2011: A Writer Beware Retrospective

As we begin the new year (Writer Beware’s fourteenth!), here’s a look back at some of Writer Beware’s most notable posts and warnings from 2011. 


First One Publishing’s Writing Contest: This contest was intended to promote a brand-new publishing venture, and it accomplished its goal–in the wrong way–by requiring entrants to surrender all rights to their material.


Karma’s a Bitch (For Scammers): Two notable scammers–Robin Price, whose Media Arts International conned aspiring book and screenplay authors out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and David William Caswell, whose New Century Publishing took thousands of dollars from writers but never published their books–got their comeuppance.

Why Your Self-Publishing Service Probably Didn’t Cheat You: Writer Beware often hears from self-publishers who are convinced they’re being scammed by their self-publishing services–but it’s more likely that their expectations were unrealistic.


The Interminable Agency Clause: This clause in an author-agency agreement gives the agency the right to represent a sold property not just for the duration of any publishing contracts, but for the life of copyright. Writers’ organizations warn against such clauses–for good reason.

Book Fair Bewares: There are many reasons for writers to attend book fairs. Unfortunately, there are just as many ways for unscrupulous people to take advantage of that.


Net Profit Royalty Clauses: Net profit royalty clauses–which calculate royalties not on the list price of your book, or on the publisher’s net income, but on net income less a menu of additional expenses–can reduce your royalties to a pittance.


Literary Agencies as Publishers: an Accelerating Trend: In 2011, partly as a result of the growing popularity of ebooks, literary agencies began transitioning into publishing. These initiatives pose a raft of conflicts of interest, as well as some serious potential pitfalls for writers.

Getting Out of Your Book Contract–Maybe: Some practical suggestions for (maybe) escaping a bad book contract.

Clark, Mendelson and Scott: New Name for a Fee-Charging Agency: A fee-charging agency by another name smells just as nasty.


The Cruelest Hoax: An aspiring writer punk’d by a jerk posing as a reputable agent: the true story of one of the meanest tricks I’ve ever encountered.

Farrah Gray Publishing: This tale of a publisher that tried to force a pair of authors to pay more than $100,000 in marketing fees after the contract was signed illustrates a hard truth of publishing: even with every possible precaution, what looks like a duck will sometimes turn out to be a turkey.


Taking Famous Names in Vain: In which PublishAmerica tries to extract money from its authors by pretending to have connections with J.K. Rowling, and gets a spanking.


The Agenda of The Write Agenda: In which Writer Beware exposes the smear campaign being waged against anti-scam activists by an anonymous group calling itself “The Write Agenda,” and considers whether some familiar faces may actually be behind it.

A Small Press Implodes: The Inside Story of Aspen Mountain Press: The ugly demise of a once-promising small publisher has some lessons to teach about the precariousness of the small press world.


The Brit Writers Awards: Questions and Threats: The questions surrounding this new awards program, and the dubious methods it has used to cope with criticism.

Introducing Writer Beware’s Small Presses Page: A new section of the Writer Beware website that provides an overview of issues to consider when submitting to small presses, as well as tips to evaluate publishers and warnings about unsavory practices.


The Fine Print of Amazon’s New KDP Select Program: Amazon has opened its Kindle Lending Library to self-published authors–but some troubling language lurks in the Terms and Conditions.

Publisher Alert: Arvo Basim Yayin: This Turkish publisher, which has been actively soliciting writers on the Internet, has breached contracts by missing publication dates and not paying monies due.


  1. Thank you Victoria Strauss and Grace Peterson for feedback on calls for submission. The journey to getting published is ten steps to protect yourself to one step in the right direction. I appreciate any advice on running the gauntlet in safe mode. I've linked to Writer Beware on my blog so that all of my six readers can access your site, too. Thanks,
    C.K. Garner.

  2. Well, for someone still in the querying process, publishing is kind of a nightmare but doing your research first sure makes navigating the waters a lot less scary. Actually it has to be ongoing research. It's never really done because, as you pointed out, new scams are being launched all the time.

    I'm grateful for sites like Writer Beware.

    For CK Garner: One thing my software programmer husband always reminds me is that if I get an email or see an ad I'm interested in, don't click on the link provided. Instead Google it and go to the site through Google's links. This doesn't guarantee you won't be a scam but it is one safeguard.

    Happy 2012 to you.

  3. Thanks for keeping up the good fight. I do my best… but getting people to listen! I'm a little leery of saying that people weren't scammed by companies that obviously are feeding on the false ideas writers have, even if they don't explicitly promise it, but it's not really crime in the legal sense.

    I spent the morning trying to convince someone that publishers are supposed to pay you. I don't think I got anywhere. She's been completely brainwashed that publishing is a "nightmare" and "nowadays" you pay the publisher (talk about ways to make sure it's a nightmare).

  4. Hello, "Nick Caruso" – aka, the Anon-mouse.

    When are you going to explain why your website, the allegedly impartial and writer-friendly Write Agenda, endorsed book-burning? Can you defend that?

    Oh, I forgot, you can't – it's indefensible. You stink of cowardice. I'd dislike you, but I get the feeling you don't really like yourself either.

  5. When are you going to post about the WB lawyer who has an electric chair in his house and the other one who was suspended for cheating John Steinbeck family estates?

  6. C.K. Garner–I haven't heard of any of the publications you mention, which doesn't really mean anything–there are so many magazines and journals out there.

    The important thing, I think, is to read the submission and publication guidelines to be sure you know what rights you're granting, how long for, and what, if anything you'll be paid (if this info isn't readily available, or if it's unclear, move on) and to evaluate the quality of what's being published to be sure it's up to par. A websearch never hurts, either–it could turn up discussions or complaints, for example at sites like Absolute Write.

    Short fiction credits won't make a publisher more likely to sign you up, but they may make an editor more likely to seriously consider your submission. They need to be creditable credits, however. A short story published in the first issue of an obscure journal no one has ever heard of probably won't do you a lot of good.

  7. i've only recently found your site, and signed up for the email newsletter, so i'm glad you posted the list of topics covered in 2011 –

    kinda shocking really, so much scam and fraud and outright theft

    glad you have this site, thank you!

  8. Has anyone heard anything bad about calls for submission by literary magazines and journals? For example: Rufous Salon, Reprobaterrag, The First Line, etc.(found calls for submissions list at NewPages.com) I'd like to submit a short story for publication, but am leery of a lot of sites, adn as I haven't yet been published, I wonder if this is a good way to start.

    Thank you,
    C.K. Garner

  9. Yup, it was a good year to be a follower of Writer Beware. Thanks for keeping the lighthouse beacon blazing for those of us navigating these treacherous waters and here's hoping for a wonderful 2012 for you all.

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DECEMBER 23, 2011

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