You know, it’s a big, nasty world out there—and I daresay we writers have a particularly hard time of it. We work alone, though people are often our bread and butter. We pursue a dream that, often enough, isn’t even remotely viable on its own, so creativity, and imagination, and art—sweet art—become second acts. Then, even when the beauty of a work reaches out into the light, finished, and we think it’s finally time to bust out the wine, we find yet another trouble lurking in the shadows.
Or rather, troubles, as this business has its share. Unfortunately, these aren’t your campus troubles. You can’t run to a handy call station, flick on a little red light, and have the cops swarming for protection inside a moment’s notice. No, sir, the shadowed stalkers of the writer’s world are every bit as deadly and conniving as the world’s other travails, but unfortunately, they’re a lot harder to evade.
Fake agencies. Mysterious agents. Misleading competitions. Even make-believe publishers have reared their ugly heads. All charge, all promise, and all lie—and in each and every instance, it is the writer that suffers, alone, because some nasty fellow decided to prey on dear sweet hope. In this age of self-publishing, it’s sad to say, the scams have only multiplied.
It’s discouraging, I know, and while it’s the inexperienced that are often snared, there’s likely many authors out there that got swindled at one point or another. These scams aren’t always the easiest things to spot.
Fortunately, there are those out there that recognize this problem, and seek to help. If you’ve spent much time scouring through the writing community (are you stalking us?) you’ve probably heard the names Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin dropped at some point or another. If not, then you’ve probably at least heard of their site: Writer Beware.
Their goals are simple: to help the writer evade those pitfalls that pepper the system. From poets to fantasy authors, I daresay this site is good for the lot—the knowledge and advice they offer tend to transcend mere genre. Sponsored by the SFWA and the Mystery Writers of America, they investigate scams and publish the results, without pulling any punches. They sniff out vanity presses and con artists, and tell you what not to do as you maneuver your way between them. They’ve even participated in lawsuits against some of these offenders. From insightful posts to extensive lists of scams and suspicious others, theirs is a resource I recommend for anyone getting into the publishing portion of the creative game, because writers, well…
They work to keep you from getting swindled. What’s more, they do it for free, on their own sweet time. Samaritans if I ever did see some—and in this business, that’s a precious commodity.