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Angel’s Bits – Avoiding Author Leg Traps

I confess – I used to think about this a lot more, publishers preying on authors. Finding ethical publishers has made me more complacent until a request for information from one of our QSF’ers brought the subject roaring forward again.

Are you self published? Lovely! It’s a viable option these days, though not without its own pitfalls. But that’s a subject for another day. This post is geared toward the author submitting to publishing houses and the dangers lurking in the process.

Anyone with a few years of publication under belts, skirts, or kilts has run across author leg traps, those horrible gotcha moments of the less than ethical or less than competent publisher. The contract’s signed. The book is in the editing queue or out on the market. Then those leg traps snap shut.

  • “Oh, you thought you could ask for your rights back? Read those clauses carefully. The contract states only if we feel like it.” *snap*
  • “You wanted to be paid on time? Hahahahaha! The contract states 45 business days after close of quarter.” *snap*
  • “We didn’t tell you about the service where readers can download your stuff essentially for free? Oh, too bad.” *snap*
  • “You got an editor. We’re not really interested in you wanting actual edits. It’s going out as is.” *snap*
  • “We’re restructuring. The accountants will be sending out payments soon.” *snap*

There are too many examples of publishers treating authors in less than ethical and sometimes downright criminal ways. I’m sure many of our QSF’ers have their own stories. But how do you avoid the bad eggs out there? How do you find the good ones?

There are good publishers, never fear. Instead of recommending publishers here, though, let’s run through some places where an author can find assistance and information:

WriterBewareButtonWriter Beware

Sponsored by SFWA and several other genre writers’ organizations, Writer Beware provides all sorts of advice for writers including information on publishers to avoid. This is a blog format site, but searchable.

aw_logo_smallcroppedAbsolute Write Water Cooler

AW is a forum format site where anyone can chime in with experiences, questions and advice. While it’s important to consider the source in a forum and some posters may write things they can’t substantiate, a good rule of thumb is that where the foliage has been disturbed, possible leg traps may lurk. If you see a publisher being lambasted on AW, you may want to do some further research.

Preditors and Editorspredlogo100

An exhaustive list site, P&E has listings for hundreds of publishers. There may not be much information listed, but if the publisher you’re considering signing with has a “not recommended” after the name, run, little author, run far and fast.

DAlogoDear Author

While we often think of reviews first with this site, Dear Author posts a lot of good essays and journalistic pieces. They don’t have a listing of bad publishers, but they do call out publishers behaving badly, bravely enough that one angry, badly behaving publisher even filed a lawsuit.

piersPiers Anthony

Yep, the author. Mr. Anthony is a lovely man who has shown his willingness to help new authors time and again. His site includes a listing for services and publishers, largely dependent on reports he receives from authors and, often, rebuttals from the publishers. Some of the listings go on for a bit, but are worth the read. (See the whole of the Silver Publishing debacle in brief – very instructive.)

Finally, but certainly not the least important, ask other authors. Sure, once in a while, an author will complain about a publisher in prima donna fashion, or something just didn’t work right in the process for them, but usually if an author has had a bad experience, there’s a reason.

Anyone out there have additional helpful sites for publisher vetting?

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