When I first started submitting after I finished my first book, I was astonished at how easy it was to get an agent. I must just be that good, I thought. I happily wrote a check out for a couple of hundred bucks (that I really couldn't afford) for all the copying and postage that the guy was going to have to use to send my book out to the best publishing houses. After all, the book would be a hit and I'd more than make up for it, right? Every so often, the guy would send me a list of places he'd sent my manuscript. When I stopped hearing from him, I started calling. I never could reach him and finally it sank in that I'd been taken.
Fast forward a year or two. I'd been accepted and published in a few magazines and e-zines. A couple of them were okay, one of them never paid me what they were supposed to, and another one put my work in the midst of some of the most vile garbage I've ever read. I didn't pay attention to what I was doing. I was simply happy to be accepted by someone, anyone, that I pretty much soiled my name.
After all that, I learned my lesson and paid attention to what I was getting myself into. This is why I am diligent in my research. I do preliminary research to see if the listing is a right fit. If it is, I submit. Then, if someone bites, I research further. I even try to gather information on how happy other authors are working with those who I might have the opportunity to sign a contract with. And I definitely read other work put out by them.
Scam? Maybe not.
Not everything I've had a bad experience with, though, is a scam. Sometimes, it's more of a situation where the entity isn't a right fit due to different opinions about business practices. This is my most recent situation.
I'd been accepted into a couple of anthology series. The prize was upfront money plus royalties based on sales. The first sign that something was wrong was no communication for a very long time. So I started asking around and discovered that royalties weren't guaranteed, as the publisher is fairly new. There was a stipulation that costs had to be covered first before royalties were paid. But I found it odd the company couldn't afford to pay royalties but was footing a majority of the bill for two representatives to fly across country to attend a conference. Even still, I was willing to give this publisher the benefit of the doubt until I read something else: the publisher, who still doesn't have enough money to pay royalties, was also donating money from sales to some charity. I'm all for charity but I have to wonder if the publisher asked the writers who were owed royalties if that was okay with them. Writers are a starving breed. In essence, a lot of us ARE charity cases and need money for our work. I just don't agree with that business practice.
I don't think this publisher is intentionally being deceptive (which is why I'm not listing their name). I also think the person who runs this company is a good person. It's just that the whole operation gives me a chaotic vibe. That in itself, plus the lack of royalty payments to writers published with them, made me decide to pull my submissions. I hadn't yet signed a contract so I was well within my right to do so. I fault no one for sticking with them. That's their choice. It's a simple fact that just as some written work isn't a right fit for certain publishers, the same can be said vise versa. Just because a publisher might want your work, it doesn't mean you would be a right fit for the publisher. You shouldn't feel bad for wanting to do what's right for you and your work and you shouldn't let others make you feel bad, too.
And don't allow yourself to be so desperate for publication that you shake your misgivings off. Is today's high worth the frustration and heartache down the road? I didn't think so.
I'm not trying to be picky. It's just that I've had my fair share of writing faux pas. I'm more careful these days as well as we should all be.