Today my short story, “The Blind Tattooist”, came out in issue three of |tap|. This story is important to me for a few reasons. It is that it is the first publication I’ve had in the two years since I began submitting short stories professionally, since I decided I would only submit to paying markets. And it is that this is the first time I’ve been paid for my writing.
Incidentally, this story came out of Chuck Wendig’s Flashfiction Challenge about a year ago. Wendig gives a list of titles, provided by commentors to his blog. The idea is to choose one of the titles and then write a story of about 1,000 words to go with it. I wasn’t expecting the story to go where it went, but here we are.
The story follows a young trans woman, Lucky, and her journey of recovery after surviving a horrific attack.
You can read “The Blind Tattooist” here.
While you are worrying about whether beta readers will steal your ideas, there is a more genuine threat on the horizon.
When offered a publishing contract, please do all your research before you sign. There are a number of fakes and scammers out there, as well as good-intentioned amateurs that don’t know how to get your work to a wide audience. I won’t tell the heartbreaking stories here – there are too many.
Being published badly is worse than being never published.
It can destroy your career and your dreams.
The quick check is to google the publishing house name + scam or warning.
But, to be sure, check with these places first. They aren’t infallible (nothing is) but they can help you protect yourself. They are written and maintained by expereinced writers, editors, publishers and legal folks.
Absolute Write: Bewares and Background Checks
Preditors and editors
and the WRITER BEWARE blog
Keep yourself and your work safe.
This is really important, so if you are a writer or have writer friends, or you are a writing blog, please reblog it.
Just to let you know, PublishAmerica changed their name to America Star Books.
These are all great resources, especially Writer Beware, which is affiliated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association of America.
I have some additional things to add which may be useful.
For my background, so you know I am not just some random dude, but have some knowledge and experience with what I am talking about: I went through the UEA’S MA in Creative Writing, and took some publishing courses through them. I was also a Lambda Literary Fellow in 2013 (J S Kuiken), and through that attended a great lecture author Kelly Eskridge gave on publishing and the market. She gave some really good, practical advice, some of which I will repeat here.
But an informed writer, who is aware of what the market and the process of publishing should be like, is a writer who is armed against people who will exploit and take advantage of them. If you are considering writing more than a few books, and want to build a readership and a career as a writer, you need to learn about the market.
My additions are geared mainly for writers who are considering a career, ie, writing and publishing more than two books.
- Try to get an agent before you go directly through a publisher. Yes. Getting an agent means you have to wait a bit longer to publish, but, an agent is there to protect you from shitty contracts and dodgy publishers. They are there to do the legal work which you, as a writer, are generally not prepared to do. It is their job to sell your work and get you the best possible contracts, and to grow your career. If you want to have a career as a writer, GET AN AGENT.
- Not all agents are created equal. There are agents who will scam you, just as there are publishers who will scam you. This list gives you a good idea of the kinds of things that scam agents do (ie, charge you money for things that they shouldn’t). A credible agent does NOT charge fees, period, the end, and does not make money until you do. If they ask YOU for money, RUN. They are scamming you. A good agent is about building the careers of writers. They are first here FOR YOU. If you are not paid, they are not paid, and that’s the way it should be. Not the other way around. FYI, once an agent has agreed to represent you and your work, and once they have sold your work to a publisher, the regular rate for an agent is 15 % of the total income made on a book. 20 % is also still possible amongst credible agents, but anything more than that is a scam.
- If you do not get an agent and go directly through a publisher, go over any contract they want you to sign. Better yet, take a copy of the contract to a lawyer or someone who knows the law, especially copyright. If you have author friends who have signed book deals with reputable publishers, ask them to look at it. If you decide to go un-agented, get a second pair of eyes on your contracts, at the very least.
- A reputable publisher, like a reputable agent, will NEVER ask for money up front. If they are asking you to put down money to publish your book, or asking you to upgrade to a “PR package” of some kind, they are either a scammer, or a vanity press. Neither are going to help you grow your reputation as a writer, or help you get noticed by the right people who can promote your work.
- Repeat this to yourself, until it is emblazened in your brain in neon, and then repeat it again: MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO THE WRITER, NOT FROM THE WRITER. This is perhaps one of the most important rules to remember as a young writer when you are starting your career. MONEY SHOULD FLOW TO YOU, NOT FROM YOU. So basically if an agent or publisher is asking you for money, this is wrong. They pay you. They pay you for your work, your time, your services. You do not pay them.