Old 08-12-2008, 06:50 PM Offline   #1 (permalink)

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Default Alt Text: How to Get Published and Avoid Alien Bloodsuckers

The internet has created enormous opportunities for aspiring writers. It's easier than ever to get your words in front of readers, who can then provide you with feedback, offer advice and attempt to scam you out of thousands of dollars while treating your dreams and aspirations the same way armed rural teenagers treat speed limit signs.
In a perfect world, the advent of the web would have sent literary scammers skittering back into their mucus-tube burrows. However, as I discover every time I search Google Images for any body part, this is not a perfect world. Many aspiring writers still react to supposedly professional interest with sparkling eyes and open wallets.
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Here are a couple hints to help you distinguish the scammers from legitimate publishers.
First off, don't be afraid. Scammers can smell fear, and to them it smells like the still-living flesh strips that make up most of their diet. A lot of aspiring writers see publishers and agents as bored nobility, offering contracts in a whimsical attempt to inject some entertainment into an otherwise tedious existence. They suspect that even putting too long a delay between "yes" and "please" will cause the contract to be withdrawn and fed to a purebred Saluki.
This isn't true. If publishers or agents are taking the time to talk to you about your submission, it means they like you like you. Sure, it's possible that nothing will come of it, but the very fact that you're actually talking to a real human being rather than having your manuscript rejected with a terse form letter means that you're free to ask questions, make suggestions and receive clarifications. So, do it! If an editor gets huffy at you over questions, that's a good sign that he's an ichor-oozing arthropod dressed up in human skin for the purpose of draining your lifeblood to feed their brood.
Now, even if the editor initially appears to be a mammal, it's still possible to get scammed. There's a wonderful rule of thumb known as Yog's Law: "Money flows toward the writer."
I know that in a world filled with kickbacks and graft, this seems too good to be true. It seems perfectly logical that you might have to spread around some cash, grease some palms and lubricate the chassis of commerce with some crude currency in order to make publishing run smoothly. Scammers leap on this misapprehension like a cat on cantaloupe.
OK, maybe I have a weird cat. The point is that you, the writer, do not pay the agent. You do not pay the publisher. Not for reading the manuscript, not for offering suggestions and certainly not for printing. The agent gets a portion of the money you've already made. The publisher makes a profit from sales. You do not write checks to these people.
As a writer, you're free to spend as much money as you want for your own purposes, like workshops and hand-stitched dream journals and magic feathers. You might even choose to spend some or all of your advance on publicity, once you have the cash in hand. But if an agent or publisher tells you that you need to shell out in order to make the deal happen, you should listen for telltale chittering and examine the person's spine for the subdermal squirming associated with literary scammers.
None of this should be taken as a slight against legitimate businesses catering to self-publishers. These businesses will tell you exactly what you get for each dollar, and promise nothing more. They will not attempt to convince you that you're the next Browning, Kipling, Fleming, Golding or Rowling.
I myself was once an aspiring writer, before I became famous and wealthy beyond the fever dreams of a thousand rajahs. I know how difficult it is, and how tempting attention can be. But if you follow these guidelines, you'll not only protect yourself, you'll also protect the Earth from invasion by insectoid parasites that depend on the cooperation of naive writers to supplant humans as the planet's dominant species and put us to work as blood-cows for their throbbing young.
- - -
Born helpless, nude and unable to provide for himself, Lore Sjöberg eventually overcame these handicaps to become a professional writer.


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