Useful tips to avoid less-useful publishers

funpanelI mentioned yesterday that I’d heard a few “publishers” say frightening things over the course of this con season. Let me clarify something: Those few (three, remember) folks self-identified as publishers on panels or in a dealer’s room. They could have been vanity presses, POD presses, or outright scammers. (Most of them were out-of-genre for me, so I didn’t sweat it too much.) They were a distinct minority. But they somehow managed to get themselves in a position where they looked like professionals, even though they didn’t act like it.

So let me throw a few other quick tips at you.

  • When in doubt, check Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.
  • Ask what the prospective publisher is (and is not) willing to do for you. Have some reasonable expectations of what each of you is bringing to the table.
  • Remember Yog’s Law: Money flows toward the author. Paying a freelance editor to go over your work is an investment. Paying someone to publish your book is a rip-off.
  • Be aware of the resources that are out there. Contact other writers. Take a look at the resources that the writer’s organizations (SFWA & HWA for two examples) have to offer. There are often many resources that anyone, member or not, can utilize.

But really, the take-home here is that just because someone presents themselves as a publisher, or as a “writerly resource”, or they’re on a panel at a con 1 does not mean they’re legit. Take the time to evaluate the source on its own merits.

For example, the swag bag at CONTEXT contained a flyer from “Writer’s Relief” and “Bowker Manuscript Submissions”. I don’t fault the organizers for this – they were given free stuff to hand out, and besides, the swag bag also included books!

I held up the flyers at each of my panels and told folks to recycle them. Writer Beware has some good advice on these “services” and why to avoid them. 2

I really enjoyed my time at CONTEXT, and there was a lot of great information in panels and workshops. But it’s not up to a convention’s organizers to vet panelists and flyers. They have more than enough work without doubting everything a potential panelist claims. It’s our responsibility as authors and content creators.

And before anyone asks, yes, my first “publication credit” was a vanity press publication of a poem in one of the “Treasured Poems of America” (buy a copy, we’ll print your poem). It happens… but then you move on and learn from the experience.

And hopefully, help someone else not be taken in by the same scam.

1 That guy on the far right of that picture? I mean, who the heck is he? 3
2 I find it amusing that there’s a special caution warning about
ChristianManuscriptSubmissions – which the Bowker flyer says that it’s modeled on.
3 Yes, that’s me.

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