Friday, January 21, 2011

How to spot a scam

This blog was inspired by an e-mail I received today from  I received an e-mail from someone with what seemed like a potential position, but it sounded too good to be true.  So, I did my homework, and it turns out, they were a scam artist.  The sad part was, it was for a "real" position.  And that got me thinking; there are a lot of scammers out there; how do you tell the legit people, from the scumbags?

In this day and age, everyone is looking for a quick buck.  However, there are ways to earn it, and then there are ways.  And with this horrible economy, it seems as if most people are desperate for money.  Some people can get so desperate for cash, that it can cloud their judgment.  This is where people like scammers come into play.

Unfortunately, it is hard to crack down every single scam out there, so I am here to offer you advice on how to avoid getting trapped in one.  Scams are not only common in the literary world, but they are common in the real world as well.  In the literary world, it is a little bit more difficult to spot one, but if you do your homework on a publisher or agent, you should be able to avoid getting caught up with one.

Let me tell you a little story or two.  Before I signed with Otherworld Publications, I almost got involved with a company called The Writer's Literary Agency.  I found them through an add on, and thinking they were legit, I clicked on the add to see what they were all about.  I followed their guidelines, and was contacted.  Naturally, I was excited, and went through most of the process, minus getting my book critiqued.  I got the contract, and thankfully I did not sign with them. first off, they wanted me to send my work to a THIRD PARTY to have my work critiqued.  This raised some suspicions.  Not only that, but they wanted me to PAY to have my book critiqued.  Then, I opened the contract and read it.  Luckily at the time I was working at a law firm, so I had access to hundreds of attorneys.  So, I had one of them look at the contract.  There were things in it that I never agreed to, and I am glad that my mother was smart enough to google this company.  It turns out that they are a self publisher type company (which is fine for those who have the money to self publish), but they don't say that on their website.

Take a look on their website for yourself to see what they say: Writers Literary Agency

They say right in their description that they don't sell your work to vanity publishers or charge reading fees.  BUT what they so cleverly leave out is that they want you to have your work critiqued, and that it costs YOU money.  Another thing I just noticed on their website, is that they say they don't edit, but they do mention that they will help you polish your work.  Talk about a double standard there.

When you google their name, the word scam comes up along with it.  Read this one article that comes up with by someone named Bionic Lady and on Eisla Sebastian's blog.  Both blogs pretty much say the same thing.

Another Agent that I consider to a partial or full scammer, is Barbara Bauer.  She came up one day in a search I conducted for literary agents.  She seemed legit, and so I queried her.  Within a month, I received a letter in the mail (an actual letter from her!).  I was impressed and quite surprised when I received it. I was standing in the kitchen with my mother when I opened it.  The letter was basically offering me representation if I paid a "membership" fee.  Sure enough, along with the letter, came an application, that was much like a job application. It asked me for my school information, my work history, and here's the ticker: my social security number!  A red flag immediately went off at the request of my SS#.  NEVER, EVER give out your social security number to ANYONE.  My mom and I looked at each other, and I decided that just by having to pay the membership fee, I wasn't interested. Her clients are legit, and although she might not be a scam, she does charge a fee.

From what I have learned over the last two years, is that any reputable literary agent or publisher will offer to pay you money if they are truly interested in your work.  Yes, they need to earn a living, but they will take money out of your books royalties, not from you specifically.  Now, this is with traditional publishing, I can't say much about self publishing.

The bottom line is this; if it seems to be too good to be true, it usually is.  If something seems fishy or "funny" to you when dealing with a particular agent or publisher, go with your gut or intuition, because trust me, it's usually right. Make sure you use common sense, and do your homework.


  1. It's always good to be on the lookout of these things. I'm going to make a habit of reading the fine print, and the fine print within the fine print and so on when I query. By any chance, did you know about the Preditors and Editors website ( and check out the agents? No offense, but coming across this Barbara Bauer and immediately querying without checking the agency out (though, if you didn't know about the site then, that is excusable. isn't a very smart move - however, you were smart enough to catch on on your own, and not send them anymore things based on the charge fee alone. Preditors & Editors also doesn't recommend it and says it's in the "top twenty worst" or whatever - but hey, you caught on and didn't go with them, and eventually you found the right people. Good job getting by. I'm sure the people at Otherworld are glad to have you, and I'm sure you're even happier you didn't get sucked into one of those scams.

  2. Websites like Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware really help weed out the scammers when it comes to book publishing, but I'm finding that I'm having more trouble researching magazines that publish short stories. I'm very nervous that I'll send my stories to someone disreputable.