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About Writing Right: The Blog


I came across an all-too-frequent question the other day from a novice writer who wanted to know if his publisher was scamming him by publishing his story in an anthology along with other writers in exchange for $500 each. He mentioned that the publisher's name will appear on the book's cover as the author. Here's what I advised.

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If you ask a question like this one, you already suspect the answer, and you're right. The publisher, if promoting itself as a publisher, is scamming you. It's not a legitimate, conventional publisher, as other respondents have pointed out. It's a company that preys upon the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of the uninformed. Since you can't land a contract with a legitimate publisher, you turn to anyone who seems genuinely interested in your work. In fact, your "publisher" is genuinely interested only in your money. And that's a scam. A legal scam ("Let the buyer beware") but a scam nonetheless.


My suggestion to you: If you want to see your name "in lights" (and you do) but you don't have the skills to make it as an author with a conventional publisher (and you don't), ask yourself if having a book with your name on the cover (oops, it sounds as if the publisher is taking claim as the author, so scratch that) is worth paying $500. If so, go for it. On the other hand, if you're being led to believe that getting your first piece "published" will make getting other work published easier or that it will make you any money in the end, forget about this "deal." Believe me, it's no bargain, so I suggest you hit the bricks running. A little sadder but a whole lot wiser.


By the way, I know you don't possess the skills necessary to get published legitimately because of the number of typos in your forty-nine-word question, averaging out to around one error for every six or seven words. Not a good sign if you ever hope to be legitimately (conventionally) published. Before that happens, you'll need to take some writing courses, read a lot of books and articles, and study the rules of grammar (William Zinsser's On Writing Well is a good place to start).


In the meantime, remember: legitimate, conventional publishers don't charge their authors for the privilege of publishing their works. They pay for that privilege, both via means of an advance against royalties (sometimes) and an industry average of between 7 and 10 percent of all income earned from that book. Also, legitimate publishers never assume credit for the work they publish. While publishers are under no legal obligation to list the authors' names on the cover of an anthology, unless the publisher lists the individual authors of the book's stories as the holders of all copyrights on the copyright page, or unless your contract from the publisher states that you're selling a "work for hire" and surrendering all rights to the piece to that publisher, they're actually committing plagiarism. That means they're walking on thin ice. At least, that's the case in the United States and many other countries. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if this "publisher" is located offshore or overseas somewhere where U.S. copyright laws and tough enforcement don't exist. Just a hunch.


In any event, I hope this information helps, and good luck whichever way you choose to go. Meanwhile ...


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack

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