CAVEAT EMPTOR: DON’T BECOME A VICTIM TO PREDATORS


Novice authors are often desperate to sell their books. Desperation leads to mistakes.

Assessing your talent as an author before you have been published is a very subjective experience. Inexperienced authors tend to believe that the quality of their writing is far better than it actually is. When an alleged agent or publisher tells us that our book is wonderful and that it deserves to be published, our unbounded joy may easily obscure our need for clear logic. We become our own worst enemy.

There may be more predators lurking in the dark corners of the writing and publishing world than there are in any other industry. No required education or certification process separates outstanding professional editors, agents and publishers from villains. Either you find the villain before you sign a contract, or they make easy money from you in return for… nothing.

Here’s the bottom line. Do not take compliments too highly from someone calling themselves a successful agent. The predators’ sugary sweetness is designed to convince you to play by their rules because they “will make you a famous, wealthy author.” Alleged agents may tell you who to pay to have your book properly edited. They will convince you that they will sell your book to the very best publishing houses – as they do with many new authors. They may even ask you to pay them for some kind of service before you have a publishing contract. A few hours of sincere research will uncover all types of fraudulent agents and scam agencies.

Editors are paid by you after you vet them, hire them and you are satisfied with their work. Publishers and literary agents will charge you NOTHING – EVER. The publisher will take a share from the book’s sales and pay you a royalty. Thus the motivation to sell is highest with the publisher, as sold books constitute their only opportunity to earn back your advance and gain a profit.

Agents earn money after you have signed the publishing contract by taking a share of your advance or royalty payments. If an agent asks you for money up-front, the little hairs on the back of your neck should stick up. Stay in control. Don’t be fooled by false promises or misled by agents who shower you with false glory – “if you will only pay my standard pre-publication fee.” They will mislead you by saying that they need a little money up front to conduct research, to pay for editing, or to pay a “reading fee” to a publisher’s acquisition editor. None of this is true.

YOU are responsible for fact-checking every alleged editor, agent and publisher. Never discuss an agency contract until after you have completed and evaluated a long and thorough investigation. The same process applies to researching editors. How can a novice author conduct such an investigation? Read on.

The two iconic resources for all things related to professional services in editing, agency representation and publishing are: WRITER BEWARE (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/) and PREDATORS & EDITORS (http://pred-ed.com/). Bookmark the URLs. Use them regularly. You’ll be amazed with the volume and quality of their information, especially if you are a new author. If an editor, agent or publisher is on a “bad” list with either of those sites – BEWARE; approach with sincere caution.

You might or might not be the next Stephen King. But you can make sure that you’re not the next victim of predators masquerading as editors, agents or publishers.

Platform Means Everything to a Novice Author


There may one day be a time when paper books are iconic remnants of a tree-cutting past. But that time is still far away. Trade publishers will use their professional editors to make your book better. They will hire graphic designers to make your book more attractive and appealing. And they will handle e-book sales as well. So, why would you not want to share the profits with a publisher? Read on…

Traditional publishers will make sure that your print books are sold (and are returnable) by bookstores, where more than half of all books are still sold – and where SP books rarely exist. This constitutes a huge and very valuable market for any author.

Being trade-published is not a decision. It is the result of talent, of books that appeal to large segments of the reading public, a compelling author platform and often a plucky and well-connected literary agent. An author with the determination to contact hundreds of small and medium-sized publishers is also a critical part of the equation. Your platform will sell your talent. And your talent will enhance your platform. All of this takes time and effort. In today’s culture of instant gratification, the process of gradually building a solid author platform seems archaic. Nevertheless, it is a road that we all must travel.

Like a job seeker uses a resume to obtain an employer interview, novice authors use their platform to gain a trade publisher. Major publishing houses are not interested in SP books, unless they come from a famous author or a celebrity. But if a trade publisher decides to publish your book, you are in like Flint. That’s right. Once you have a major publisher working to sell your book, you can use the added free time to write more books and become even more attractive to publishers or to promote your book much farther and deeper than you had imagined possible..

Google your name. If many pages (not items, but pages of items) appear with positive references about your talent as an author, then you have a solid author platform. But if only a few items appear, you’ll need to enhance your platform before you can entice a major publisher or a well-connected literary agent.

How do you enhance your platform? Keep writing. Read voraciously. Read the very best authors. The more books that you read from the greatest literary authors, the more you’ll begin to borrow their best techniques. Simultaneously, do everything possible to sell your books, to obtain positive reviews from the most credible sources and to get interviewed by the best Internet, blog, radio and TV personalities. Seek appearances as a guest on a major blog. Request interviews from the most famous Internet personalities. Appear on a radio or a regional TV program. Do some public speaking about your book. Consider book tours and signings. All of this will enhance your author platform. After considerable effort, something vastly different will appear when you Google your name. You will have become a popular author.

While SP authors spend most of their time on marketing, promotion, sales and stocking, the TP author spends much of that time writing their next books. It’s true that all authors must market. But the TP author has a professional team marketing for them, giving them more time for writing instead of promotion. But the SP author must devote virtually all free time to new marketing efforts, reducing the time and resources available for writing new books.

This process can take years, although it’s easier if you have a well-connected literary agent. But… it is possible. This is the game. Learn to play by the rules.

If you decide to SP an e-book, take a long look at Smashwords. They are a distributor and a sales platform. They sell on their own web site, but their real power lies in vast distribution networks. When you use Smashwords (which is FREE), they will distribute your book to every major retailer, including Apple (iTunes), Amazon, Baker & Taylor, B&N, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Scrollmotion. This constitutes the bulk of the world’s e-book retailers. And if you join Smashwords with a premium membership, they will format all of your books for every type of e-reader, tablet, smart phone and computer.

My experience teaches me that building a considerable author platform will, over time, lead to interest from agents and publishers. And while it may seem easy and attractive to SP, there are compelling reasons to TP. Keep in mind that we live in a time where only a few terrific SP books exist, surrounded by a massive widespread morass of SP crap. You can elevate yourself above the crap by creating a viable and powerful author platform. Should you take the time and effort to accomplish this, the literary work will become yours.

You can continue to SP and spend all of your time working on marketing and promotion. Or you can fabricate a compelling author platform, attract literary agents and become a famous TP author. Instead of using your time to promote and market, you may then use the extra time to write new books and further enhance your platform. After several successful books, you will no longer need to play the author game. You will have won.