Don't let the Sharks Bite

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Back several years ago before I knew better, I submitted a poem I'd written to a website. Not long after, I received a letter in the mail praising my poem. They wanted to publish it in their latest collection of fine poems. Needless to say, I was doing the happy dance. Talk about excited...I just knew I'd hit the jackpot. And it only would cost me $69 to see my poem published in their book.

About this same time, I'd started a writer's course and attended a forum of questions and answers. One thing that stuck in my mind was "Money flows to the writer, not away from." So I started researching. I discovered while not a scam, this "pay to be published" format wasn't the way things were really done in the writing world. It didn't take me long to go from happy dance to funeral dirge.

Here are a few things I've learned along the way.

Money does indeed flow to the writer. Writers work hard getting those words down on paper. We should get paid for them. There's a difference of opinion among writers about working for free. The truth is though, many times we have to write for free to start our portfolio of clips. And honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with considering an unpaid for but published article or story as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

The sharks are circling. They love to take advantage of novice writers. Our job doesn't end with just the writing. We have to sell that article, novel or story to someone. Before sending your work to just your homework! Research is so easy to do these days with the internet. Google that agent or publisher and see what comes up. Check out their websites and remember the old saying..."If it seems too good to be true, it probably is".

There are many, many places online to gather information. Naturally WOW! is my favorite. :-) There's so much great info packed into each issue just waiting to be used. Another great place is Miss Snark's blog. She's become part of my morning wake up routine. If you are looking for an agent, then be sure to check out Writer Beware. The ladies there have made it their mission to inform writers about all the bad apples in the agent barrel. For information on publishers, stop by Preditors & Editors.

I've come a long way since that first "acceptance" letter and learned so much. Now, when I wade into the murky water searching for publication I can avoid the dangers lurking just under the surface.

I want to encourage everyone to learn as much as possible about the way the publishing world works. You won't regret it.


Sue said...

Homework is vital in all arenas, that's for sure...I had a similar incident happen when I submitted some of my photography to a contest, and I was asked to "pay" for a copy of the book where it was published. Sharks appear everywhere. Writers beware! I agree. Thanks ;-)

Angela Mackintosh said...

LOL... I think I know exactly which publication you're talking about. Well, actually maybe it's a little different than the one I submitted to a long time ago. They did publish my poem but if I actually wanted to 'see' it in print, I'd have to buy the book. Learned my lesson real fast!

Super post Jean. :-)

Improv Story said...

"Money flows to the writer, not away from."

...Thank you for passing on that really, really good advice, Jean. I will stick it to my soul like a post it! :-}

btw, the way you used the words "when I wade into the murky water searching for publication I can avoid the dangers lurking just under the surface". I can just picture the 'wading' and the dark water. Great writing. :) Jen

Anonymous said...

Jean, this was an awesome post. And SO important. I've done many "freebies" when starting out so I could build up a clip portfolio. Writers need to know this information when they go out into the publishing world (especially when they're trying to get a novel published!).

Another great place is Absolute Write, which is managed by one of the ladies who manages Writers Beware (Victoria Strauss). There, it's writers/novelists helping other writers/novelists. I always go there and "search" a publisher/agency before querying. =o)

FABULOUS advice, Jean.


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