Writers Are Suckers

You won’t find anybody more gullible, more eager to be scammed, than aspiring writers. Of course, aspiring writers could avoid being taken by simply following one rule: You don’t pay anyone to get published. They pay you. But, apparently, that simple rule is too complex for some wanna-be authors to comprehend. Novelist J. Steven York ponders this problem in a lengthy, excellent post, on his blog:

There is no more gullible, self-delusional, fog-headed being on the
planet than an aspiring writer. So predictable and common are their
delusions that an entire industry of crooks, con-men and scam artists
exists to exploit them, and such a sweet deal it is for them, too. Not
only are most of their scams perfectly legal, their marks are actually grateful to
be scammed! It doesn’t get much better for a predator than that. It’s
like the entire herd of antelope crowding around the lion shouting,
"Eat me! No, eat me!"

It’s so true. Just read some of the mail I get. Just look at the people who’ve applied to Lori Prokop’s Book Millionaire scam, or who still flock to PublishAmerica. One PA author posted this comment on my blog the other day:

To critics of PA read this:
       1) I dont care if PA keeps 100% of my royalties because they risked their money on my book.
       2) I dont care if my books never appear on the shelve of a brick and mortar book store.
       3) I totally understand if PA requires a seven contract because as mentioned before they put up their money for my book,
        When PA accepted my book, it was the happiest day in my life.

How can anyone feel sympathy for someone so deluded? Not so long ago, a woman wrote to me about how excited her daughter was to get a contract for her book from Tate Publishing. What was Tate offering? Pay us $4000 and we will publish your book. When I told her that Tate is a vanity press, and that it wasn’t an "offer," but a sales soliciation, she lamented that her daughter would be crushed because she was so excited that a publisher had accepted her work.  To me, that is the perfect example of  the "scam me please!" mindset of so many aspiring authors. Here’s the reality, as J. Steven York states it:

If you don’t get paid, and I mean up-front, then it isn’t a sale.
People who don’t have money to pay you generally don’t have money
because they aren’t selling books.

You’d think that would be obvious. Well, to many aspiring writers, the obvious is something to ignore. They don’t want to know that they aren’t really being published when their book comes out from Authorhouse. They don’t want to face reality because it will destroy the flimsy fantasy they are living. Or, as York put it:

Most of the writers getting scammed aren’t dumb. They’re nice,
intelligent people who sincerely want to be writers, and have simply
lost their way. Most of them are so invested in whatever flavor of
Kool-aid they’ve swallowed that they not only can’t see the truth, they
don’t want to. Yet most of them are aware, on some level, that
something is wrong. That’s usually why they write me. They have
concerns. They have questions. Just not enough to wake up and look
around. The correspondence, in antelope-terms, usually goes something
like this: "This lion has actually agreed to take me on! Right now,
it’s chewing on my leg. And it’s great! Although, I’m concerned about
the bleeding. And the dismemberment. But really, it’s good! It’s great!
Uh, should there be so much pain? But I’m good!"

It’s sad.

18 thoughts on “Writers Are Suckers”

  1. I am reading Bill Gulick’s great new autobiography about his writing life, Sixty-Four Years as a Writer (Caxton Press). In it he vividly describes how he wrote for pulps, slicks, and films (that starred James Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Lee Remick, and others).
    Here is some of his advice for those aspiring to write: “I had learned that bull-headedness is the best trait a writer can possess. When a story was rejected by an editor, as many of my early ones were, my reaction invariably was, ‘I’ll write another one so good he can’t reject it.’ For thirty-four years I had gone through the hardening process that separates the professional from the amateur, so the prospect of failure did not daunt me in the least…”
    My advice to the wannabes is this: there are no shortcuts. Sit down and do better.

  2. You’ll be interested to know that one of the new people up for Book Millionaire is author Chet Cunningham, who has published a bunch of westerns, presuming it’s the same guy, which I think it is.

  3. The name is very familiar… I wonder if he hasn’t ghosted some EXECUTIONER/MACK BOLAN novels, too. If it’s the same guy, you have to wonder how someone with his experience could be taken in by such a blatant huckster. He should know better. How embarrasing for him.

  4. Lee and Tod: Yes, that’s probably the guy. The Chet Cunningham I once knew wrote all of those things. He’s been writing for a long time. I note that he is not now a member of Western Writers of America, which presides over a dead genre.

  5. I do feel sorry for the kid- after all, can you really expect a grade-schooler to understand the workings of the book business? Especially when the publisher is seemingly endorsed by the teacher who told them to send their submissions there (and who, in my opinion, deserves to be tied to a fire-ant hill and forced to read experimental poetry for the rest of his or her natural life for feeding the children in his/her care to the scammers). Of course, the mother probably should have picked it up sooner but at least she wrote to you instead of just signing a check.

  6. PA has a very clever way of appealing to vanity, while assuring the writer that it is not about vanity. You really need to be able to have dyslexia in order to interpret their words. They say they take a risk in publishing new authors who otherwise would not have a chance at being published. Reads: Our standards are so low, we’ll accept anybody.
    “We’re pleased to give you novel the chance it deserves,” means: We don’t think it deserves any chance at all, and that’s exactly what we’re going to give it.
    I learned out the hard way. Now I WANT OUT.

  7. Calling me delusional is like the pot calling the kettle black. PAs critics are the most delusional bunch of people on the planet.
    One of them spent 15k trying to promote a book he couldnt get published anywhere else. Another critic sued PA because his novel wasn’t on the shelve of Borders and did he think some other POD would have guaranteeed shelve space?
    Publishamerica gives something for nothing and you cant beat that with a stick.

  8. “Pot calling the Kettle Black”
    “You can’t beat that with a stick”
    No wonder this guy couldn’t get published by a real publisher. By that way, it’s SHELF on SHELVE. This is the same guy Lee quoted in the blog post above. Aspiring writers aren’t just suckers, many of them are morons, too.

  9. Moron? sucker? You guys are fanatics. I got my anthology published for free. What part of free do you not understand? As an aside, how do you know I wont get rich on the movie? I never sold movie rights!

  10. How long has this debate/scam/whatever been going on?
    I have this picture in my mind of ol’ Thomas Paine thinking to himself, “Should I pay someone to print my pamphlet, ‘Common Sense,’ or should I use this letter I received from my Ben Franklin to get a job with the Pennsylvania Magazine and one day publish my work though a legitimate publisher?” And Paine’s friends were asking him why he would put so much work into a publication when he could just take it over to a guy they knew that would publish the entire manuscript (no matter how crappy) for a nickle and only one cent a copy. The author however, had to do the marketing, but the publisher would let Paine keep the new paper re-print rights. Other friends were saying, “No, that’s not a real publishing credit!”
    How long has this argument been around, really?

  11. It is apparent that not much first-hand research has been done into Tate Publishing. I am presently considering a contract from them and weighing all the pros and cons. Without Tate’s knowledge I have contacted over a dozen authors who have published with them. Not one offered a negative comment about the company. Some admited their book had not sold well. Others had been quite succesful (kind of like the real world). Several are now into multiple books with Tate. In case you don’t know investment by the author is only required on the first book. Subsequent books are bid for just as by any other publisher.
    I sense a bit of professional hypocricy in this whole discussion. Statements such as “a real writer gets paid for his work not the other way around.” Really? The traditional path is to attend a number of writer’s conferences (at significant expense to the author); get a literary agent and give them 15% of your money; or take courses (also at significant amounts of money). Some people chose to try and jump start their career by paying their own money up front. That is their choice.
    Publishing is changing rapidly. First time authors face a daunting challenge to even have their work considered much less published. The question is not how to get published but rather how to actually get anyone to read one’s novel to evaluate its true worth.

  12. You’re operating on some false assumptions, Tim.
    I wouldn’t say that going to writer’s conferences is the traditional path to publication. However, getting an education in writing and literature certainly is a must. An education can cost money, whether it’s writing conferences, extension courses, community college, or a university. But I don’t see how you can equate thatwith paying a vanity press to publish your book. Paying to be published by a vanity press isn’t a substitute for actually learning the craft of writing. It’s not enough to have your scribblings simply printed in something that resembles a book.
    And if you believe that paying Tate thousands of dollars to publish your book equates in any way with giving an agent a 15% commission on what you get paid in advances and royalties from the publisher, then you are just the kind of gullible sucker that vanity presses prey on. By all means, whip out your credit card. Operators are standing by.

  13. I have deleted the back-and-forth between Mark Mumma and Leon Mentzer. I’m not going to let them hijack my blog for their squabble.


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