Independently published writers must take the mantra “writer beware” to heart to protect themselves from nefarious activity in our industry. I don’t know what the deal is with publishing, but it seems to attract shady characters faster than a dark parking lot in Detroit.
Perhaps industry ne’er-do-wells are preying on new writer’s enthusiasm or on their need to prove themselves in the industry: Whatever the reason, as an independent business person you need to take steps to protect yourself from harm, financial or otherwise.
Let’s start with the easy stuff — uncovering the already known dangers. Head over to Writer Beware: The Blog and check out the activity, noting which publishing houses and magazines have a bit of taint to their dealings. Then just avoid them. The most recent activity on this blog was truly shocking. The Atlantic, a very well-respected magazine for freelancers, reported that fraudsters are phishing for writers by sending out fake job interviews and–get this–even sending fake advances for written pieces in the hopes that someone will cash them and reveal personal information. Apparently, over 50 writers have been targeted. That’s not a small number, folks. These fraudsters mean business.
Sometimes “writer beware” isn’t enough. You have to be vigilant. On top of things. Ruthless in identifying online sources and weeding through vague details. Once your byline is out there, anyone can contact you posing as an interested editor or publisher. You must perform due diligence before giving up any personal information, even if sources seem legitimate.
The issue of integrity is paramount with small publishing houses, which in recent years have sprung up like weeds after a hard summer’s rain. While some are serious businesses trying to make their name in the publishing industry, others just want your money.
Any publishing house, large or small, maintains a certain level of control and opacity over your sales and sales numbers — a practice that, to some extent, should scream “writer beware.” I can’t look at sales numbers for my nonfiction book, published through a smaller publishing house, like I can for books published on my own. I’m reliant on their honesty to report correct numbers and, thus, correct royalties. This makes me very nervous. It’s one facet of the industry I think needs a complete overhaul. Authors should be able to sign into their Amazon (or Barnes and Noble or other book outlet) dashboard and see their sales numbers, even when using a publishing house. A “view only” login would be an easy and effective solution and I can’t help but wonder why this isn’t common practice. There’s no good reason for authors not to have access to this information on their own work.
Don’t let “writer beware” turn into “writer don’t dare” though. There’s risk associated with any business venture, and writing’s no exception. As long as you’re aware of the dangers you can take appropriate steps to protect you and your work from harm.
See you on the next page!