Peggy Bechko: Writers Beware – Scams Abound

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 by Peggy Bechko

Hey writers, have you ever played whack-a-mole?

Well, that’s a little sample of what the writing life can be like when dealing with scammers, con artists and all sorts of other low-life characters who have no respect for your abilities or dreams and only want to turn that to their own monetary benefit.

If you aren’t very careful you can spend thousands of dollars being lured on by empty promises, false representations and their fabulous expert (I use the term sarcastically) recommendations for which they in fact have no expertise at all.

So at this writing I’m going to give you a few tips to protect yourself from the ‘evil meanies’ out there who aren’t for real, will gain you nothing, and plan to walk away with your hard-earned, scrimped dollars in their pockets.

First of all many of those who tread the dark side of publishing don’t simply go away once they’re unearthed and exposed to the light. No, not that easy or straight-forward. Hence the reference above to whack-a-mole. Many times they just circle back and open up shop under a new name with a fancy new website.

So keep your eyes open, I’ll tell you some of the things to look for and give you a couple of sites that can be of great help.

First of all beware any solicitation. Publishers and editors (with real publishing houses) aren’t into taking risks. They never approach unproven talent as they’re out to make money (yes, publishing is a BUSINESS). They aren’t evil, just practical. So, if you’re approached, send up the red flag and be super cautious. Only writers I know of who’ve been ‘approached’ are a handful of indie authors who’ve published, found success and then found themselves the center of attention of a publisher (or more than one). And that is VERY rare.

Vanity presses have been around forever. They’ll print as many books as you care to pay for (key words here are ‘you pay for’). They kind of run in tandem with the newly termed ‘hybrid publisher’ (guess they don’t want to be called ‘vanity’ any more).

Now, they aren’t all ‘evil’. They serve a purpose, but that purpose isn’t to do much more than print a book, charge you for it and make their money. They offer many services to the author and they charge big time for them. In my book you’d be much better off to go the self-publishing route via Kindle or Smashwords or one of the other online publishers where you can have your book up and running in Ebook edition or in paperback via Create Space through Amazon.

There it costs you nothing to put the book up and available as a Print On Demand book once you’ve written, edited and come up with a killer cover. That leaves it with you, the writer, to find the initial resources (i.e. the writing, editing, artwork and promoting), but better than the killer prices the ‘vanity’ people charge.

Agents aren’t all ‘goodie twoshoes’ either. The legitimate ones make money by charging their clients a percentage of the sale to a publisher. But there are others out there who charge the writer for everything under the sun such as copies, marking, submitting your writing to publishers (hey that’s supposed to be why they get that percentage!), just reading the manuscript or a host of other ‘nickel and dime’ charges that can really run up.

Do your homework. Know who you’re submitting to and when you find one you can work with make sure you understand what they’re going to charge for and that you’re comfortable with it.

Finally I can give you a couple of good sites that have been around a while and keep an eye out for scams aimed at writers and help keep you abreast of some of the dark corners of the publishing world. They don’t pull any punches and are great resources when checking out an agent or publisher as well. Go visit and bookmark Writer Beware and Preditors And Editors. You’ll be glad you did.


Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.