People who want to write form a huge market. According to Writer's Digest magazine,
ten per cent of the US population want to be writers, and I assume that the numbers
are similar in other countries.
And where there's a market, there are scams. All over the world, you can see vultures'
eyeballs light up with dollar signs, can't you?
If you're an aspiring writer, you can avoid becoming fodder for vultures very easily.
All you need to remember is: writers get paid to write.
Let's look at some of the most common scams.
The "We're Looking For New Writers" Scam
Professional hard-working agents and editors don't need to look for new writers. Ever.
They don't have the time, because as soon as they hang out their shingle, writers find
them. This applies to book and screenplay agents, and magazine, book, and Web site
editors. Once writers find them, there aren't enough hours in the day to read, advise,
and make deals for the writers on their lists.
So when you read "we're looking for new writers" a big warning light should go for you.
This is your signal to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
If the person displaying "we're looking for new writers" purports to be agent, it means
that there's a rip-off involved. Usually the so-called agent will ask you for money.
Perhaps to edit your book, or to send your manuscript to editors, or some other silly
reason. Remember Writers Get Paid To Write.
A legitimate agent may ask you to cover out of pocket expenses, like photocopying and
messenger fees before she signs a deal for you. I don't approve, to be honest. Fees
like this are just the cost of doing business, and if the agent wants to represent you,
she should cover them. (Ask yourself whether you really want an agent who can't cover
her own office fees.)
However, some legit agents do ask new clients who aren't earning to cover these charges.
I'd recommend that if you're asked, you tell the agent to take them out of the first
deal she makes for you. Up to $100 in expenses is reasonable.
If a magazine or a Web site displays "we're looking for new writers", come on. This is
the publication's way of getting free content. If you're an established, published
writer, and you're using this venue to promote yourself, then you may want to use the
venue in a quid quo pro fashion. I send out free articles almost daily to Web sites so
that I get a higher profile on the Web, and to promote Digital-e.
But if you're a new writer what "we're looking for new writers" means at a magazine or
Web site is: "we don't pay money". Of course you need clips, but write for venues which
pay. Your clips will mean more. If you're a new writer, you can't afford to write for
free - you won't learn anything. And you can't afford to write for promotion, because
you have nothing to promote.