Warning to writers
While you are worrying about whether beta readers will steal your ideas, there is a more genuine threat on the horizon.
When offered a publishing contract, please do all your research before you sign. There are a number of fakes and scammers out there, as well as good-intentioned amateurs that don’t know how to get your work to a wide audience. I won’t tell the heartbreaking stories here - there are too many.
Being published badly is worse than being never published.
It can destroy your career and your dreams.
The quick check is to google the publishing house name + scam or warning.
But, to be sure, check with these places first. They aren’t infallible (nothing is) but they can help you protect yourself. They are written and maintained by expereinced writers, editors, publishers and legal folks.
and the WRITER BEWARE blog
Keep yourself and your work safe.
This is really important, so if you are a writer or have writer friends, or you are a writing blog, please reblog it.
Just to let you know, PublishAmerica changed their name to America Star Books.
HEAD’S UP, WRITER TYPES: THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PSA!
Also applies to many so-called freelance sites that are just content mills, and may not pay unless your work is used, even if the contract seems designed otherwise.
Listen, reading these is like legit reading horror stories. When it comes to publishing your writing, always, always, ALWAYS do your research. Not only will it help you avoid scams, but it will also be likely to help you land a much better fit for an agent/publisher/whatever. Knowing more is never going to hurt.
Omg!!! Thanks for the warning! Writers— reblog!
I’ve heard stories like this that are scarier than horror stories. This is an all time worst nightmare for a writer. Everyone reblog and make sure you keep your work safe!
Reblogging again for the links. Also check pred-ed.com and the Absolute Write forum. Then google Publisher’s name + scam and see what comes up. Do NOT use the BBB ratings, they are wholly unsuitable for rating publishers and regularly give A ratings to well-known publishing scams. You can also read my own post on publishing scams, have a link on the left of my blog ( can’t link here, I’m on mobile, sorry).
SUPER IMPORTANT PSA!
Equally important to know is that you can SELF-PUBLISH through a number of platforms these days. @ean-amhran and I used Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing to publish both of our books. No editors, no contracts, no finagling with publishers who want to change your materials. Just direct-to-market material.
(Granted, it means you’ve got to do a LOT more work yourself with editing and formatting and cover art, but it’s worth it to miss the headache of trying to bargain with publishing houses or avoid scams.)
Be vigilant, fellow writers!
If you choose to self publish then HAVE A PLAN and think things through.
And hire an editor. Please, for the love of all that is holy, hire an editor. It’s expensive, but you will get a better book out, a better reputation…
If you’re going to publish electronically, make sure you also get someone who can LAY AN EBOOK OUT PROPERLY.
I have spent money on Kindle books, many of them reprints of older works, whose formatting is so messed up as to render them unreadable.
I actually recommend using the Smashwords Style Guide even if you don’t use Smashwords.
It lays out how to neatly format an e-book in a wonderful step by step format, and you can get it free from Smashwords. Just leave off the couple of things that are (very obviously) Smashwords specific.
If you can’t stand dealing with the meticulous detail, then by all means hire somebody, but most people can learn to format an ebook correctly and once you’ve done it a couple of times it takes about an hour tops.
Because the redirects aren’t working for me, I’m going to assume others might have trouble with these links, so for those who need it the URL for the website to Writer Beware is: www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/ As stated on here: “Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, with additional support from the Mystery Writers of America, the Horror Writers Association, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.” These are not publishers’ guilds, notice; you sometimes see scammers trying to defend themselves against Writer Beware exposes by claiming that they’re “small press” or “indie” and Big Publishing is somehow out to get them - but all of those guilds are run by and for writers, to help support them and represent them in the field. It is the closest writers have to having unions, and there’s no direct competition between them (you could literally be an in any of those guilds are the same time as each other, in addition to others, and I believe a number of authors are).
Writer Beware is a wonderful resource, and I highly recommend it. It’s both a good general guide to the scams people run/red flags to watch out for (such as giving up your copyright entirely as opposed to specific rights, or being charged to publish something or have it edited, when they’re trying to act like they’re a “normal” publisher), and a frequently-updated list of the latest specific known scammers, both in “fake agents” and fake/scammy publishers categories. (The company formerly known as Publish America is one of the most famous and egregious cases, but by far not the only one)
Additionally, for SF and fantasy writers, the SFWA’s own list of qualifying markets that one can be published in as a prerequisite to be able to get into their guild (remember, it IS a profession-based guild), is a great guide to normal markets for those genres that have standard contracts that aren’t abusive or scammy, and their guidelines include some of the industry-standard minimums for “per word” etc rates, so even if some new magazine market isn’t on their list, you can tell if it’s suspiciously far outside the usual per-word or whatnot standards. (It’s likely the guidelines for Mystery Writers of America etc also would be useful in that vein) Even if you’re unpublished or don’t want to join their guild, they’re a wonderful group and resource, and I highly recommend their site and Writer Beware in particular! The other sites mentioned above, such as “Preditors and Editors” should be still valid if you Google them, and are often rec’d by Writer Beware, but Writer Beware is the one I’m most familiar with. :)
Also, you should never have to pay an agent or anyone a “reading fee”! DO NOT PAY PEOPLE TO READ YOUR WORK!!! Run away from so-called agents that charge a reading fee! They are considered unethical in their own industry!
Also related to agents: Should you go this route and seek one, DO NOT PAY ONE DIME TO THEM upfront! A real agent only gets paid when he sells your book to a publisher! The average cut is about 10-15% of the first sale profits, if I remember right, with cuts of film and other rights maybe being more, when sold. At most, writers should only be responsible for the costs of phone calls and postage.
For more information see: How Literary Agents Get Paid. Standard Commission Practices and Payments for Literary Agents
Edited to Add: Some other great, highly respected resources for writing and getting published are: