Saturday, November 18, 2006

Frogs, Puddles and Proverbs

Remember the Bookner guy?
Or the query submission services which cause agents/editors to consign reams of queries to the Utmost Outer Hells?
Seems there's another variant of Writer's Wall-Mart/One Stop Shop out there - an anonymous group who claim they are funded by literary agents, also a high placement success rate for MSS.
In spite of widely disseminated information about scammers and scam agencies by Writer Beware!, P&E, and almost every genuine agent website, it seems that hope springs eternal and there's one born every minute.
Fortunately, my Victorian mind-set ( a la Miss Marple, ie. like a sink) or perhaps a capacity for low and vulgar suspicion, has protected me so far from the more obvious forms of chicanery.
Have been wondering about the basic psychology that leads writers to succumb to scammer lure.
Or to disregard guidelines and the standard submission rules and regulations that govern the industry, for that matter.
Perhaps its because some of us think we are Special- an attitude instigated by the fact we were Big Frogs at one time or place. Relatively speaking.
We may have edited the high school yearbook or the college paper, won the English Prize on graduation - that sort of thing.
We were exceptional.
It was, however, a Very Small Pond.
Further, we deal with exceptions. Many, many plots revolve around exceptions. Exceptional circumstances, exceptional characters, exceptional events.
We make exceptions. Literally.
Some may transfer that mind-set and apply it to themselves.
Your thoughts?


anna said...

Perhaps its because some of us think we are Special- an attitude instigated by the fact we were Big Frogs at one time or place

Laughing so hard! the graphic is wonderful. As for Writers getting taken in by scamming literary agents, I guess sometimes we just need to take a leap of faith. (frogs are good at this.) After all somebody does win the lottery.

kmfrontain said...

I think because scammers prey on our hopes, and add a "get your hope quicker" angle, its why so many get taken in by them. It's always better to go away and ask why it's quicker than usual, cheaper than usual, "what's in it for them?", and "how do I verify all of this?".

Bernita said...

Chancing an arm with scammers is apt to get it bitten off at the shoulder, Anna!
But as to leaping, that's right - it is something frogs do.

Bernita said...

Truly, Karen, impatience and frustration at the glacial pace of submission certainly contribute.
And the odd quirk of trusting because we distrust.

S. W. Vaughn said...

We get scammed when we don't know any better. :-) And for most people, the time you don't know better is when you're just starting out writing. When you've said to yourself, "Self, I think I can write a book." So you start -- and surprise yourself by writing one.

Hooray, you think, I'm an author! Now, what do authors do after they write a book? It gets turned into the things we buy at the bookstore! Yes! How do I do that?

Oh, I need a publisher (or perhaps you know that an agent would be useful). Not knowing how to find a publisher, you go to Google and type in "literary agent" or "book publisher". And you get a couple of pages of scammers first, plus those paid Google AdWords ads along the sides with clevery written alluring copy.

Only after you find out that something is not quite right with these people do you go digging for more information. That is when you find out that you're supposed to do your homework and research publishers and agents.

And Writer's Digest does NOT help. They have a paid classified section in the back of the magazine that lists all sorts of scams who make pretenses of being legitimate operations. New writers just do not know that scams exist.

I know because I've been there (sigh). :-)

Ballpoint Wren said...

There's also the "in a hurry" mindset. The worst submissions mistakes I've ever made were because I was in a hurry to do it and didn't read everything carefully.

I've done it all, too: bungled the editor's name, missed the word count, stapled it instead of keeping the papers loose, etc.

I'm a noodle. I admit it.

raine said...

Perhaps it's the "new angle" idea. It's "yes, you've had bingo chips before--but these are new and improved, and come in lovely pastel colors, guaranteed to give you an edge."
And yes, many people think they--and their manuscripts--are 'the exception', and if they can just get it before publisher ABC, they'll recognize this and be GLAD their rules were disobeyed.

I suppose, in the end, it all comes down to desperation.

MissWrite said...

Agree with Karen and Sonja. The desire to be a 'real' author, and having stars in their eyes seeing the occasional news blurb of big name authors making big money advances etc... those slug companies prey on the dreams of those folks, who like it was said, don't know any better. There are vast numbers of folks who are no where near as well informed as you are, and those that read your blog, and blogs like it, and such.

People who are serious and determined to be 'real' (hate that word, but something is needed for the description) writers will seek out the truth, and know there is no easy path.

Fortunately for the scammers--there are plenty of folks--literally millions who believe that there is an 'easy gate'.

Bernita said...

A case of simple innocence,sometimes, Sonya. Books (which we have been taught to honour from our earliest days) may seem somehow above and separate from the normal world where shysters operate.
I so agree about Writer's Digest.
One is tempted to compare it to the church bulletin/cop shop newsletter including ads for the local drug dealer.
Even newspapers will not accept some types of advertisements - though advertisements are their staple revenue.

Bonnie, you've left me with no excuse for a glaring typo in a query letter that I went over 17 times...
Hurry. Perhaps some writers feel that it's a race, if they don't get their MS out there, someone else will have presented a similar plot the week before.

That ties in with Bonnie's "hurry, hurry," Raine, and a kind of guileless conceit and lack of context awareness.

Some do do it out of desperation, I've no doubt. They've tried the usual routes and been turned down and are ripe for the usual scammer's claims about the industry and being told, finally, they have a great book.

Bernita said...

Yup, Tami, the dream.
It's hard to be pragmatic about one's dreams.
And the scammers promise to help them realize it with the sweetest words in the world.

Steve said...

I'm not frustrated or disapointed about not being published. I once thought about POD, but that was a fleeting moment. I recently posted one of my novels on my blog. I don't mind not getting paid if a reader somewhere find some enjoyment in reading it.

Bernita said...

I agree, Steve, the ultimate satisfaction isn't the elusive fame and fortune but being read.
Have you ever given any thought to the increasing number of legitimate e-publishers out there?

Just to make something clear, I'm not taking any snotty, superior po-po-po position here, just because - more by good luck than by good management - I have so far avoided a scammer. I have considerable sympathy for writers who have been victimized. Scammers can be so very, very smooth.

MissWrite said...

Oh yes they can be smooth. I can't tell you the number of times something that looks oh so enticing has come in the mail and hubby has gotten to it before me. He comes in my office so convinced it is a serious offer of a way to market, or promote... poor dude, he is my biggest supporter, but of course, the business side of it all is 'on me'--as it should be, and he just doesn't know.

I imagine his reaction to those is much like those disconnected souls who haven't yet realized that the there is help to find out the truth.

The very scary part is like's been said here already, SOME of the types of places people might go and honestly expect reliable truths and sources really are NOT reliable at all--such as the much touted WD. I happen to have a recent copy of that magazine on my desk at the moment--hubby subscibed to it on my behalf awhile ago thinking it was great. Some of the articles are okay, but the ads in it make my skin crawl--mostly at the thought that there are millions of hopeful writers out there thinking that those ads MUST be okay -- they're in Writer's Digest.

Bernita said...

It does appear like an endorsement, does it not?
For years, WD was the premier and recommended magazine for writers.
And writers tend to project ethical standards unto such authorities.

Ric said...

Many, Many years ago, I wrote a query letter to ICM (the biggest agency at the time). I addressed it to their star agent, but the next line asked the secretary opening the letter to give it to a new agent - someone hungry - someone who would go to bat for me.

A week later, I got a phone call from the agency attorney. She said, "Do you know how powerful this star agent is? Do you know how pissed off she is?"

Instructive - and it also let me know there are some frogs who think they're big and people are afraid of them. Being a naive writer, who could have thunk?

Endless topic - and don't even get me started on Writer's Market!

Bernita said...

I would love to get you started, Ric.
What I don't understand is why the attorney would get involved or why the agent should be supremely pissed.
So, you addressed the letter equivocably - hardly a killing matter, and only mild nitwittery.

Jeff said...

I have been known to suffer from delusions of grandeur when it comes to my writing. I'm in remission now, but if the right scammer comes along, I fear I could fall into a relapse.

Bernita said...

Never think it, Jeff. You're much too canny.