Avoiding Writing Scams!

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You have probably heard about writing scams and say, “I’d never do anything that stupid. How could someone think this wasn’t a scam?”

A writer gets a letter in the mail; send us your manuscript for and instant evaluation. Maybe they’re a new writer, maybe they’ve been writing for a while. But one thing is for certain, they all want to be published. And they want it badly.

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So when they see a new agent or publisher in town, it’s like a sign. They don’t think first. They just assume they are dealing with legitimate agent or publisher. But there are no shortcuts to getting legitimately published and getting paid for your writing. You have to be careful at all times.

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To keep from being cheated, you’d have to investigate all the prospective agents and publishers, check out their customers, go online to the watchdog sites and call the Better Business Bureaus and attorney generals in their home states. Even then, you could get taken. Makes you wonder if it is worth the risk?

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But what can writers do to protect themselves from scams, both online and off? Here are some things that should make you want to do more research about an agent or publisher:

1. Requests for up-front fees. This means any money out of the writer’s pocket before a book is sold, whether it is for expenses or marketing fees. Agents make their money by selling your work to publishers. They shouldn’t need to ask you for money to do that. Remember; “Money flows to the writer, not away from them.”

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2. Referrals to paid services, such as editing or book doctors. While recommending you have your work looked at by an editing service is fine, the agent or publisher shouldn’t tell you where to go. Some agents have a list of editing services they deal with, but if you chose to see someone else that shouldn’t have an effect on whether they represent you.

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3. Recommendations to use the agent’s or publisher’s own editing services. Legitimate agents don’t do editing themselves. They are much too busy selling their client’s works to publishers to deal with a manuscript full of typos and grammar errors. It’s easier to pass on it than fix it.

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4. Offer of a “co-publishing” contract. If you wrote the book and it’s good enough to publish, why should pay your publisher to publish it? A publisher makes their money from the sale of the book, not from the author.

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5. Being asked to buy something. If a publisher expects you to buy copies of your book as a condition of publication that should raise a very big red flag. That’s what a vanity press does.

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6. Offers of representation or publication that come after reading just a synopsis or a few chapters. Legit companies want to read the whole book, not just a few pages, before they make a decision. How else would they know if the book is as good all the way through as the first few chapters? Or if the book is even completed?

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7. An agent who won’t reveal details of his/her track record of book sales, or claims his/her client list is confidential. If they say you can’t know who they represent, then they might have something to hide. Legitimate agents and publishers have their clients on their web pages for all to see.

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8. Always have a lawyer look over a contract with an agent or publisher before signing it. It is money well spent to have a lawyer check it out first. Just make sure you pick a lawyer who is well versed in publishing contracts.

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9. Avoid agents/publishers who come to you first. If you didn’t submit to them, then how do they know about you? Ask questions; find out why they are contacting you. Remember, mailing lists come from everywhere, even magazine subscriptions. Also, be suspicious of an agent or publisher who contacts you via e-mail only. Some of the more unscrupulous ones haunt the writer’s message boards looking for desperate writer who are willing to believe their lies.

In addition, if the agent or publisher claims to have represented a famous author, then check it out. That’s easy enough to do. Just go down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy of the novel in question. By looking at the copyright page, you’ll see who the publisher is. In some cases, the agent’s name is listed as well. Checking out a writer’s web site will also give you their agent and publisher’s names.

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Most importantly 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 with an online writing newsgroup, forum or message board; if you have a question about an agent or publisher, you may get answers there. Be aware and you won’t get taken.

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Remember the old adage; if it sounds too good to be true, it is!

Dawn Arkin is an author on http://www.Writing.Com/
which is a site for Writers. Her portfolio can be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/darkin so stop by and read for a while.

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