Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dream Predators

By Sariah S. Wilson

When I got the official news in December 2005 that my book was going to be published, a lot of people simply said congratulations. But there were many who said instead, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

A lot of people have that dream. Few actually do anything about it. And from those that try, even fewer actually finish their manuscript and an even smaller percentage mail it into a publisher.

When I imagined myself getting published, I envisioned frenzied editors fighting over who would have the privilege of publishing my book. Scads of money would be thrown at me. Hollywood would beg for the movie rights. I would write one book, make millions of dollars, and retire. I learned, as we all do, that it doesn’t quite happen that way.

The problem is that the people with the dream usually fail to realize how hard it is to get published, unless they know someone who has gone through the publishing process. The LDS market is different from the national market in that there are no agents and it takes less time. When I first submitted to my publisher, I just sent the entire manuscript because at the time that was the direction on their website. Now they want query letters first.

If you’re trying to publish in the national market, it can take years. First you have to send a one-page query letter. If that grabs their attention, the agent or editor will then ask to see what they call a partial. That’s usually the first few chapters and what’s called a synopsis, which is sort of like an outline and the bane of all writers’ existences. Then if they like that, they’ll ask to see a full manuscript. Keep in mind that each of these stages can often take anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Also keep in mind that at any one of those stages the agent or editor can say thanks, but no thanks. A request for a full is not a guarantee that you’ll get published.

When people with book dreams begin to understand the enormity of trying to get published and the long, long wait in front of them, many start to look for shortcuts. They want the “secret” of how to get published quickly.

Enter the con artists.

The publishing industry certainly has their share of snake oil salesmen, scammers who want to prey on your dreams. Print on demand publishers tell you that they can get you on the shelves on Barnes & Noble. No they can’t, no matter how much money you spend.

The worst are those that pretend to be agents. Anyone can hang a shingle and say, “I’m an agent.” There’s no licensing for agents (they can join the AAR, which subscribes to a code of ethics, so it’s a good way to weed people out). It’s why you absolutely must do your homework when you send your query letters out into the world.

Writer Beware is a writer-centric site that has the goal of helping writers navigate the publishing industry. They have a list of the top 20 worst “agents” out there:

Top 20 Worst Agents

These are agents that charge you “reading fees” or recommend that you take your work to a “professional editor” who then sends the “agent” a kickback. The “agents” charge an assortment of fees that often end up in the thousands, and then make a token effort to send your manuscript out in a mass mailing to editors (so that they won’t be guilty of committing fraud) (which you could do yourself, thus saving thousands of dollars and you’d probably get a better chance of having your work looked at because editors know who those scam agents are and don’t read their stuff). Real agents should NEVER take a dime from you until you have sold. Ethical agents will never charge you any sort of fee before they sell your work. They won’t make money until you make money.

The money ALWAYS flows to the writer. ALWAYS. There is no shortcut to finding an agent or to being published. Don’t let anyone take all your money while they’re telling you otherwise. There is no shortage of writer websites out there where you can ask questions about agents. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.


At 7/16/2006 11:32 PM, Blogger Stephen said...

The money ALWAYS flows to the writer The one true rule.

Good reprise.


Post a Comment

<< Home