Saturday, June 16, 2012

They Like Your Money!

A week or so ago, I got an e-Mail from someone inviting me to submit my book(s) for an award!

I’m not going to name them here, but the group identified in the e-Mail wanted to let me know that, assuming I met the criteria as determined by their panel of volunteer judges (“comprised of published authors, writers, publishers, editors, professionals, experts in a variety of fields, and prolific readers”), I’d be eligible for all sorts of cool stuff, such as:

  • A “professional” press release, ready for distribution to media outlets!
  • Neat little foil award stickers to place on my book covers!
  • Identification from this group that I—that’s right, little old me—am an Award-Winning Author/Writer! (I’m assuming this last bit is an either/or kind of thing.)
  • The “potential” for increased sales!
  • Recognition that I and my book are just that gosh-darned special!
  • Appreciation for my significant monetary contribution!
  • Pride and confidence that I, too, can be Awesome!
  • A Certificate of Awesomeness!
What did I have to do? Simply fill out the award entry form, in which I tell them why my book(s) meet their Criteria of Awesome. Do I need to send in a representative sample of the work(s) in question? Well, heck no! We’ll get to that later. For now, they can judge my Level of Awesomeness just from the 25 (or fewer) words of description that I include in the entry form. Once that’s done, we can get to the important part of the whole process. What’s that? Why, the payment, of course: One for each Awesome Book you plan to submit, if you please.

(Yes, I know I used “Awesome” a lot up there, but by golly! This is just so great!)

My Spidey-sense already tingling, I ventured to the website included in the e-Mail, and several of the telltale warning signs were there: No contact information, other than the standard e-Mail drop. No information on the people running the site or conducting the judging. No explanation as to what use(s) the exorbitant entry fees are put. No insider info as to the distinction between “author” and “writer,” or what a “professional” on this panel might be if they’re not already a writer, publisher, editor or other “expert in a variety of fields,” or how any of these people might be qualified to bestow an award for anything.

And no real “award,” either.

As Colonel Sherman T. Potter might once have said on an old episode of M*A*S*H, “Buffalo bagels!”

Remember the old adage, “Money flows to the writer?” For those wondering, it’s a battle-tested nugget of wisdom, passed down from veterans to aspiring up-and-comers, and often illustrated with examples like, “Don’t pay to have your work published,” or “Don’t pay an agent anything up front” and so on and so forth. As more experienced word-slingers know, there’s an entire industry out there devoted to separating the hopeful and naïve novice writer from his or her money. Vanity publishers, scam agents, “producers” looking to make off with the movie/TV rights to your work, writing “contests” that never award any prizes. The list goes on.

While vanity presses were (and remain) by and large traps to be avoided, the new era of independent and self publishing in the print-on-demand and electronic realms has forced us to reconsider the old money flow principle in certain respects, such as paying for cover art, copyediting services or marketing and promotion services, and so on. Because of this new reality, we must remain ever vigilant for the latest schemes from the “too good to be true” or “this makes no sense if I think it through” crowds. “Awards” like these are just another flavor of that. A casual investigation via Google of the group in question told me little about it or the supposed significance of its award, but did point me to known and trusted writer’s forums (example:,, etc.) where the general advice was to avoid it.

Is this group a scam? Well, that’s an interesting question. If you read the information on their site, it’s worded in such a manner that they’re not actually lying. They’ll give you everything they’re proposing, but if you consider the package, you realize it doesn’t amount to anything, except a chance for you to buy more of whatever it is they’re selling. In this case, you’d be paying somebody anywhere from $75 to $95 per book to be told by a bunch of people you don’t know, “Your book is fantastic, and so are you!”

Hey, I’ll tell you that for only half their asking price, and I won’t even call you “sucker” under my breath as I’m pocketing your money. See me after the show.

Anyone else have any juicy scams they want to share? Maybe you got this same invitation, so you know the group I’m describing. Let’s swap war stories.


Charles Gramlich said...

Always someone willing to make book (money) off of a person's dreams. those people are really irritating to those of us who have dreams.

William Doonan said...

Yeah, there are tons of these scams out there. My favorites are the "indie presses" that are nothing more than vanity presses with new names. They still charge a bundle up front, and still don't offer a whole lot more than you could do on your own.

MiaMarlowe said...

Words to the wise. Thanks for sharing that sage advice "Money flows toward the writer!"

KeVin K. said...

When our youngest was in the third grade a poem of hers was published in the local paper. Not too long after she received a notice that her poem was so outstanding that it would be included in a leather-bound anthology of award-winning poetry by young writers. She could have a copy of the anthology for only $40. We knew it was a scam, but she was so excited we ponied up. The cover was red leatherette, but her grandparents were suitably impressed and she was proud. Targeting children is the lowest form of scam, but there's no way to explain to a 8-year-old she didn't really win anything, so they got away with it. The one and only time I gave a vanity press any quarter.

Dayton Ward said...

I had a guy try to scam me out of the film rights for my Last World War books. He was pretty convincing at first, but my Google-Fu was strong, and I sniffed out the ploy before it went too far.

My lone brush with near-fame. :)

Liane Spicer said...

In the early days of my publishing education I was a reader of anonymous literary agent Miss Snark's blog and I took her "money flows to the writer" advice to heart.

Not so a screenwriter friend who was contacted by a 'manager' with an offer to rep his scripts - for a reasonable fee, of course. My pal signed the contract without even a web search of the manager's name. My very first cursory search turned up an impressive trail of crookery. Hopefully, my friend learned his lesson.

Jewel Amethyst said...

A friend of mine got suckered into a writing course that promised to make you a published writer in three months. He paid hundreds of dollars for a crappy course that couldn't hold up to sixth grade English and never got his stuff published any where.

The thing is, he was trying to recruit me because it gave discounts if you signed up someone else. I was too stingy to pay for that course or to pay to publish anything at that time. Good thing I was a cheapskate!

Dayton Ward said...

^ Yep. Reminds me of those "Draw this turtle, and you can be an artist!" courses.

On a whim, I sent a writing sample to one of those mail-order courses, but I wrote that absolute worst drek I could conjure. Wrong words (there, their...your, you're, etc.), I changed the gender of my POV character midstream (and back again), and so on.

Naturally, I was accepted because my writing showed such great promise. :)