I got an e-mail from a friend this morning asking if I could do her a favor.
She responded, “I’m traveling and need somebody who can pick up some iTunes cards for my daughter.”
I had no idea what those were, so I asked where they could be purchased.
Apparently at a grocery store or drug store. The thing was, she wanted three $100-cards and provided instructions for how to e-mail the card’s number (or whatever).
If she had asked for a $25 card, I might well have done it. But three cards at $100 each? I don’t have that kind of money even with her promise to pay me back when she got back home.
It was a scam. Her e-mail had been hacked, she told me, in an e-mail later in the day.
I told her the scammer was greedy and thought I’d send $300 worth of stuff. Apparently, the hacker changed her address for replies in a way that was hard to detect. I might have sent $25 and never known she had nothing to do with the request.
The trouble with dreams is that the defy logic. Last night, I dreamt I was at a Shriners convention. When I woke up, I knew it wasn’t true.
When a fast-talking, dirt bag of a publisher says they’ll give you the moon, the sun and the stars, waking up often takes longer. Sure, there can be misunderstandings about contract standards and terms as well as what a new author can reasonably expect. But fraud and almost-fraud are something else.
If you have a book and think it’s ready to publish, do some Google searches (if you think you’ve found a publisher) and see if anything negative turns up. In fact, do a search on “publishing scams” as well. I did a search on that phrase and got 850,000 hits. That alone suggests there’s enough badness out there to curl your hair even if you don’t want it curled.
If you’re unsure about publishing practices and terminology, check Writers Write. They’re a good resource.
If you think you’ve found a publisher, check Writer Beware. In addition to positive resources, the site features a solid list of publishers and problems. Or, as they put it: Writer Beware’s mission is to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry. They do a good job keeping their data updated. Looking here might save you a lot of time, money and heartache, while keeping your dream of track.
Another site with good writing resources is Indies Unlimited. They have a staff of seasoned experts who have been there, done that, and survived to tell the tale–and offer some advice as a bonus.
But there’s more. IU is currently running a series of blog posts called FOULED! written by people have been scammed. Dream-wise, these are sob stories. In many cases, fraud was involved. Unfortunately, fraud is hard to prove and most beginning writers don’t have the money to hire a lawyer, much less travel to the state where the publisher is headquartered and initiate a court action.
Nightmare on Editing Street
Today’s post by Brenda Perlin tells a nightmare story about the author’s experience with an online editing company. The company promised a beautiful manuscript and delivered, well, pond scum (my term for it).
Such companies can take advantage of a problem most writers face: if the publisher doesn’t hire in-house editors to clean up a manuscript, then the writer has to do it. Unfortunately, the cost for editing, say, a 70,000-word book might well be more than most of us can afford; and, statistically, it also may be more than most debut, small-press or self-published novels are likely to earn. This is a sensitive area for writers because they get dinged by reviewers for typos.
Most of us are the last people to copy edit or proofread out own work.
Previously, on Fouled
If you want to read these in the order that they appeared, start at the bottom of the list and work up.
Writing is hard work. Finding the right publisher and then promoting the book is almost harder work. In Blue Highways, one of my favorite books, the author William Least Heat-Moon talks to many people along the road, asking one of them: “Dreams take up a lot of space?”
“All you can give them,” was the reply.
This is how dreams are. How dreams are makes them dangerous because logic and good intentions don’t always mesh well with our journey to make dreams come true. So, as the site says, Writer Beware.
Otherwise, how dreams are is also their magic and wonderment.