Note: If you’re looking for the “W” post for the A to Z Challenge, scroll on down the page and you’ll find it. First, however, especially if you’re a writer, you might want to check out Jacqueline Seewald’s post about writing scams to avoid.
Multiple award-winning author Jacqueline Seewald has taught creative, expository and technical writing at the university level as well as high school English. She also worked as an academic librarian and an educational media specialist.
Eleven of her books of fiction have been published. Her short stories, poems, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in hundreds of diverse publications. Her latest romantic mystery thriller entitled Death Legacy has been published by Five Star/Gale this month. It’s available from Amazon, B&N online, and can be requested at libraries everywhere.
Avoiding Writing Scams by Jacqueline Seewald
I’ve sold a lot of writing over the years, both fiction and nonfiction, plays, poems and book reviews, and I’ve been cheated occasionally by individuals who have not fulfilled their contracts. I discovered that I could still be cheated if I wasn’t careful. There are some smooth operators out there. Their scams are likely not illegal, but they are still to your detriment as a freelance writer. Here are several scams that look good on the surface but aren’t:
Most writing contests these days cost money to enter. Some of them ask quite a lot of money. So naturally, we’re all on the look-out for free ones. Some are poetry contests that promise to put your work in an anthology. All you have to do is buy the anthology. Some of the poetry and short story contests on the web offer a prize for the best work. The catch? They reserve the right to archive your work in perpetuity regardless of whether or not you have won the contest. So you will never be able to sell that story or poem for first rights. And chances are no one will accept it even as a reprint since it’s now out there for free on the Internet. This kind of contest is just a scam for a site to obtain free content—your content! So read those rules carefully before you decide to submit your work.
When you sell articles to online publications, be aware that you need a statement as to how long the site intends to archive your work. Again, if it’s in perpetuity, you are out the reprints. And reprints can be quite lucrative. Even print publications may insist on internet rights and display your work for all to see. Make certain archiving rights are limited and that you have it in writing!
With so many publications out there, try to submit your work to ones that have been established for several years. So many publications come and go, often folding before you receive payment for your work.
Book contracts are really tricky. The publishers demand all sorts of rights. Try to limit what you give away. If you can afford it, have a lawyer familiar with intellectual property rights look the contract over for you. The best thing is to have a literary agent represent you, but the reputable ones are often harder to obtain than publishers. The key here is to make certain that money is coming to you, not the other way around. Never, ever pay an agent or publisher a cent! Legitimate agents take a percentage, usually 10 to 15 percent of what you will earn
I once signed a book contract that looked perfectly straightforward and legitimate. The publisher claimed to be a “traditional” publisher, promised ten free copies of my novel, offered a decent royalty, but claimed because they were a small publisher, they could not afford to offer authors an advance. When all was said and done, I had a lovely book that I hadn’t invested any money in getting published. The catch? The publisher wouldn’t send out any ARCs to reviewers. The publisher expected authors to purchase a large number of copies and send them out themselves. The key reviewing publications basically ignored POD. So for all intents and purposes, my novel was dead before it was born. I’ve never signed with a publisher who didn’t offer at least a small royalty since then.
My advice–when negotiating a book contract always insist on getting an advance against royalties, even if it isn’t a large one. This shows good faith. If you don’t get the advance, then don’t accept the contract. The advance demonstrates that your book is valued and that likely the legitimate publisher will put some time, effort and money into marketing it. Always remember that money must come to you as the author and not the other way!
Another thing to check for, make certain that there is a time limit as to how long the publisher can hold the book without publishing it. After two years without publication, you want the rights to revert back to you. Also true if the book goes out of print. After seven years (the standard) you want return of your rights. If the book is remaindered, ask for return of rights at that time.
Of course a lot has changed since digital publishing has come on the scene and so many writers are self-publishing. In many ways, this can benefit writers.
The following websites provide warnings or discussion of ways in which writers may be scammed:
SFWA’s Writer Beware: http://www.sfwa.org/beware/
Preditors & Editors: http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/
Jacqueline, thanks so much for being here today and sharing this excellent advice about scams. Beginning writers often don’t have this information when they need it most.