Choose Potential Clients Carefully

Monday, May 23, 2016
Writers and editors are hungry. We’re constantly brainstorming ways to earn extra money, collect clips, expand our portfolios, and make important connections in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, sometimes we rush to work on projects without first protecting ourselves and our time and integrity. This happened to me last year, and I’m still angry with myself for being so naïve and gullible. In my case, the potential client was a friend of a friend, so I felt more confident getting involved in the project.

The client was a start-up media company (I’m not going to name names here) producing historical children’s books that were similar to the “choose your own adventure” books of my childhood. From my understanding, the books were only going to be available through an app produced by the company. I sent writing samples to the development director (not the friend of a friend), and he gave me a list of historical fiction topics they were looking for. I picked one, and he then asked me to develop a lengthy proposal on the subject, complete with sample chapters and examples of how they could have different outcomes if the character made different choices.

This should have been a red flag, because I didn’t have a contract at this point and no guarantee that I would be commissioned to work on the book. But I thought to myself that educational companies sometimes go through a similar process when hiring writers, right? (Looking back, maybe not!) So I kept going. It was a very complex process, and required hours of research and work to make it all come together. I put together a 10-page proposal, including a flowchart of how the book would be laid out. My contact came back and asked for revisions of the proposal and more sample chapters. This took more time away from clients I already had.

I began getting frustrated at this point, but I made the revisions. I didn’t hear back from him for a few weeks, and then he came back to me and told me his new CEO of the company didn’t think my topic would be a good fit for their target audience. This confused me, because the company had given me a list of topics to choose from in the first place! They then asked if I could put together another proposal from another list of topics. At this point I was angry. I told them I could not, as I had paying clients I needed to focus on. To this day, I’m not sure any books that were in development for this company have seen the light of day. I was embarrassed to tell anyone what I had gone through because it would make me look foolish. But this happened over a year ago and I now feel I should warn other writes of these types of writing scams. Maybe it wasn’t a scam and just poor management, but I suffered regardless, because I spent 15-20 hours alone on a project that went nowhere.

Have you ever experienced a writing scam? How did you resolve it if so?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also blogs at Renee's Pages. Visit her website at


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I've never been caught in a scam, but I have been caught in jobs that were just bad. My fave was the educational job where I had to explain leveled vocabulary and word lists to the editor. Let's just say that once I finished that contract, I hit the ground running!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Yes, Renee, I did a TON of work--very similar to your story--and the client dropped off the face of the earth when I sent the bill. I mean, this guy was gone with the wind. There was not much I could do except vow to check credentials next time. (And that's exactly what I've done since!)

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