When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. I can’t tell you that I knew the exact moment I made this decision or even that it’s something I just always knew. I just recall wanting this at some point in my childhood. I liked writing, and I liked the joy my words brought to other people. It’s taken me a long time to make that dream a reality, and it’s a dream that’s forever evolving.
The reason why this childhood dream returned to me so late in life isn’t at all educational and is a topic perhaps best left for another time. However, I do believe a tiny bit of history is in order. I’ve spent nearly ten years honing my skills as an aspiring professional writer, and I must say I’ve become quite good at it. Always the bridesmaid, I suppose.
When I set out on this adventure, I had no idea how complicated the publication process was. Words like query letter and synopsis didn’t mean anything to me. Like most writers, I was a reader so I did the most logical thing I could to learn the best way to achieve success. I bought a book and boned up on how to write a killer query and an effective synopsis. With all this knowledge in hand, I set out to find an agent. Being as green as I was, I didn’t realize there were less than scrupulous characters out there preying on the ignorance of novice writers. I assumed knowing the mechanics of queries and synopses and the like was enough. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After almost a year of trying and failing to snag an agent, I finally got that offer of representation. It followed the standard course so nothing seemed amiss. By the standard course, I mean that after sending the query, the agent asked for a sample and synopsis. After taking twelve weeks or so to read that, she asked for the completed story. Finally, after reading the completed story, she contacted me with the offer of representation. Not only was I over the top with my elation, but I was brimming with ignorance. Having accepted my limitations on such matters, I asked a lawyer to review the contract my agent sent. He did so, but it turns out he was versed solely in property law and didn’t recognize any inherent flaws in the contract. I likewise missed signs that in hindsight were glaring signs of a scam. While this knowledge came too late for me, it wasn’t in vain. I was able to write an article published in Writer’s Journal magazine which instructed fledgling writers how to appropriately research potential publishers and agents to avoid suffering the same fate.
I’m sad to say, this past week, I was reminded again how many scam artists still lurk in the shadows. As I’ve mentioned before, I participate in an online writer’s web site where hundreds of stories are uploaded daily. Like me, these writers are looking for an audience for their work, hoping to get discovered and longing for publication. When a fellow writer announced she’d submitted a story to a publisher, I crossed my fingers for her. Less than two weeks later, she announced the publisher accepted her work. Though my scam radar started pinging, I was distracted by the demands of my own life and failed to follow through on this. Just a few days later, another fellow writer contacted me begging me to alert the other writer to some disturbing things he’d uncovered in his research. Naturally, this prompted me to do my own research. If I’m going to put my name to something, I want to be confident I’m giving accurate information. Unfortunately, the information was accurate. I hated to do it, but I contacted this writer to advise her of our findings and explain how she could verify this information on her own. I was relieved she was accepting of the advice and surprised by how grateful she was. I was also saddened at having to do this in the first place. How dare these monsters try to crush our dreams?
Better yet, how dare we let them? I say we need to arm ourselves. As I’ve already written an article on this and given up its rights, I can’t reprint that article here. However, I will gladly share my copy of that article as well as any hints, tips and tricks to keep my fellow writers from falling victim to these lowlifes. I’m not difficult to find. Just check out my web site and you’ll find a link to my email address. I’ve got a Face Book account, and I use my real name. You can even find me on Twitter. I just wish I didn’t have to do this. Then again, I guess if that were the case, we’d be living in a perfect world.