Sunday, February 9, 2014

Beware the Sharks

I get very depressed looking for markets some days.  I find the "we don't pay but look at what we're doing for you" attitude of many new markets annoying.  I find this especially annoying when they're bundling the stories into an ebook and selling it.

Now, I don't mind giving my story to a good market, but if you're going to be selling it and making money, I want my share.  And please don't tell me how much good it'll do for my name recognition while you're getting the cash.  Stupid is not written on my forehead and I refuse to stand next to the guy wearing the "I'm with Stupid" T-Shirt.

A few weeks ago I posted a warning about a co-operative anthology site.  The owner got a bit bent out of shape because I cautioned writers to get more information about upfront costs before submitting.  I've been a member of several dairy co-ops and money doesn't always flow to the member and there's usually fees involved that cost the member.  I could see no harm to either side by mentioning that writer's should ask questions before submitting.  Writers shouldn't have to be afraid to ask questions where their work is involved.

Which brings me to the anthology call I found yesterday.  What I found really depressing was that this call was posted on THE WRITER's site.  The call was for 2014 Sywers Short Story Contest.  There were no fees to enter but all the winner received was publication.  Here, copied from the site is what I found most disturbing:

"What's in it for us?
We get the pleasure of helping out talented young authors and we make a small portion of our costs back off each book sold on-line through Amazon or Smashwords. This allows us to recoup our production costs. The contest also allows us an opportunity to help authors with NO upfront cost to them which helps us build a reputation as a trustworthy publisher.

What's in it for the authors?
They may purchase (at our cost to produce, plus shipping) as many copies as they like directly from us, then re-sell these and make money off of them. Authors will have in their hands, a printed, professional collection of their own and others' work to share and sell."

Clicking on their services tab I found that they are a "Vanity Press".  They charge $69 to format your e-book and almost $400 to format paperback copies.  And that is all they do according to the site.  They do not help you promote or sell your book, but they do have an online book store where they sell your book and make a profit.  None of this information is included with their submission guidelines.  That is not my idea of a trustworthy publisher.

Please always read everything on the publisher's site before entering a contest or submitting your work.  The world is full of sharks just waiting for a desperate writer to swim by.

Just a little addition here - No matter how reputable the site where you find the call, ALWAYS, check it out yourself.


Linda Adams said...

One of the other things to watch out for are people publishing for charities (meaning the proceeds go to the charity). I did a couple of these because I wanted to contribute to the charity. But as it turned out, all of them became major headaches because the editors didn't have publishing backgrounds.

Look at the fine print. What rights are they offering? I've seen some for veterans recently that don't even list what rights the authors/veterans are signing away. That raises a flag that the charity may have good intentions but not know what they're doing. Those are the worst because they can suck you in and then fail.

sandra seamans said...

Yes, I've seen many of those lately, but tend to only post the ones who are working with an established press. Just because their hearts are in the right place doesn't mean they have the experience to carry out their idea.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Excellent advice! I've made a few mistakes myself. What I've found is that publications who offer some "good faith" money upfront are the most reliable. I now avoid the others.

sandra seamans said...

We've all made mistakes, Jacqueline, the trick is learning from them :)

Finding markets that pay upfront money against earned royalties are far and few between. I like the ones who actually pay a flat rate as opposed to only royalties. And they're pretty scarce in the crime fiction genre.

Thomas Pluck said...

The press mentioned in the article is nothing but a vanity press in new clothing. Authors would be better served by either learning to format books or hiring an experienced designer and editor to do it for them, if they are set on self publishing (I don't mind "indie" publishing but these words have become politically loaded, it seems).

Money flows TO the artist. I have stopped reading magazines that I've been published in because they now charge reading fees. What gall. "It's a lot of work." Why yes, it is. So is writing it. I applaud editors who read slushpiles month in and out. It's a Sisyphean task, I am sure. But the money earned for it should come from the product you create using other people's art, not from the artist themselves. Period.

I had a few now-defunct zines decide that the story I sent was going to be published in a Kindle anthology, and they were furious when I said no. They hadn't even sent a contract for publishing it online, which is just lazy. Send an email "contract" - no need for signatures if money's not exchanged- You do not "reserve the right" to anthologize what you've published online, even if you give it away for free. That's not how copyright works. Be professional.

Publishing and editing is hard work. I respect that. Publishing two anthologies taught me a hint of what editors deal with daily. But the profit should come from sales of a polished product, not those who contributed to it.

sandra seamans said...

Yes, I noticed the fees connected with a lot of the markets lately, Thomas. I've also ran across two publishing houses and one zine who don't pay the full amount if they have to edit your piece. That's their job, especially the publisher.

A writer should turn in a polished story, but there are still occasional errors no matter how hard we try to avoid them.

Fiona Glass said...

Thanks so much for the level-heading warning, Sandra - it's always good to have a reminder.

I'm seeing a rise in contests where authors pay an entry fee, and the only 'prize' is still publication... :(

sandra seamans said...

Yes, Fiona, or the anthology calls posted as contests and only one writer receives payment for their story, usually $25.

It's very scarey how many ways publishers can take advantage of writers.