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The Writer As Victim

Naiveté, desperation, eagerness. What does that spell to you? To me it spells V-I-C-T-I-M. It can also spell W-R-I-T-E-R.

A writer eager to find a publisher, desperate for an agent, naive enough to sign any contract that seems to promise publication. And that’s just the dirt on top. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find all kinds of “opportunities” to promote, sell, distribute or otherwise handle a writer’s opus—for a fee.

I have been a writer all my professional life and a publisher for the last twenty plus years. I know how eagerly a writer wants to be published; I know the anguish of being rejected again and again by uncaring and by, obviously, ignorant agents who can’t seem to grasp my vision. And I have been naive enough to hand over thousands of dollars for publicists who did nothing, distributors who charged more in fees than my publishing company made in sales, cover designers who cost more than the going rates or who never heard of “work for hire.”

Contests, awards, marketing consultants, advertisers, unscrupulous agents and editors, even reviewers, all add to the pile of “writer-get-rich” snares out there. Writer Beware. “Writer beware” ( is the registered trademark of a website packed with information every writer needs. It is an eye-opener. Pay attention to this website.

Learn about the publishing industry and the business of writing. Join a writers’ association—many states and areas have one. Attend writers’ conferences. Network with other writers. Join a critique group. An excellent website on the business of writing is Subscribe to her newsletter and take her webinars. There’s a lot to learn, and it isn’t limited to participles.

Agents, for instance. Most publishers look to agents for the books they publish. Treat agents with respect. Your query letter must be carefully crafted. But beware of agents who charge reading fees or sell their editing services. Check the list of agents on QueryTracker or Publisher’s Marketplace. Find out how many clients they have and who they are. Study the agent’s website and conform to their submission requirements. And be sure to check the writer-beware website to find out who’s under indictment.

Your book is published and you are anxious for reviews. Beware of fake reviewers who solicit books for, I guess, resale. Check their credentials. Are they a legitimate reviewer for the media outlet they claim? The first few years we were in publishing, we kept receiving requests for review copies from a Joan Orth. The letterhead seemed to have been cut out of a potato and stamped, so it didn’t quite look right, but eager for reviews, we sent her copies. Finally, one of our publisher acquaintances asked on a publishers’ chat room if anyone had ever seen a review by Joan Orth anywhere. The response was a resounding “No.” In response James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review, wrote a series of articles on how to spot a fake reviewer. Bless him.

Some publications will offer a review of your book if you buy an ad. They’ll claim thousands of subscribers, but how credible will the review be? Some respected review publications will sell reviews, but it will be an honest review. Your recourse there for a bad review will be to request it not be published.

Maybe your book can receive an award. There are organizations that are award mills. They will give out awards in a hundred different categories with loose criteria so the award becomes meaningless. You still pay to enter.

Don’t become a victim. Learn not only the art and craft of writing but also the business. The vultures can smell hope, desperation, and ignorance and will gather around.


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