While going through some of my childhood stuff on a recent house-move, I found a photo album full of pictures I'd cut out of trashy teen star magazines when I was in elementary school. I remember poring over these rags with my friends, reading them from cover to cover, even the ads in the back.
Draw Tippy the Turtle and you could go to Art School! Find true love by calling this number! Have your fortune told over the phone!
Of course we never FELL for any of them... until... Amazing weight loss tricks & glamour model lessons, and if you order now, FREE French Sunglasses!
Well obviously we wanted this. I mean, hello. We were 10 year old girls, the promise of glamour was catnip to us. But $15.99 or whatever it was was way out of reach. Unless we all put our money together... so we did. And I sent off the form, and the money. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing. NOTHING.
Now, I wasn't a stupid kid. I knew that the "secret" to losing weight was to eat healthy food and do more exercise. I knew that models worked hard, were genetically blessed, and generally older than fifth grade. But... I REALLY REALLY WANTED THOSE GLAMOUR LESSONS. Weeks passed. Nothing. Seeds of doubt were planted in my heart. Months passed. I wrote them a letter. Nothing. I wrote them a FANCY letter on my mom's lawyer stationery.
Finally, one day! Six months later! An envelope! A dirty, thin envelope. With... a crummy, illegible quarter-page flyer in it with some smeary fake "model tips." I was crushed. And bitter. And mostly, just so, so embarrassed. HOW could I have been so dumb? And I'd not only spent my own money, but also had to explain to my friends that I'd lost their money as well. AND DID NOT EVEN HAVE FRENCH SUNGLASSES TO SHOW FOR IT. *woe*
So what does that have to do with you, my doves?
Well, gmail and similar companies have ads which target you based on what your emails are about. Every time I check my gmail, the ads on the sides and top of my email are all about writing and publishing. The thing is... they are all scams. ALL. SCAMS.
I barely notice them. It doesn't register with me, because I am not their target audience. But you... you, my pretty and innocent little writer friends... you who are unpublished but want to be, who can't seem to get the attention of agents and editors, who are maybe even to scared or confused to know how to TRY to get that attention... YOU ARE THEIR TARGET.
And as much as I would like to give each and every one of you some French Sunglasses, I can't.
So here instead are some words of wisdom.
IF IT SEEMS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, it's a scam.
WRITING WELL IS HARD. PUBLISHING IS HARD. THERE IS NO SHORTCUT. Writing takes practice. Lots of practice. Traditional publishing is very competitive, and generally quite time consuming. If somebody is offering you a shortcut, it's a scam.
MONEY FLOWS TO THE WRITER. Agents do NOT get paid until you do. Traditional publishers pay YOU, not vice-versa. While there are totally legit services you can hire to help you edit your book and the like, if somebody is offering to be your "agent" or "publisher" and they say you will be traditionally published, but they want you to write them a check, it's a scam.
"PUBLISH AMERICA" ARE SCAMSTERS.
WHEN IN DOUBT, LOOK IT UP ON PREDITORS & EDITORS. While the website is not infallible and there have been mistakes or instances of miscommunication on there, if an agency or publisher is marked "caution"... do yourself a favor and pay attention. And take a look at their warnings page, more ways to spot a scamster.
These scamsters are CRIMINALS, and they are able to operate because they are practiced and smooth, and because so many writers are so full of hopes, dreams and wishful thinking that they don't use their noodles. And then are often so humiliated at having been scammed, or so confused, that they don't or can't warn others.
If you get taken by one of these schmucks, you stand to lose much more than $15.99. A scam publisher can potentially take you for hundreds or thousands of dollars, can take the rights to your work, can take your words and your dreams and your dignity, and yes, even years of your life, because that's what you'll spend in trying to get your money back or living in regret.
I CAN'T FLY EVERYWHERE IN MY MAGIC PLANE AND FIX IT. PLEASE PROTECT YOURSELF.