Sunday, 7 June 2009

Guest Post: Avoiding The Conmen, by Victoria Strauss

The final guest blog post today comes from Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. She's very well informed about writing and publishing and has been quite ridiculously supportive of me and my blog this year; and she works incredibly hard to educate and protect writers and in so doing, presents herself as a target for a lot of people who occupy the nastier side of publishing. She takes a lot of criticism, rudeness and downright abuse, and never fails to respond with grace and humour. I am profoundly grateful to her for all the support she's given me this year.

This piece isn't even something she wrote as a special post: it's just one of the many helpful posts she makes every week over at Absolute Write. As usual, she's got things bang-on. Thanks, Victoria. I owe you.

It's incredibly easy to avoid the conmen (and women). Query only agents with verifiable track records of commercial book sales (which you should be able to find on their websites. No track record, no query). Approach only publishers whose books you've found on the shelves of bookstores and libraries. If writers would just stick to those two simple rules, most of the conmen (and women) would go out of business.

The reason the conmen (and women) survive is not just because writers are inexperienced, or don't know their names from reading them on a blog somewhere. It's because so many writers assume that all agents and publishers are essentially equal. This makes no sense at all. In the real world, would you hire someone who had no skills that qualified them to do the job you wanted them to do, and could offer you no references? Probably you wouldn't. So why should agents or publishers be any different?

1 comment:

Sheila Norton said...

This is so true. Unfortunately, unlike the scenario of getting in a plumber, etc, when authors are trying to find a publisher they are so deeply, personally, involved in the quest that they stop caring about sensible precautions and become desperate. That's how the vanity publishers stay in business. I wish there was a way to stop it, but as long as authors are desperate for publication, and as long as the proper channels are so few and so difficult, I can't see it happening.