Your manuscript is the One Ring, and unfortunately the publishing landscape is a little like trying to cross the Dead Marshes. (Sure, Gollum knows his way through, but can he be trusted?)
So here are two non-comprehensive lists to help you on your publishing quest. The first and most important part of surviving a scam is really just to avoid one in the first place. Do your research and you will save yourself a lot of time. For the poor souls who stray from the path, well, there’s help for you too. Read on for details.
For Avoiding Scams:
Like I mentioned in my previous post, Absolute Write Water Cooler is one of my favorite places to go for tips on all areas of your writing business. The “Water Cooler” is actually the forum of Absolute Write, and I’ve found the mods and contributors there to be knowledgeable, willing to help, and not afraid to tell it like it is.
The one drawback of these forums is the chance that the threads will be old or unanswered. Another drawback is trying to judge a publisher/agency/editor based on many people’s opinions! For a simple, cut and dry approach to whether a place is reputable or not, try Preditors and Editors. Here, only about one line is devoted to each agency or publisher, and Preditors and Editors is clear on what they consider acceptable. Charges reading fee? “Not recommended.” Involved in a libel suit? “Strongly not recommended.” Pretty straightforward.
And lastly is SFWA’s Writer Beware. SFWA has been muddied by controversy for some time, but the website still has lots of great author resources, which you can access for free without supporting SFWA ;). The website is very user-friendly. I also recommend Victoria Strauss‘s stuff. She cofounded Writer Beware and is active on Absolute Write.
For Surviving Scams:
For your first stop you can head right on back to Writer Beware (or go there for the first time, since you wouldn’t have been scammed if you’d done your homework). They keep a running catalog of sketchy characters in the publishing world and welcome your contributions. Hand over your bad contracts and other materials so Writer Beware can add to their database and protect other writers.
Your next stop can be Writer Beware’s Legal Recourse and Other Remedies page. I would file a complaint on any relevant site, such as the Better Business Bureau. Remember, if nothing else, you have an ethical responsibility to try to protect other writers from scams. Do this by documenting your experience where others will see it.
And finally, if you are getting nowhere with whatever person/agency that scammed you, make use of legal aid like the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. It’s definitely worth at least a phone call, especially if you have already put a lot of money into the scam or if they are using your work/image against your consent. It’s one thing to waste time with a bad publishing house, it’s another to have this mistake haunt your professional career.
Don’t let scam artists get away with anything just because you feel overwhelmed. There are plenty of resources for you out there.
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