Thursday, September 1, 2011

Read carefully

Just a note to new writers. Read everything a publisher says carefully. Traps for the unwary may lie in submission guidelines as well as in contracts.

Here are a few red flags to look for:

1. Contests that ask for rights to all entries, not just the winner. Newspapers are commonly guilty of this. It's a scam; they get all the content provided and only have to pay out one, often relatively small prize. Also, nobody should get your rights without a contract. Even if they promise to give them back.

2. Publishers who talk about how hard it is to be published. Note, this is a different thing from a publisher saying they are selective, or releasing their acceptance statistics. This is 'We know how hard it is to be published. Let us help.' Behind this language lurks, most of the time, a predator. That predator is the vanity publisher in real publisher clothing. Often their victims do not know they are going to be charged to be published until they see the contract. Alternatively, publishers or agents who admit to being failed writers. They often don't intend to rip off their clients, but seldom know what they are doing. (Agents who also write? That's a different matter).

3. Publishers that seem to lack basic knowledge. For example, it is generally considered bad form to register copyright on work before submitting it. Therefore, a publisher that advises you to do so, may not know what they are doing. Many, many authors have fallen into the trap of signing with a promising new publisher that then promptly went out of business...tying their rights up for months, if not years. Sometimes, it can be hard to avoid this one, but think very hard before entrusting your novel to a publisher that has no track record.

4. Never let your friend publish your book. You're likely to end up with no book...and no friend.