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Scams, Schemes, And Shams: Who Can An Author Trust?

Authors in their quest to get published can fall victim to scams. Here’s a few tips to help you avoid the traps.

Online Matching Services and Email Blast Programs

These services, for a fee, put your query letter, synopsis and first chapter online. Acquisition editors and literary agents then have the opportunity to peruse the offerings. You have to ask yourself if you truly believe that the average literary agent, who receives 1100 unsolicited queries a year, has the time to look at these websites.

The reverse, or maybe it’s the inverse, are services that have databases of agents and publishers. You specify the genre of your book and up pops agents/publishers who have said they are interested in your genre. Sometimes the agents/publishers have provided their acquisition specs and sometimes the owner of the database has just input the information from other sources.

Finally there are services who will email blast your query letter to agents/publishers. If the participants have agreed to receive the query letters there is a higher probability you will be successful. But, again you have to wonder, with all the unpublished manuscripts out there looking for a publishing home, why would an agent/publisher feel it necessary to sign up for these types of services.

Book Doctors…but are they quacks?

The beginning author wonders: 1) Do I really have talent? 2) Is my book ready to be marketed, or does it need additional work?

One option is to hire an editing service, sometimes called a book doctor. This is not simply a copy editor who checks for grammar, sentence structure, and spelling. A book doctor looks at the plot, characters, dialogue, continuity and flow.

It almost seems like more people making a living selling editing services—book doctors, script doctors—than writers earning a living. In screenwriting, it has become an epidemic. Producers who run out of money have even taken up the script doctoring profession to pay the rent while they are “between films.”

Asking another person to re-write your work is problematic. Who knows your story better than you do? It is extremely difficult to evaluate how talented these editors are, to determine if they are really going to improve your work.

Fees for these services can range from several hundred dollars to five or ten thousand dollars.

Remember that all manuscripts need editing. And that one of the publisher’s jobs is to work with the writer on getting the manuscript ready to publish.

Another option is a critique service; this is usually less expensive. They provide a report of their view of what is good and bad about the work, and perhaps its market potential. They are, at best, just one person’s opinion. If the critique service isn’t a publisher, how do they know what will sell and what won’t.

Marketing Services

There are many companies who provide legitimate services to authors in marketing and promoting their titles. Just because a company requires a fee doesn’t mean it’s a scam.

Having said that, if your book is not offered with industry standard terms, bookstores are highly unlikely to stock it, no matter what the marketing efforts are. Your book must be returnable to the publisher through the major wholesalers. It must be offered with 90 days for payment. It must be offered with at least a 40% discount from the retail price. These terms must be offered from the publisher not the author – unless of course the author is the publisher. Keep in mind that the author must own the ISBN, International Standard Book Number to be considered the publisher.

When a marketing company is unconcerned that the terms are not industry standard you should be concerned.

About the author: Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including Your Ebook: From Cyberspace to the Bookstore Shelves, and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents and Booksellers Behind Them


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