Thursday, January 28, 2010

Writing Commandmant #8 Beware False Prophets

So you've done it, sat down, written a novel, shined it to within an inch of its life. You are convinced it's the best it can be. Now what?

While there are many roads to being published, the standard query route, networking at conferences and whatnot, even winning a contest (Congrats again Saranna!:-) There are many more opportunistic avenues for the predatory who will prey on your hopes and dreams.

When I rule the world they'll all be put in the stocks-- miserable pieces of cow crap-- but I don't yet, so I'll tell you what I've done wrong so far.

I was over the freaking moon and back when I finished Jackson Corners. I'd done it, written an entire (huge, 110 K words) mystery. Most mysteries are about half the length but instead of paring back, I started hunting for agents familiar with the area I'd set my book (the Hudson valley, upstate NY,) sure they'd be wowed by my unique and vivid descriptions as well as the characters and plot.

To sum up, they weren't.

Except for one, the New York Literary Agency. When I got the offer for a contract for representation I was over extatic. Until I did a little research. Seems that the New York Literary Agency was a tentacle attached to a larger creature, a parent sham literary agency which accepts manuscripts and then asks writers to pay fees first to edit and then to submit the story to publishers. Which they don't do, no submissions, no edits, just a profit-making scheme.

Talk about a cold dose of reality.

To my credit, even Miss Snark said how in the hell are new writers supposed to know this is a sham agency? They have a mailing address, you query them , they accept you. It was a very good scam and though I never signed anything, admitting that I fell for it, that I was duped, bites. Weeks of wasted time and false hope, but at least I wasn't out any money.

By this point I really wanted to move on to the next story, ironically, Redeeming Characters, then titled Drue and Dakota. We were getting ready to move from Virginia Beach to our current local in NC and I had two kids under the age of five to care for all day, every day as well as a house to keep in show shape so the little bugger would sell and be someone else's deathtrap...er...home sweet home. All I wanted was to hold a copy of my book, the book it had taken me two years to write, in my hot little hands.

Or so I thought.

When I discovered Lulu.com, I believed it was exactly what I'd been seeking. The real agents weren't interested and I was on to the phony ones by then. I'd found a way to have physical copies of my book to give out, distribute online, because hey, who goes into bookstores anymore? It couldn't fail.

Naive enough to think my story was special, that it would be the cream that would float to the top of the milking pail, I designed and upload the cover based off of pictures I'd taken in the area, converted my files to PDF format and ordered my first copy.

I was such a clueless tool. I didn't even want to reread it. While I wasn't quite sure what was wrong with it, I knew it wasn't what I normally picked up in the stores, i.e. the difference between trade paperback and mass market paperback. Plus, the spacing was jacked up, the font too small for older eyes (I wanted a bigger print for my 86 year old grandmother) and of course, I'd done my own copy editing. *Shudder* Proofing this blog is bad enough, never mind my whole stinking novel.

While plenty of people are happy with self publishing these days, I wasn't. Plus I got into a few verbal scraps in the forums. Let me just tell you anyone who sits and debates over the difference between an author and a writer is neither.

Did that stop my determined self from putting the thing up for global distribution? Nope. It's still there, you can order it but why anyone would pay twenty bucks for a softcover, poorly edited, and I'm sad to say predictable mystery novel with consistency issues...

Let's just say I can't pay the water bill with the income from that one.

I view all of my experiences with Jackson Corners as water under the bridge. "Experience is a dear teacher but fools will learn no other way."

Don't be a fool, learn from my mistakes. Writing is tough, selling is harder still. Like I keep telling you, you've got to want it badly enough.

7 comments:

  1. Oh, darlin! Thanks for the congrats. :)

    I, too, was a victim of that New York scam in my early days. I was lucky enough to have experienced friends who told me about Preditors and Editors and links to where this place was stripped down to the ugly truth. Two actually, Chris Dauten and Rod Heather. Thanks, guys. *mwah*

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  2. They're awful but so long as people continue to look before they leap, they'll keep cropping up a tick on the dog's hairy ass that is the writing community.

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  3. At least you did the right research BEFORE you gave them money. So, really, you DIDN'T fall for it!
    And yes, we all love our first novels :-) Heck, I still love my 1st 2...it's just that I can see that number 3 is MUCH better...

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  4. If I was as smart as I think I am, I would have done the research before quering ;-)If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, at least as far as publishing goes.

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  5. Thank you, this was exactly the type of blog entry I've been looking for as I intend to wrap up my first novel and begin looking for a publisher soon.

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  6. You're very welcome Ben, I post the writing commanments because I believe in helping writers not scammers out to prey on fleglings.

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  7. Author vs. writer? For real? That's just pathetic.

    FYI preditors and editors keeps a really good, fairly up to date list of who's legit and who's not.

    There are TONS of resources out there, it's a matter of finding them.

    Also a ton of scams, but you'll figure them out soon enough - I think I did a 'red flag' post some time ago.

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