We’ve all heard the phrase caveat emptor: buyer beware. And while it means shoppers should do some research before plunking down money on a dubious deal, in several situations it can also apply to writers! At Writer’s Relief, we’ve been around the publishing world long enough (over twenty-six years!) to know when something seems fishy. Here’s our list of situations where writers should be skeptical about “buying what they’re selling.”
Here’s When Writers Should Be Skeptical
Entering a writing contest: Reputable writing contests are a great way to gain publishing accolades worth mentioning in your cover and query letters. There are many legitimate contests for writers, but unfortunately, there are also fake contests only interested in getting your hard-earned cash. Anthologies that accept every piece entered and are only interested in selling you expensive copies; unusually large prize awards; advertisements in media not geared toward writers—these are just some of the warning signs to watch for before you pay that contest entry fee.
Trying to land a literary agent: Most literary agents are honest, respectable people who want to help good writers get their books traditionally published. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t so-called literary agencies more interested in your money than your writing. Legitimate agents make their money by selling your book. If an agent is asking you to pay fees for reading, evaluations, marketing, or retainer fees, these should all be big red flags, and you’d be right to be skeptical. And if you are approached by an agent whom you’ve never contacted, beware. Make sure to watch for unrealistic promises and the warning signs of an untrustworthy agent before you sign a contract!
Reading your e-mails: Fake e-mails designed to steal your account information, known as phishing e-mails, have been a problem for years now, and some of these scams target writers. If you receive an e-mail that looks like an acceptance from a literary journal or interest from a literary agent, your first reaction will be to start doing your happy dance! But before you put on those dancing shoes, double-check that e-mail. Did you submit to that literary journal or agent? Is the e-mail signed with the correct name? Is it full of typos or grammar mistakes? Here are more ways you can recognize and avoid scams.
Receiving feedback and critique: When you receive notes from an editor or a beta reader, you might think you have to make every change recommended. But put on your skeptic’s hat, because that’s not true. Each person will have a different reaction to your writing, and it will be up to you to decide if the criticism is useful or if it’s just one person’s opinion. Whether you decide to make the suggested changes or not, always be polite. Remember: It’s your writing, and you should be true to yourself!
Making excuses: Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy! If you’re constantly saying you don’t have time to write or can’t get over a case of writer’s block, it may be time to turn a skeptical eye on your reasoning. Are you already squeezing as much as you can into each day, or are you letting unimportant things take up the time you set aside for writing? Budgeting your time is a great way to banish the distractions that are keeping you away from your desk.
Or are you procrastinating because you don’t know where to send your submissions and don’t have any time for researching the best markets? Writer’s Relief can help! Our expert researchers will pinpoint the best places for you to submit your work and boost your odds of getting an acceptance—no submission spam, ever! If you’re still feeling skeptical, take a look at any one of the many reviews and testimonials from our very happy clients.
Being skeptical doesn’t mean you should automatically reject everything—just have a healthy dose of doubt and look into anything that seems suspicious or too good to be true. Keeping a wary eye out for unscrupulous characters will help you avoid any pitfalls on your way to getting published!
Question: What things do you think it’s smart to be skeptical about as a writer?