Monday, August 21, 2006

Research Before Submission: How to Avoid the Publishing Scams

By Misti Sandefur

Most all writers start out writing for fun, but later they decide to write for fun and profit. Writers want to see their words and name in print, and getting paid to see their words and name in print is part of the fun and profit. However, there's one thing writers hate the most, and it's something most all writers will face when they decide to write for profit. What is it that writers hate the most? Being scammed by publishers, and even worse, contests. I have been down that path a few times and I wasn't happy, but like they say, "live and learn." Since I have been a victim of being scammed I have "learned" a few things along the way, and with this article I want to share some advice with you -- advice on how you can avoid being scammed. I won't guarantee if you follow my tips you won't be scammed, but hopefully my tips will keep you from making the wrong choice.

Too often writers are scammed because they're excited about the project they've just finished, and they get in a hurry to submit it so they can see their name in print. You deserve to be excited about the project you've just completed, but don't get so excited that you don't take the time to research before submitting. The information that follows should help you research the companies you plan to send your finished projects to.

1. Begin with you favorite search engine (Google is mine). Enter the name of the company you plan to submit to. When entering the company's name, place quotation marks around the company's name (this searches the exact phrase). For example, if you search for "national library of poetry" on Google you will be given over 30,000 results. When you follow some of the links given you will find that the National Library of Poetry ( is a scam!

2. Contact the company and ask them for references. Some companies may tell you that their privacy policy prevents them from giving out their clients' information. However, at this point, you can ask the company to have some of their clients contact you instead. If their clients do contact you make sure that the client isn't an employee of the company -- do a quick search on their name to verify this. If the company just flat out refuses to give you any references that's a sign to avoid them.

3. A publisher may be a scam if they require you to buy a certain number of books before they enter into a contract with you, offer referrals to paid services (editing, reading or etc.), request up-front fees (other than print-on-demand or vanity publishers) or offer publication only after reading a few chapters, synopsis or query.

4. If a literary agent asks for any up-front fees such as reading fees or etc., run! A legitimate agent will ONLY ask for a percentage of your book sales, and they will work to help you publish and market your book.

5. Avoid any agent or publisher that comes to you first.

6. Always take a contract you're offered from an agent or publisher to a lawyer for him/her to look over.

7. When researching a publisher, agent or editor, search their Web site for writers they have worked with. Jot down a few of the writers' names and contact those writers to get information on the publisher, agent or editor.

8. Not all contests that charge a fee are a scam, but some of them are, and you should be weary of all contests that charge a fee. Also, NEVER pay a contest to have your poetry or any other writing published. Additionally, if the contest asks or requires you to purchase a copy of the anthology your work appears in it could very possibly be a scam.

9. Never pay a fee for more information on a writing job, and never pay for a writing job. If the job is legitimate they will hire and pay you, you should never have to pay them!

10. Make sure the company's Web site lists their phone number, complete address and other contact information. Another way to check them out is to give them a call to make sure the phone number is valid and answered in a professional manner -- have a few questions ready when you call.

11. Join organizations, groups, message boards and forums for writers. Use your membership with these resources to find out if anyone in the organization, group, board or forum has heard of or used the services of the company you're researching.

Those are just a few tips you can use when researching a publisher, agent, editor or etc. No matter what, always keep in mind and remember -- with writing or any thing -- if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!

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