"Listen carefully to the first criticisms of your work. Note just what it is about your work that the critics don't like--then cultivate it. That's the part of your work that's individual and worth keeping."~ JEAN COCTEAU
They're out there, oh yes they are, and I'll bet you've seen them. The less-traveled cable channels are full of them, especially in the middle of the night. Nation-wide AM radio call-in shows? Check! Internet? Try turning on a computer without a measured bombardment, I dare you!
Oh, I'm sorry, did I start in the middle? Allow me to clarify:
ARE YOU READY FOR THE COMING DEMISE OF THE DOLLAR?
I'm just a dumb secretary with an AA degree from a community college, but my millionaire boss just moved to a secret ranch in Outer Slobbovia after converting all his assets to one form of holding. He survived the Great Depression, the Nasty Recession, the Unexpected Gold Plunge, and the Other Great Depression, and if you buy my book, I'll disclose the secret method he used that will enable you to survive the Coming End of the World!
Now, this is brilliant, and I'm ashamed that I didn't think of it myself. After all, I've lived my whole life in the U.S., where the politicians get elected by making up some perceived end-of-life-as-we-know-it scenario that only they can fix, the military gets the new budget they want by reporting that our ideological opponents are just one circuit board away from rendering our armed forces obsolete, where the auto industry has pretty much convinced us that it's too dangerous to drive on public roads if you aren't in an SUV that can go head-to-head with a Tiger tank. How did it never occur to me to simply tell everyone that you're going to die in poverty if you don't buy my book?
Oh, wait a minute, because of my personal shortcoming, integrity. I just can't do it, largely because of the embarrassment I'm going to suffer when the sun rises tomorrow, and the only thing different is that I now have some of your money. And his, and his, and hers, and... Hey, looks like I'm going to survive the coming recession after all! What are you going to do?
Okay, at this point, long-time readers will recognize that I'm tap dancing as I try to find a point to put on this ramble. I'm just having some fun this week in the wake of last week's detailed post on character development, but I think the point I'll make for you, the aspiring author, is to be careful.
Let me make this perfectly clear: This is the Golden Age of the snake-oil salesman! Those guys who went from town to town in the Old West, selling bottles of colored water from the back of a wagon, could reach maybe a hundred people a week. These guys today can reach a million people a nanosecond, and from deposed Nigerian princes to undercover bank auditors, they're doing it, and they have their sights on you!
Breaking into writing is a tough prospect, and I don't think I'm disclosing any secrets to anyone who has already tried their luck with the publishing industry. Even if you're destined to be the next J.K. Rowling, you're going to experience rejections; in all likelihood, you'll collect enough rejection slips to wallpaper your bedroom. It's the nature of the life we've chosen. But some of the less scrupulous among us have chosen a different path. They prey on young writers, new writers, some not so young, with stars in their eyes and dreams in their heads, and they come calling. They're in your E-mail, they're in your sidebar, they're in your pop-ups and your blog comments. Once they find out that you're trying to place a book, they're as relentless as ants at a picnic. They'll sell you this, they'll sell you that, they'll sell you that elusive success that's just around the corner... Only they won't. What they'll actually sell you is a bill of goods that will never be delivered, and what it will cost you is every nickel they can wring out of you, and most of your dreams besides.
Don't believe me? I know how easy it is to be taken in by these hucksters, because I almost was myself. They found me as I was shopping my first novel, Temple of Exile, around looking for a publisher. They were so smooth they made butter look like sandpaper, and they might have caught me if their first request for money, for "editing" services, hadn't been so far beyond my means. I'm here now, an almost-victim, to try to help you avoid these predators. And you don't have to take my word for it. Read what the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has to say about them at http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/. It's a fascinating read, but don't go into it unless you have a couple of hours to spend. Yeah, it's that bad.So that's today's post. There are, unfortunately, people out there, lots of them, who feel that they are somehow entitled to take your money and give you nothing for it, and they know that people with dreams are soft targets. Knowledge is power, forewarned is forearmed, intelligence is victory; you guys are writers, you've heard them all. They're all true. Educate yourselves, be smart, and don't be a victim. And until we meet again, let's be careful out there!
*The delightful photograph is from the Trades that Shaped the West living history exhibit in San Diego's Old Town, and was snapped by my good friend Richard Schulte. You can enjoy thousands more of his quality photos by visiting his photoblog at https://coolsandiegosights.com/