I received an interesting piece of unsolicited mail today. It was a chance for me to complete a free writing test to see if I had the talent to be a writer. It was addressed to "Dear Friend" (they couldn't even take the time to drop my own name into the form letter) and the letter proceeded to tell me of one writer's climb to becoming a published author. Of course this author couldn't have done it without this particular writing program which offered one-on-one mentoring with an almost guarantee that my stories would be published once I completed their program.
This particular program might be legitimate. I might do research and discover this is just the type of program I could benefit from. And then again, I could be the next winner of some African lottery worth millions of dollars...if I just cough up some "transfer" money to help defer sending all those winnings my way. Funny how I can be so lucky when I haven't even entered the contest! MUST be a miracle!
There are many scams in the world these days. Some want to take your money. Some want to steal your identity. Others want to do both and destroy your self esteem along the way. Within the writing community, new writers seem to be the most vulnerable these days because some of us are so desperate to see our name on the cover of our published work that we are blinded to the wolves lurking in the shadows. I'm not immune to scammers either.
When I was in my early twenties I allowed one of my poems to be "published" in a book of anthologies. I even got a chance to purchase one of the completed books at a great discount. I was too poor at the time to take the publishing house up on it's wonderful offer, but later when I discovered they were only a vanity publishing house and the only copies printed were those for the "authors" themselves on a prepaid basis, I realized I was the victim of a scam. While not exactly illegal, it was misleading to say the least and preyed upon my being naive about the whole writing industry.
So what is a new or existing writer to do to prevent falling into the same trap I did years ago? I thought I would provide links to some articles I have come across to help us all be more diligent in recognizing when something SOUNDS too good to be true...because it usually IS!
I'm sure there are more sources out there with tips and tricks on how to avoid becoming a victim of a publishing scam. If you are like me, you want to enjoy sitting down to pen and paper...or computer screen...and creating a good story. I just don't want one of my characters to come to life...