Pickpockets Love Their Writers

English: Dominique Pickpocket

The Internet is awash with flim-flam, scams and pickpockets targeting a new generation of writers. Unless you’re a seasoned scribe, tethered by the martial art of protecting your assets, it’s best to keep your purse or wallet under lock and key. The predators are out there and they’re just waiting to lighten your monetary load.

Here are a few of the most notorious pickpockets who specialize in writers:

The agency fee scam. This one has been around for quite a while and it’s simplicity itself – a literary agency that charges “reading fees.” The gimmick is straightforward enough. You send your masterpiece to the agent and he or she will read it for a fee and send it back to you, usually with some inane one-liner that proves to be meaningless. In fact, your work may have never been read at all. Wow. These bottom-feeder “agents” are the worst. No reputable agent would ever charge a reading fee, or any other up-front fee. That’s not how the game works. Established and trustworthy agents operate on a commission. That commision is based on book contracts and, in some cases, personal service contracts. No other fees are charged. None. Not even postage. If you come across an agent that charges a fee of any kind, especially a reading fee, run away immediately. Before you contact an agent for any reason, do a background check. This is when the Internet can be your friend. Writers rate agents and they often do it in public. Learn from the experiences of others and never, never pay a fee to any agent. Never. A good agent will want to establish a personal relationship with you, to help your career. That’s how good agents succeed. They do not make it on one-time fees.

Be your own publisher. Check this one out on Google and you’ll find an amazing number of hits. There’s usually a charge for some “how to” book or an online class attached to the offer. These gimmicks proclaim how easy it is to become a publisher and keep all your profits, as well as make some money on other writers. Well, in some ways it is easy – too easy, which is why there are so many flaky online publishers swimming around the Internet. However, there is nothing easy or simple about publishing, if you choose to do it with even a little integrity. Seasoned writers know this and they avoid flaky publishers like the plague. Don’t be picked clean with this scam. You don’t want to be a publisher. You want to be a writer who values your own publisher. Keep the relationship the way it was designed to operate in the first place.

How to become a great writer. Nope, this just doesn’t work for anyone. These scams usually involve classes, workshops, books, whatever – all of which are purchased with the promise of making you the best writer of the century. Just think about it for a moment. Who are these people? If they know so much about writing, why aren’t all the major publishing houses crawling all over them? What gives them some special knowledge, so special that you have to pay for it? Forget about it. If you want to take some writing or literature classes, stick to your local community college or university. Even then, these classes will never teach you how to become a great writer. They may improve your skills in certain areas, which can be helpful, but that’s all. Becoming a great writer is a matter of hard work, practice, reading, writing and learning the trade your own way. If you really need a guru, dig up a writer who has already made his or her bones in the business. Perhaps you’ll get lucky. Lots of established writers are willing to lend a hand to a new generation when they can.

Paid critiques. This one is becoming ubiquitous. You pay an individual to critique your work, someone who often refers to himself or herself as a “coach.” OK, the idea seems worthy. But, give it some thought. It’s like the writing guru I just discussed. Who are these people? Are they established, well published authors with some solid credentials? No? Well, then why pay someone whose lineage is questionable to critique your work? What’s their opinion worth? If you want this kind of critique, the best place to go is to your audience, to a select group of readers whose opinion you trust and whose feedback you value. Why go to some self-appointed “coach” for what amounts to nothing more than a paid opinion? Really? Pass on it, always.

Online anything. OK, that’s a bit broad, I admit. However, why would you pay anyone to mess with your work when that “anyone” is unknown, faceless, unproven, and disinterested in your growth as a writer? That’s like letting your beloved Fido run free on the highway. It just makes no sense. It does, however, lighten your cash load, if that’s your goal. Your writing career will not flourish on promises, only on accomplishments. You are in charge of that end of the business and it all comes down to commitment and hard work.

The bottom line is that your writing, and your career as a writer, needs the personal touch. Your personal masterpiece must not fall into the hands of predators in the hope that it will somehow become the world’s masterpiece. Your growth as a writer is a long-term proposition. It is not something that can be purchased, bargained, or remade instantly by any alleged guru. However, it can grow naturally and become more vibrant over time. The ways to make this happen are all personal, all free, and all your own to enjoy.

When it comes time to have your pocket picked, legitimate agents and publishers will do the job and do it right. That’s the way of the seasoned writer. You should settle for nothing less and pay for nothing more.

Here are a few articles that may be of some help:

Paid Reviews Rock Your Pocket

Online Publishing

E-Hyphens and E-Agents

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6 thoughts on “Pickpockets Love Their Writers

  1. Frankly there is a lot to be said for being too skint to pay anyone else for their ‘help’. I fall into this category … I hadn’t realised I was that fortunate until I read this useful piece of advice.
    Thanks, Michael.

  2. A bit off subject, but I see a few writers looking for patrons on WordPress. They solicit contributions up front, so they can devote their time to writing that masterpiece. Scamming non-writers is as bad as scamming writers.

    • You know, that’s interesting. I have just begun to notice a few of those myself. Like you, I have a problem with that approach. I guess I should hold back my opinion because it’s a new concept to me and not something with which I’m familiar. However, it doesn’t taste good on the first bite. Thanks.

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