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Warning All Writers

One of the things I get asked about a LOT in real life, is how to get published. While there’s no short answer to that, there is a bucket of advice I can’t share often enough. The first question any writer should be asking is not how get published, but how to protect yourself and your work.

Short answer: The minute anyone asks you for money, hit the brakes!!

Long answer: Getting your work published should not cost you any money. With the following three exceptions.

(Of course, that’s assuming that your work is ready for publication – regardless of what you and your mom think.)

I do recommend – as convincingly as I possibly can – hiring an editor to ‘fix’ your work. In fact, it’s rare that any of us can put out any respectable work without the assistance of a professional who knows more about grammar and structure than we do. Not to mention the value of a pair of eyes that are not emotionally attached to every word. This is pretty much the biggest and only major expense an author should incur. If you’re lucky enough to have a relationship with a publisher who provides this service for you, celebrate in grand style as it is a privilege few get to enjoy. Most of us hire someone.

Second to professional editor magic, I recommend authors invest in cover art. Always PAY for your cover art. Do NOT expect someone to gift it to you. And credit them fully. Your cover is your first impression. Everyone judges your book by it. Again, unless you have a publisher who is looking after this for you.

The last item I might suggest paying for is a VA to format your book for you. Unless you also possess some serious desktop publishing skills and are keen to delve into the world of margins and bleeds and embedded fonts and autofilled tables of contents, this could be your greatest investment.

After that, you want to lock up that credit card and dig out your detective skills. You’re going to need them.

The moment you search for publishers online, or post that you’re writing – anything at all – or start to purchase more than your typical stash of books, you will start to see ads. Ads for masterclasses, online courses, editors, pseudo-agents, and how-to’s for parts of the publishing process you didn’t even know existed. You will click on some of these ads and consider buying into them, because, of course, your book is headed for a bestseller list.

The next thing you know, your email inbox is filling with offers to review your work, edit it, maybe even publish it. Some of these offers truly look real. In fact, some of them will look like they’re from well known, popular brands. You will send them a sample of your work. They say they’ll get back to you in two to six months. A week later you’ve got a message from the Editor himself and he’s raving about your style, your voice, and your skill. He is absolutely positive that your book will be the next big thing and he can’t wait to work with you.

You check it out. He’s got a website. Letterhead. Branding. It all looks legit.

And you are beyond excited!!! You’ve told your friends and they are all in!! We’re gonna do a book signing at the pub!!

You write back and forth a few times, and you’re about to sign a contract. But wait, there’s a small glitch. It happens all the time, don’t worry about it. Someone else’s book was pulled, and yours could be fast-tracked. It’ll help everything if he can hold your spot. If you make a $500 deposit against your first royalty cheque to hold your spot, you’re in.

And you do it because it all makes sense, and because your friends are so proud of you, and because your book is awesome!

And I just made all of that up. In real life, the scam is never that obvious. The scammers are WAY better at fooling you than this. They’ll sell you a marketing package. It’ll include all of your editing, formatting, cover, and marketing. They’ll even send you a hundred author’s copies of your book. Because you’re a writer and you shouldn’t have to learn all of that crap yourself; you should be doing what you’re good at: writing. All this for only $4,000.

It’s a bargain.

Except that, even though you might get some editing (unlikely) and a formatted, printed book (a competent VA can do this for a couple hundred dollars), the marketing is a bunch of downloads that tell you how to promote your book on social media. In the end, after you’ve given copies to your friends and family, you have a case of books in your basement and no idea how to sell them.

It feels real. It feels good. And the bad guys know this. And they make a LOT of money ripping off hopeful writers. A LOT.

I can’t stress it enough. Getting published shouldn’t cost you anything. Ever.

Self-publishing will cost you a bit. But if you can’t put out a novel for under $500, including editing, cover art, and formatting, something is wrong. (Ads and marketing after the fact are a-whole-nother game!!)

That said, I would suggest that all writers check out Writer Beware®the website and the blog. Subscribe to the blog. And search the site any time you contact or are contacted by anyone who wants to help you publish your book. This alone will be the single biggest investment you can make into yourself and your work. Protect yourself.

~Alex

NOTE: Romantic Shorts does not charge fees for any part of the publication process. We pay $50 CDN for stories at the time of publication. The exception to this would be Competition fees, which range from $10-$25, to cover reading fees and awards. Authors are reminded that stories can always be submitted as queried manuscripts through our regular Submissions process, bypassing the competition process and fees altogether.

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Filed under For Writers, Writing and Getting Published 101