Tag Archives: scams

Preemptive Guide to Avoid Evil-Doers

Every day, a batch of people decide to write a short story or a novel. For the vast majority, the realization that writing is a difficult task to accomplish will push them back to Netflix or trying to catch Squirtle on their “Pokemon Go!” game.

For those who do manage to finish a piece of work, they may look at it and realize they’re not quite ready for publication. The hours of work are shoved into a trunk and they begin their next project, understanding that every iteration they go through develops their skills. Soon enough, they finish a project that they feel is ready for submission.

It is at this point where they begin to look around for places to send in their work. Unfortunately, there are sharks in the uncharted waters, all looking for a quick feast. How does a newbie author avoid the hazards that almost every established author already knows?

Ask Questions.

Asking questions on Facebook, of friends, or even at convention panels is an excellent way to avoid some of the more common scams. Mention Author Solutions or Publish America and every knowledgeable author shudders. They’re familiar with some of the most famous scams and methods of fleecing newbie writers. Those of you who know should be helping the newbies by answering their questions. It’s a way to give back to the writing community that was there for you when you were just starting out.

When you see someone asking questions, take the time to be helpful. Even pointing them to articles or websites can prevent someone from becoming another empty wallet. If you look out for others, they will certainly remember your name. With any luck, they’ll buy your next book and perhaps even leave you a nice review. Whether they do or not, others will remember you as someone who was helpful, and that’s a good reputation to have.

Check Writer Beware.

Writer Beware is a website attached to SFWA and endorsed by the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Started by A. C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss in 1998, the project lists many agents, editors, and publishers with questionable reputations. They include plenty of details, plus give a “recommended” or “not recommended” rating when appropriate.

The website has an extensive series of articles, reviews, recommendations, and red flags for both the newbie writer and the experienced author. It’s always a good idea to check the latest when sending in projects that took a lot of time to develop. Sometimes good publishers go bad, and sometimes others redeem themselves. The website is updated often by a dedicated team.

A good example of what they offer can be found in their Small Press section.

Check Preditors and Editors.

Hosted by the Critters Writing Workshop and Dr. Andrew Burt, this website may make your eyes water with its 1990’s-era design, but it is chock-full of excellent advice on publishers, editors, services, and agents. Each section lists hundreds of entries and if they are recommended or not.

A good example is their Agents section. Each known listing includes as much details as is known, plus some are shown to be members of the AAR or are recognized as professionals by groups such as the Romance Writers of America. If there are any issues, those are spelled out, sometimes with a red Not Recommended rating to warn users against submitting any work to them.

Check the Absolute Write forums.

The Absolute Write “water cooler” is a forum open to anyone who registers. Should anyone have an issue with a publisher, agent, or service, this is one of the first places they go to in order to lodge a public complaint. In fact, if you cannot get a reply back after repeated attempts over a long period of time, posting a query here asking if anyone else has had problems can suddenly wake up the sleeping editors and publishers. Nobody wants to get discussed in a negative way on this website. It is important to note that this should be more of a “last resort”, not a first to-do when they don’t answer your email as quick as you would like.

There are many different forum sections, but the most apropos one for our discussion is at the Bewares, Recommendations & Background Checks forum. You have to register to post, but you can read without doing so. This is a great place to do a cursory search for the name of the business you’re interested in. Remember, just because one person had an issue doesn’t mean that fifty others have nothing but praise. Read through the posts, especially the most recent ones, to get a feel for how they are operating currently.

Professional Organizations.

The pro organizations have some excellent benefits for members. Some, like the Horror Writers Association, have a lower-tier membership for folks who haven’t sold any professional-rate work yet but have been published in semi-pro or “exposure” markets. Others require at least one sale at a professional rate, which SFWA determined is six cents per word in an approved market. Others genres may vary.

Most of the pro organizations have a grievance committee. These assist writers when there is a problem, which can range from contract issues to non-payment for accepted stories. Getting listed as a banned market in a professional organization can be a death-knell for a publisher. Note that the grievance committee works as a go-between when there is a legitimate disagreement. Only if a publisher or agent is found to be dishonest with more than one author will they be considered for a public notification that works published there are not acceptable for professional organization membership.

For those writers who are considering joining a pro org, this is one of the best benefits. Another one is a contract committee, which SFWA does have. This committee has articles on contract ‘gotchas’ to avoid and they can also answer questions on your contract.

And with that, you are now at least starting out your Dungeons and Dragons adventure with leather armor and a sword instead of a raggedy old cloak and a stick. Enjoy your trek, and remember to make new friends along the way.


About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Avoiding Publishing Conflicts

A few years ago, the blogosphere was all atwitter concerning the story of Mandy DeGeit, a new author who discovered the story she submitted to an anthology wasn’t the same as the story that was published under her name. The “editor” had added in minor items like a suggestion of a rape, animal abuse, changing an ungendered character to a boy, and even introducing spelling errors on the title. Heavyweights like Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Maberry waded in to give their take on the carnage.

Authors who have been around the block a time or two have watched these kinds of publishers come and go, watching the cycle repeat itself every so often. Just like the emails that proclaim you’ve inherited a few million dollars from an unknown relative who lived in Nigeria, these scams and otherwise questionable practices keep resurfacing to ensnare the unwary.

The way to protect yourself and avoid unnecessary conflict is to take the time to do a thorough background check of your potential publisher. In order to do this you have to separate your ego from your business instinct. Receiving an email from a publisher that says they want to publish your story is a heady experience. You’ve bled yourself dry, spending untold hours crafting your novel. It sure would be nice to receive some compensation by seeing your name on a cover. The problem is it can end up costing you time, money, your novel, and even your reputation.

There are several well-known websites you should visit when you’re interested in a publisher. AbsoluteWrite is a good place to start (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php). Their forums are full of first-hand experience when dealing with most publishers, both good and bad. There are cases where a well-respected publisher lost their way, such as Dorchester/Leisure. If the forum threads span multiple pages, make sure you read the last two or three to see what’s new with a publisher. If you see one or two complaints, but otherwise positive feedback, that publisher is a decent candidate for your novel.

Once your visit to the AbsoluteWrite water cooler is complete, stop by the Writer Beware blogs (http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/). This project is a public service offered by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). They don’t pull punches, and they do their best to give as much detail as possible. The blogs and forums are filled with experience for you to gather and consider.

Our next stop is Predators and Editors (http://pred-ed.com/). This website contains so much information about bad presses that they’ve been sued several times. Additionally, they have whole sections on similar topics, including agents, magazines and organizations.

Just to be thorough, you can always visit the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) and Ripoff Report (www.ripoffreport.com) to see if there are business complaints unrelated to authors. Things to watch for include complaints that books were not received and complaints of unpaid bills from suppliers.

After digesting these sources, and assuming you still wish to continue researching, I personally recommend doing a couple of custom Google searches.

+“QuestionablePressName” +(sucks|scam|warning)

The above search string should return any pages that have your potential publisher and the words “suck” or “scam” or “warning”.

At this point, you’re either putting stamps on a manuscript package or thanking your lucky stars that you avoided a scam. Hopefully it’s the former, and you’re on your way to not only being published, but being published well.

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award®; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at WikipediaGuyAndTonya.com, and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.