Monday, May 10, 2010

Publishing: Beware the Dark Side, Luke

Sorry, CJ and Supriya, but "Luke" worked better in the headline.

All kidding aside, I was reminded of the other part of researching with one of David’s blogs about what he went through trying to get his book published.

I almost forgot about, perhaps, the hardest research involving publishing – finding not just a publisher and agent, but reputable ones.

I was also reminded of that aspect when I was watching Law & Order:   Criminal Intent in reruns on TNT. There was an episode with Fisher Stevens

[caption id="attachment_2452" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Unscrupulous publishers: a case for "Law & Order: Criminal Intent""][/caption]

as a literary agent with a less-than-stellar reputation. Of course, he wasn’t killing up-and-coming authors like his rival Peter Coyote. Then again, Coyote’s literary agent character was named “Lionel Shill,” which pretty much says it all.

Though it was fiction, all the L&O franchises draw off real life – “ripped from the headlines” as it were.

While I don’t expect to be murdered by an agent (only by their fees), I do expect to find my fair share of Lionel Shills before I’m through with the publishing world.

It’s funny that with all the talk of print being a dying art, there should be so many dishonest or unscrupulous publishers and agents around. That alone should tell you that the publishing venue is thriving. There must be enough marks – easy or otherwise – to justify all the effort.

A Lionel Shill trying his schtick in Itta Bena, Mississippi might find himself exploring the Mississippi Delta up close and personal. So, he sticks with the big city or, even more convenient, he trolls the Internet.

And even worse than the unscrupulous agent is the unscrupulous publisher.

Having already been victimized once by one such publisher (the previously mentioned Mystic Moon Press) and almost victimized again by another – the infamous PublishAmerica -- I think I can say that the giddiness of being accepted must not cloud the need to do one’s homework.

Fortunately for us writers, we have an anti-Lionel Shill weapon – Writer Beware.

Created by A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware provides a blog and other services to advise writers of the pitfalls of the literary world. They can be found alone or attached to the website for Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Of particular use is their listing of shady publishers and agents.

Of particular note is the great PublishAmerica hoax in 2004. PA had trashed science fiction and fantasy writers with the SFWA. Writer Beware enlisted numerous SFWA writers who, under the guidance of James D. MacDonald, each took turns writing a chapter of a completely inane book called Atlanta Nights.  They put in absurb plot lines, identical chapters, out-of-order chapters, cliché characters who changed gender and race, gross grammatical mistakes, endless spelling mistakes that even a kindergartner could spot, you name it, if it was bad, they included it.

Of course, you know that PublishAmerica accepted the transcript, lock, stock and two smoking barrels. Yes, PA, which says it only accepts high-quality manuscripts accepted the book. That about sums up that publishing entity.

Among agents, Writer Beware has been particularly keen on exposing Writers Literary Agency and its many incarnations – The Literary Agency Group, Global Book Agency, Strategic Book Group, Strategic Book Club, Strategic Book Marketing, Strategic Book Publishing, Eloquent Books, AEG Publishing, WL Children’s Agency, WL Poet’s Agency, WL Screenplay Agency, Writer’s Literary & Publishing Services Company. The list is almost endless.

So, to make a long story short, after you’ve written what you’re going to write, please make sure that the people who are going to publish you are really going to publish what you’ve written.

Do your homework.

Avoid the Shills of the publishing world.


  1. Wow! This is really important information for all writers.
    I do get the Writer Beware newsletter and am glad I do.
    The mind boggles and the body cringes! My goodness, there are predators out there.
    That Atlanta Nights book idea was brilliant! It reminded me of a similar ploy many years ago where several writers each wrote a different chapter (characters were described differently, there was no consistency, etc) in a book that not only was published but became a best seller because it was racy! The book was entitled, NAKED CAME THE STRANGER and I believe they made a film out of it!
    I think this, however--ATLANTA NIGHTS actually was a far more important project because it taught us all a lesson: do your homework!
    Gee, it's rough out there!

  2. I keep meaning to comment on these posts, especially because I agree with much of what's said.

    What scares me is there are writers who believe they need to pay to be published, forgetting (or not knowing) the mantra: "Money flows from the publisher to the author," not vice versa. I know authors who've self-published with vanity publishers, either because they received countless rejections or felt their work wasn't "right" for traditional publishers.

    Writer Beware, Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write... A plethora of information exists to educate writers about the perils of publishing scams. Not doing research can result not only in lost money, but a legal nightmare best left to the writer's imagination and not his or her reality.

    Happy Writing!

  3. Thanks for the advice. I only wished that I had read something like that in the beginning. I, too, was almost duped by Writer's Literary Agency. The day I signed their contract and sent it back to them, I began researching them. Immediately, I stumbled upon Writer Beware and found their warnings about the "agency", along with everybody else's warnings. It seemed the entire internet was warning me. Thankfully, I had a coupple of days to get out from beneath that contract. They pleaded with me to give them a chance and see that what I had been reading was untrue, but by then I was so scared to death I did not listen to them. It had been my very first query and I was rather heartbroken after having been so ecstatic.
    Thankfully, a year and a half later I found Vamplit Publishing. They have taken very good care of me.

  4. I've heard of "Naked Came the Stranger." Writer Beware made mention of it, saying it was the model for their hoax on PublishAmerica.

    Thanks for stopping by and reading.

  5. Thanks for the additional research venues.

    It's amazing how long this type of con has been around. I got caught once or twice as a teen in the 80s as a budding songwriter, paying someone to get my stuff published. I got burned and I learned.