6.12.2006

Publishing Scam Thoughts, Part II

"When you believe in things that you don't understand . . . you suffer!"
~ Stevie Wonder


To continue with my thoughts from earlier, it seems to me as if the people who get sucked into these publishing scams fall into two big categories and one little tiny one.

The first, and probably largest, group is people who are inexperienced. They just don't know better; they've finished a memoir or a book of poetry, and they trust to the world to see them through okay. They're so naive they make my teeth hurt but I see a lot of myself as a young Fool in them and I can't help but feel sympathy for their plight. Yes, I was idealistic once too.

The second group is made up of people who don't believe the rules apply to them. Their book isn't unpublishable because it's flawed or awkward or poorly crafted, it's being Held Back By The Man, and by god, finally someone is appreciating their genius. And don't you dare tell them otherwise; they bite, and they are often rabid.

I don't have much sympathy for these guys; they're like boars in a thicket, crashing about, hurting themselves on the thorns and bellowing in rage at the world for cutting them. And I'm no sweet-tempered princess to lead them out of the woods with a gentle smile and a helping hand. I just don't have the energy or the patience, and I'm constantly amazed by the people who selflessly do, time after time, without flinching or losing their tempers or giving up after the nth repetition of good advice or common sense.

The third group is very small; people who believe they're purchasing a service. They have a manuscript, usually non-fiction, that they wish to sell at seminars or their office or what have you, and they believe they've done the research necessary to decide on a reputable contractor to perform the service of polishing, binding, and producing copies of their book.

They fail to realize that scammer agents and publishers are not in the business of providing a service. These predators are equal parts bully and sycophant; they thrive on brow-beating the gullible and weak and sucking up to the angry and disenfranchised.

Anyway, I'm a bit ashamed of myself right now. I've always felt a bit smug about this topic; I've had run-ins with con artists in the Real World before (and I've got the scars to prove it), but I was young and foolish then, and I hadn't yet realized that "nothing is free*" isn't a condemnation of the world but instead a statement of fact.

And I certainly know to google when I'm looking for a service or product. And I wouldn't dream of signing a contract or applying for a job without at least googling the company name + "scam".

So, out of curiousity, I googled the term "book publisher". I left off the 'scam' for the first search; when performing these experiments, I try to think like my mother-in-law, who is fairly savvy in the Real World but not particularly internet literate.

The top two sponsored links right now on google are iuniverse and AuthorHouse (earlier it was two I recognized as scams and one, tatepublishing, that I didn't recognize).

Top five regular results? Publish America, Random House, Author House, Publisher's Weekly Online, PMA.

If I didn't know the magic word ("scam"), I'd be confident that any publisher who popped up ahead of Random House was at least worth a look. And if that were my first stop, fresh from finishing a manuscript and having done no research at all, I might just be convinced of the hype on the PA website.

A search for "book agent" is even worse; it wasn't until I tried "novel publisher" that I found a link to a very good article on Absolute Write about this very issue.

* Anyone who tells you different is selling something. Or your mother, but she's going to get you emotionally eventually, so it'll still cost you.

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