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Monday, March 1, 2010

The Number One Rule to Avoid Being Scammed in Publishing

Okay guys, I’ve been focusing so much on the legitimate side of publishing that I haven’t focused on the other side.  And part of this reason is because it’s heartbreaking to me.  But in the past few days I’ve had a ton of questions about publishing and how I found my agent, what the aspiring author should do, etc. and I felt it was time to talk about it.

The biggest thing in publishing is this, an author should NEVER (note the bold, italicized capitalized lettering) pay for anything to do with publishing.  How real publishing works is this:  You submit your manuscript to an agent/editor and then they decide whether to accept it or not. 

Now here’s where it gets a little bit tricky.  Let’s go down the path I went first.  The agent route.  Okay, so you’ve submitted to Ms. Dream Agent and she responds with a yes.  She sends you her agency agreement; you hash out a few logistics and then you both sign it.  Then she offers editing advice, you fix the manuscript and then she takes over and starts submitting to editors at different publishing houses. 

An editor comes back and makes an offer on your book and then (after many, many things) it gets published.  They send you your advance and royalty check to your agent, who takes her 15% and sends you the rest. 

Going to an editor first is the same as above, minus the agent.

Notice that the only time I mentioned money was when I talked about getting an advance and/or a royalty check.  That’s the only time money should EVER exchange hands.  Also note in which direction it’s going.  Money ALWAYS flows to the author. 

Here’s things you should know about money:

The publisher: 
1)  Buys your book.  That’s why they offer an advance.  (NOTE: Some of the smaller publishers do not offer an advance, but sometimes they offer better royalties.  That doesn’t make them bad.  Unless they want you to pay for something.)
2) They pay for everything that goes into your book (ie cover art, editing, marketing, etc.)
3) Will NOT ask you to buy your own books.  Most publishers will give you a few “author copies” (this can vary from 1—at small presses—to 50—at the big boys).

The agent:
1)   Does not get paid until you do.  That means that they won’t ask for a reading fee or any such garbage.  They collect their percentage (usually 15% for domestic sales and 20% for foreign) and that’s it.  This is the biggest reason that agents are so picky about what they pick up.  NOTE:  Sometimes they will ask for basic expenses( i.e. photocopying, postage, etc.  But this is usually very small—less than $250--since most things are done electronically these days and it’s usually taken out of your royalty and/or advance checks. 
2)   Work for you.  It’s better if it’s a partnership since you’re both after the same thing, but in essence they are offering a service to you.  Much the same as a plumber or electrician.

So now you’re asking me, what are the big red flags to help me avoid being taken advantage of?  Well, the biggest ones are to not pay a red cent.  If they want you to pay ANYTHING up front, run.  Run as far and as fast as you can. 

Second, do your research.  Go to Absolute Write’s Bewares and Background checks; do a search on anyone your planning on submitting to(yes I know I ended in a preposition  J).  Read what other’s have said and heed their advice.

 Even if an agent/editor is “new” they should have a publishing “footprint,” which means you should be able to find them somewhere.  They need to have experience somewhere.  For instance, a new agent should have either done an internship with an established agency and/or have been an editor for a publishing house. 

Editors should have a few years interning or working for a house, so they know how it works and what makes a great book work. 

Check out Writer’s Beware.  This is an awesome site that is dedicated to helping aspiring writers educate themselves on how to not be part of a scam.  They list all the bad publishers and agents/agencies. Don't forget to check out their blog.

Go to Editors and Preditors- they also keep an extensive list of agents and publishers with recommendations or warnings.

 You can also contact either of these websites for more detailed info on a particular person, if you so wish. 

Now the reason I’m specifically posting this today is because of this “publisher.”  Publish America.  They say they are a “traditional” publisher, which in fact they are not.  They have scammed over 40,000 aspiring authors and the numbers keep climbing.  Please do NOT be one of them.  I will go more into another post on Wednesday about why to avoid this "publisher" specifically, but in the meantime, please check out Janet Reid’s blog on their latest “deal.”  And don’t forget to check out the other resources I listed so you can learn how to avoid being scammed.

Until next time…