Resources for Scammed Writers

resources bp ss

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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Your critique group is your meanest friend.

Could've been better, Celia

Could’ve been better, Celia



I joined my first critique group a year ago and my biggest regret in life is now officially NOT JOINING SOONER. Here’s why:

It’s an eternal question for authors about which services we should pay for and which we should do ourselves, but a few common sense answers apply. (For example: Social Media- do yourself. Cover Art- pay someone. (Unless you’re so good at Photoshop you spend hours doing your cover and have no time for social media)). A critique group will be your free sounding board, support system, and yes, editor. And unlike your uncaring family and too-nice friends (haha, kidding, thanks for all the help!) your critique group will not hesitate to rip your story apart.

They will call you out on that not-so-genius thing you were so sure would work if the reader just THOUGHT hard enough, they will correct your references to outer space and mythology, and they will tell you your protag would probably have died from that cool jump or by-the-way hasn’t slept in three days.

That doesn’t mean don’t pay for professional editing services if you want them. But realize that no story is complete and no professional editor is worth the cost without first ironing out the small issues with a group of people invested in your work.

However, the critiquing is not even the best part of joining a critique group. You will become a better writer through critique, yes. But you will also have a support system of writers in all stages of their writing careers.

For example, you will have someone ask you what you write. You will answer fantasy (the best answer…) and they will say, “Yes, but what kind?”

No one had ever asked me “what kind” of fantasy I write. When it happened to me, I was so surprised I momentarily forgot how to answer, despite hours wondering if my work should fall under the steampunk umbrella, and what the difference was between high fantasy and epic fantasy.

This is the most important aspect of being in a critique group: the support and understanding of your writer’s journey. If you’re currently going it alone, know that you don’t have to. Join a critique group, in person or online, and really take yourself and your work to the next level.