To paraphrase a famous television ad: “Writers don’t let writing friends (and acquaintances) get scammed.”
Yesterday, I attended a women’s conference up at PG Community College. The keynote speaker was a dear friend of mine, a mystery writer who writes both as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. (If you haven’t read her work, it’s great, check it out!) During the last part of her Q&A session, my friend said, “Well, if you have questions about writing and publishing, my friend Ann Crispin is sitting right there, and she’ll be happy to talk to you about it!”
Which was fine by me. My friend got to spend time autographing her books for her readers, chatting with them about what she writes, while I handled talking to the aspiring writers. This gave me a chance to spread the word about Writer Beware. Since this conference took place in Maryland, I also made sure I warned these aspiring women writers away from PublishAmerica. (PA has been known to send representatives to writing conferences to try and dig up victims…so far they’ve never sent anyone to any conference that I’ve attended. Probably a good thing…)
I suspect they won’t attempt to send any reps to the Maryland Writers Association 2006 Annual Conference, as I’m the keynote speaker.
Still, PA is getting more and more victims every month. And not all writers in Maryland have been warned. So I keep talking. I keep warning. Not only about PublishAmerica, but about Agent F, and Agent B, and Agent R, and Agent M, and Agent V, and so on and so on.
I am a Writer Beware “ambassador.” And guess what? You can become one too! All you have to do is become AWARE of how the agent and publishing scams work, and spread the word. Refer writers you encounter to the WB website, and to Preditors and Editors. Refer them to Absolute Write. Make sure they understand that real agents work off commission, and that they don’t advertise in Writers Digest. Make sure they understand that no “real” publisher pays a one-dollar advance or pushes their writers to buy a thousand copies of their own books before publication.
On my website (www.accrispin.com) is a one-page handout called Excuse Me, How Much Did it Cost You? I gave up copyright on that handout years ago. Anyone can copy it and reproduce it at will. Pull it off my website, print it out, and take it to the organizer of your local conference, and see if he/she will agree to print up a couple hundred copies (it’s designed so it fits on one page, front and back) and then put the handouts on the “freebie” table they always have at writing conferences.
Victoria also has an excellent handout, The Safest Way to Search for An Agent. It’s several pages long, much more detailed than the one I wrote, which was designed to cover both agents and publishers. It’s a great companion piece to the “Excuse Me” handout.
If all else fails, hey, you could always spend 10 bucks of your own money and take a handful of handouts to any conference you’re attending. We’d be ever so grateful, and there is no better feeling than knowing you’ve saved some fellow writer from signing on with the likes of Agent F, or PublishAmerica. It makes you feel warm all the way down to your toesies, trust me.
Our checks of this blog indicate we have approximately two to three hundred readers each day, checking in here. That’s a lot of folks. If each of you handed out 10 bucks worth of handouts, and talked to even 10 other writers, warning them against scam agents and author mills like PublishAmerica, think of how many people would be warned. And if you gave those other writers the URL to this blog, and THOSE new writers each talked to ten other writers (when I say “talk” I also mean, of course, posting on the internet, or via email to online writing groups)…and then THEY talked to 10 more…etc., and so on, then it wouldn’t be too long before PublishAmerica’s supply of victims would take a Big Hit. Ditto for Agent F’s seemingly endless supply of prey approaching the “I Need An Agent” watering hole.
Yesterday, I talked to seven or eight new and not-so-new writers. NONE of them had ever heard of Writer Beware, or realized how prevalent writing scams are. They reminded me of limpid-eyed gazelles, hanging out by a water hole, totally unaware of the lions gathering, hidden in the underbrush, licking their chops. Now these particular gazelles have had their eyes opened, and they’ll be wary gazelles, not sweet and trusting ones.
It was a great feeling, and it’s one you can share. Victoria and I are both reachable. Give anyone who needs it, Writer Beware’s website address. Urge them to write to us.
My personal email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I really hope that if you haven’t already done so, that everyone reading this post today will decide to become a Writer Beware “ambassador.”
Let’s create some predator-savvy gazelles, shall we?
-Ann C. Crispin
My .02: They won’t really be polishing anything except their lunch tab. It’s more than $30 worth of work and thought to give twenty pages of anything a deeper-than-cursory glance. And, if they’re up-front not going to represent you anyway, why waste the postage?
However, if all you want is someone to point out your most egregious pitching errors, for the same money you could send to one of those opening-chapters contests at a writers conference. There, at least, you’re supporting a writers’ community AND you get your work seen by an agent/editor who MIGHT want to publish you.
Or, for free, you could run it through the Crapometer (either at Miss Snark’s next year or on the peer-run Crapometer website).
I adore Elizabeth Peters’ books – terrific writer!!
I was reading over your scam page, and one thing struck me – agents that ask for more than 100$ you said.
Well, what about the agent that asks for 25 or 30$ to ‘polish up your first three chapters and synopsis’ but who doesn’t follow through with a contract?
I too am a driveling fan of Elizabeth Peters – have one of her books on my lap right now (beneath the keyboard, temporarily).
I’m also a fan of anti-scam ambassadors. Ann, I showed your pamphlet to the president of my writers’ group and she agreed we can put it out on the members’ info table at all our meetings. I hope this meets with your approval.
I have been directing writers to Writer Beware as long as I have known it existed.
It is a wonderful service you and Vick provide and I am so pleased you make the handouts available for us to run off. I will certainly take them to all my conferences this year.
You can count me in. I spread the word about scammers at every opportunity.
Hi Ann 🙂
Not sure you’ll remember me, but I was in your class at Dragon Con in 2004. I’ve passed the word about Writer Beware and publishing scams to everyone I know who’s interested in writing and will continue to do so.
Also, taking your advice on the Emerald storyline and toying with ideas for my own world.
I’ve come across so many writers who think that paying to be published is common and acceptable. I always direct them toward Writer Beware and P&E. Sorry to say, they don’t always take the advice. I know one writer (a good writer, too) who actually believes that she’ll make more money if she self-publishes her fiction novel. Have you read the post at Miss Snark’s about the table deal at B&N with iUniverse? Very interesting, and distrubing, and makes it hard to discourage writers from the self-publishing path.
And writers are welcome to copy P&E’s list of agents and publishers to show to others who don’t have Internet connections. We want to put the scammers out of business if not into jail.
*gasp* Barbara/Elizabeth is one of my absolute favorite writers ever. My Mom introduced me to her when I was a preteen and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
Thanks for the links. We’ll ger that word out!
That mystery writer is one of my favourites.
Her, I collect.