve no doubt they go higher), and usually there’s a discount for poetry or multiple submissions. For the record, Spectacle Publishing never charges for entry into their fiction contests. One more thing – I’ve never known anyone who has won one of those contests. I’m just sayin’…
Write your novel in thirty days
Thirty days. That’s about 10 pages a day, which seems entirely feasible, until you figure in work, sleep, laundry, showers, bathroom breaks, picking the kids up from school, making (and eating) dinner and all the rest of the things that occupy our days. Recently (actually what inspired this article) I read a post on this very topic from a woman who claims to be able to write a novel in a weekend. For 280 pages in in 48 hours, you’d have to write 10.285 pages per minute. Not eating, sleeping or thinking about plot go without saying. Your book is done when it’s done. There is no other magic book, workshop or course that will get you writing a novel a month. Not unless you’re stealing ideas, rewriting things that have already been written and don’t have a shred of artistic integrity.
The real advantage of working with a publisher is selectivity. Anyone can self-publish. Even the lady who claims to write ten pages a minute. But what a writer needs, wants and really deserves is recognition from an outside authority that says “This work is good. I will share it.” Self-publishing doesn’t quite have the same bang. You don’t need new authors popping corks every time they post on their blog. So, in my opinion, the vanity press falls into that grey area of “scam-like.” You weren’t really published. No one picked your work out of hundreds. You just uploaded it. That’s being tricky. Scammerly, in fact.
Here’s another fine distinction between scam and not. In many screenwriting magazines you see ads for “professional script readers,” who only charge $100/script or $5 per page. Well, that an extravagant price and entirely too fluid if you consider how fast a person may or may not read. If you even trust them to report fairly. Do you really not have a friend who is willing to sit down and edit with you or read your script? Then again, a professional dedicated editor will tell you things your BFF won’t, like “This sucks.”
Since you’re a writer and can’t help yourself, it’s doubtless you’ll bump into one of these scams sooner or later. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is be wary and do your research. Find out where these people and their offers are coming from. It should, of course, go without saying that you should always register your work with the WGA. Register novels, scripts, treatments, proposals, synopses, outlines, all of it, before you share it with anyone. Seriously.