Simply put, Yog’s Law states that money should always flow to the writer. When you’re first starting out and don’t know the ins and outs, this is an important lesson to learn. Over the last decade, scammers have gotten a bit more clever I think but if you follow the law, you’re not going to find yourself a victim of them.
This post started in my head after seeing yet another commercial for what can only be the world’s next Publish America (beware: if you start reading the threads and blogs, you could lose days.) I get that everyone wants the validation that publication offers and it’s an amazingly heady thing to receive an acceptance letter and it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that maybe that letter isn’t entirely on the up-and-up. It’s hard to get rejected and so easy to get sucked into the idea that everyone is out to keep new ideas and new writers from succeeding but, I promise you, they’re not. New and good writers are still and always sought after, even by those companies with stables full of superstars.
If a publisher offers you a contract and then asks for upfront fees, don’t sign. Agents and publishers and all the other people involved, they want you to succeed as they make more money when you make more money. Author mills make their money from their authors who are encouraged to buy so many books to peddle at wherever they choose (usually to family and friends).
Self-publishing doesn’t change the law, but it is a bit tricky because one person is both author and publisher. As a publisher, they do have to lay out funds for editors, covers, and various expenses. As an author, they should be banking their 15% (or whatever).
A few easy marks of a less than legit publisher or agent: 1. They email you entirely unsolicited, talking about the next big thing in publishing and how they’re just waiting for your book or whatever language they’re using now. 2. If you visit the website, it’s less about attracting readers to new books and more about attracting new writers. 3. Any mention of any big movie star just waiting to play the lead in your story. There are a lot of steps between submitting a book and landing any sort of movie deal, let alone with anyone like Julia Roberts.
There are a lot of good places to get information to avoid the scammers and less than upfront or ideal practices. My first Go-To to check on publications, publishers, and agents is the Absolute Write Bewares and Background Checks portion of their forum. My second check is over at Writer Beware. Preditors and Editors is a good one but it seems to be restructuring.