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Bob Nailor




Scammed

"Caveat emptor" is a very common phrase, used willy-nilly but sometimes it really needs to be watched. For those who don't know what it means - normally it is used as "Let the buyer beware."

To start, let's begin with the concept of "buyer" and how this should be a red flag. I was taught early on in my writing career that the money comes TO the author from the publisher, not the other way around - from author to publisher. If you're buying to get yourself published, you're supporting what they call a vanity press. That is a whole different topic that what I want to discuss with this tip.

Yes, I know it is only a $10 entry fee and you have a chance at winning $3000 in a writing or poetry contest. Exactly who is handling this contest? What organization? Is it legitimate?

I'm not saying all contests are rip-offs. BUT, if you evaluate the source you may save yourself money and heartache. Joe Average has a website where for a mere $5 entry fee, you can enter your poem or short story into his monthly contest and win $50. You have no idea who is entering, how many have entered and some obscure person will be the winner - a name, no picture, no other details. In other words, Oh, look! John Doe won! You lost!

But let's get to the real scam artists. They can be editors, publishers, agents, and other writers. Are you shocked?

A friend of mine sent a 500+ page story to an editor to review. She got it back with a few red lines and circled words. This cost my friend over $1,000 back in the late 1990s. The editor's comments were: Good story. A few typing errors. Clean up and send out. Needless to say, I got to see the document after it had been rejected by 5 publishers and/or agents. In the first three pages I found several errors and knew immediately I was reading a rough story by a newbie. She found another editor who made some major suggestions and changes to the story but, in the end, cleaned up the tale to make it a viable product.

I was coordinating a writing conference and "almost" got hood-winked by an agent. I was surfing when I stumbled on this particular agent and since she lived with 8 hrs of my event, I decided to offer her a chance to be a guest at the conference. I sent the email and then, on a whim, decided to check her out. To say I was appalled at what I discovered would be an understatement. This woman had absconded with several thousands of dollars from writers and even faked her own death to elude the police as she escaped to Europe. She was found out by accident when she used her old name and email address in correspondence with a savvy writer. Fortunately I was able to cancel her engagement since we hadn't signed contracts.

So how does one protect themselves from being scammed?

First, be smart, be savvy. You shouldn't be paying except for legitimate items - like payment for a professional edit.

Editors: Check out their web, see if they have any recommendations and if they do, contact a couple of the people to see what they have to say. I would say that you should only pay 50% of the fee to start the person editing and the rest when the job is returned to you OR only have them do a few pages to get a feel for their work.

Agents: Again, do your research. They shouldn't be charging you for anything - they work on a commission. One writer I know had an agent she was paying to cover postage and other office expenses. Finally, after 3 quarters of the year and paying these bills, my friend questioned where the agent had been sending and what type of rejections she was getting. Imagine her surprise when she received photocopies of letters where the name had been erased (white-out) and her name poorly typed in. She didn't renew.

Publishers: I had a publisher approach me and offer to publish my work and for a mere $150 I could get the "silver" option for a quicker turn-around. If I wanted to pay more (upwards of $500) I could get an even faster response. Plus there were fees for editing and transcriptions. What I found amazing, this wasn't a vanity press operation. If I didn't pay any extra, it would have taken upwards of 10-20 months for my story to print.

Now here's some really good secrets. There are places you can go to verify information about whether or not the person/place you want to deal is a scam. Unfortunately, it is timely but may not have EVERY scam artist listed.

I have editors, agents and publishers I deal with on a daily basis and if you see their name on my web pages, rest assured they are legitimate. In fact, my editor who I pay to review and correct my final copy, has been doing this for nearly 20 years. In addition to editing, she has taught me and my writing has improved because of her. I have good working relationships with my publishers - yes, I have more than one publisher. And I have an agent who I trust.

Just because you write in the security of your home - that doesn't mean you're safe. Be on guard at all times.




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~ COMMENTS ~

Elyse Salpeter
2014-06-09
I was scammed early in my writing career by two agents who made me pay $90 to review and sell my work. This was WAY before all the wonderful internet support groups, and I was living in my own little naive world. Needless to say, they never sold a thing. My advice... pay nothing to an agent... ever. Great post.
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Onisha Ellis
2014-06-09
What do you think of local literary organizatons that require an entry fee for writing contests?
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Ms. Cheevious
2014-06-09
Well done Bob. The world is jam packed with scammers, and the web has opened a pandora's box. You have to be on alert and protective of your intellectual property like a mother bear over her cubs... Guard it with your life and be VERY wary of any "great deals" or ideas...
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Bob Nailor
2014-06-09
@Onisha: When you say "local" I'm guessing you mean somewhere very near to where you live. These are small organizations and support your area talents. I see no reason not to enter those contests. BUT, if the contest is never mentioned - other than ads in local papers to submit - I would be wary. They had a contest here and the prize was a certificate and an award, no money but you needed to pay $5 entry fee. All money received was donated to the library. That's not a scam. IF some of the money had been used for a banquet of the staff working the event and to pay them - then it is a scam in my eyes, especially when they say the money is being donated to a cause. Decades ago, my father-in-law canvassed an area of the community for a fund-raiser. Afterward, they had a lavish banquet with steak dinners, both he and his wife were included. He felt he'd been scammed as well as the public he canvassed. The money he collected had been used for the "thank you" banquet for almost 50 people.

So, always evaluate the event and go with your gut feeling. If the winner seems real when it is said and done, there is always next year.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-06-09
@Elyse: Today scammers are even more proficient at what they do and the sheep wool the wolf wears looks even more real to others. You are correct - pay nothing for nothing.

@Ms. Cheevious. "Great deals" should be a red light for everyone. If it is too good to believe, it probably is a scam.

Thank you all for your comments.
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Mark Stone
2014-06-10
Sage advice! One resource I've found invaluable is http://pred-ed.com.
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James Prescott
2014-06-10
Thanks for this Bob, a real eye-opener. Thanks for sharing.
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