Wednesday, January 11, 2012

There be sharks in them waters, Dearie!!!!

So you’ve finished your first novel and after several rounds of happy dances, you are ready to send your beloved out into the world for the masses to devour.  Then you run across this blog post by the ever so eloquent Emlyn Chand.  You read it and realize you need a little more work on your manuscript before you start looking for an agent.  But the time comes when your baby is as free of errors as you can possibly make it, and ready for its triumphant entrance.  Then what?

The then what can kill you.(Figuratively) It is imperative that you research every last agent and publisher you consider submitting your work to!!!!  Many times you will hear ‘people’ say personalize your query letters.  They aren’t kidding.  The fact is, by the time you actually send out that letter, you should know what kind of coffee they drink and what their favorite food is.  (Oh yes, I’m totally advocating stalking your perspective agent.  However, not in the weird, creepy, standing outside their house with a sign way, or sending mail to their home.)  Read their blog posts.  Find out what they enjoy reading, what they hate, and most importantly, what they are looking for.  And... research them.

Scamming new writers who are just getting their feet wet is a multimillion dollar business.  You should have heard this a million times by now if you are doing your job and putting in the research:  Money flows to the writer, not away from them.  Remember that.  If you are going the traditional publisher/agent route, you shouldn’t be spending money for their services.  Their income will come from a percentage of your book deal. (Should you acquire one.)

Now this becomes even stickier when you decide to skip traditional publishing and move on to self publishing.  You will find numerous companies who claim they can get you the quickest results in sales and quality product for the low cost of (a ridiculous amount of money.)  Some might actually be able to do what they claim.  Some. 

You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve been offered and what they wanted in return.  One ‘group’ (who I won’t name) claimed they could get my first novel (Birthright) not just ON Amazon’s top 100, but make it #1.  That’s right, they were going to make me a BEST SELLER!!!!!  And all they wanted in return was the distribution rights to my next 4 books.  Global distribution rights.  And because they were going to spend so much money on marketing, the royalty split would be 70/30.  (I got the 30.)  Well that doesn’t sound all that bad, does it?  I mean they’re doing all the work.  I’m just writing, paying an editor, and sending them books.  (Because they had full say so on cover art and pricing too.)  And then the catch comes in.  With these people there is ALWAYS  a catch.  Every dime spent for marketing would be taken out of my 30 percent.  (I know, I said the same thing.  Seriously????)  Doesn’t sound like I’ll be making much does it?  (And I forgot to mention it was a 10 year contract.  Fan-freaking-tastic, right?)

I had another offer from a group who has the audacity to bill themselves as a publisher.  They were going to give me 30 percent too.  In return for printing my books and taking 70 percent of the money I may or may not make, they offered: Book printing, cover design (for a small fee), editing (for a larger fee), and limited marketing.  (Which equates to them putting the book on their website and sending out a press release to the thousands of authors they’ve taken in.)  Oh, and let’s not forget!!!!  If I want copies of my books I have to purchase them, but I would get a 15 percent discount on the retail price. 

 I realize this probably sounds like a rant.  It’s not.  It is a warning!!!!  Pay attention to the fine print.  Whether you are traditionally or self publishing, there are sharks out there who will have you for a snack and NEVER feel a bit of regret for doing so.

When you are looking for editors, interview them.  Ask for a test edit. (Just a page or two.)  You are paying them for their services.  You NEED to know if they can deliver what you are paying them for.

The same goes for a cover designer.  Check out their work before you contract them.  Make sure they can give you what you want in a reasonable amount of time. 

I can honestly say I haven’t had any trouble with one of the ‘rogue’ agents.  I did my research and didn’t bother to submit to anyone who had a less than perfect reputation.  (Writer Beware, and Predators and Editors is the best place to start.)  But some of these so-called publishing companies, and dare I say marketing/PR companies...will run you through the ringer.  I’ve heard some horrendous stories from writers I know personally who’ve been sucked in.  I know how bad you want your book out there.  (Trust me, I totally get it.)  But in the long run, to have your baby kidnapped and held hostage by unscrupulous people is far worse than waiting, researching, and taking your time.

Good luck and be good to each other!!!!   ;)


  1. What a brilliant article. I totally agree with what you've said here.

    I don't think I've got anything to add...

    D Michelle Gent

  2. Great info! I can only add this. Before you sign a major contract, have an attorney read it -one that specializes in the 'entertainment' industry. Publishers and agents alike will claim a contract is 'standard' but in reality, there is no such thing as a standard contract...EVER. If you don't want to invest in an attorney to protect that which you've put your heart and soul into, perhaps it is time to re-think what your objectives really are.

  3. Great advice. There are definitely sharks out there. They prey on the vulnerability of writers who just want to live their dream. Always be prepared!

    Oh, and thank you for calling me "ever so eloquent." *BLUSH* ;-)

  4. Great advice! the first year in this industry is a huge learning curve full of trials and errors (mostly errors for me).
    An attorney to look over a contract is crucial. If you're going with a small publisher, ask the hard questions. Do they hire an editor? Not beta readers, not someone that has taken a few classes in English, not online buddies, but professional editors that will make your work as good as possible. Editors will charge in the throusands of dollars to edit a full manuscript and most small publishers do not have the resources to spend and are hesitant to admit that to a new prospect. There is nothing more humiliating than when reviews come in that blast you - the author - for things that should've been caught in editing. Writers write, editors edit; it's two seperate skills.
    Ask about marketing. Will there be press releases, blog tours, reviews for your book? How much will the company do and what is your responsibility as the author? You can write the best book ever and it won't mean a thing if no one is reading.
    I would suggest taking screeenshots of chat conversations, saving all e-mails between you and the company you decide to go with. If something goes wrong, if you find yourself the victim of deception, these things can be your golden ticket out a bad situation.

  5. Willow, you freaking rock, just saying. All too often newbies forget that just because a small place or ANY place offering them a deal (no matter how terrible it is) should be taken and taken with gratitude. That's like saying if I offered you a moldy sandwich, you're supposed to take it because that's best you're going to get, nevermind the fresh sandwiches behind me. Nope, they don't exist.

    This is a great post to caution any person to LOOK before they ACT.