Repeat after me. Money flows towards the writer.

My good deed for today: I got an inquiry (that wasn’t exactly a query) in which the author explained that she wanted to be published but most of the publishers of her kind of book didn’t take unagented materials. She sent out 4 queries that got no reply, but did hear back from one agency that wanted her to pay for an assessment critique. The amount of money wasn’t as high as some that I’ve heard, but, as the author explained, their household budget is extremely tight and she just couldn’t come up with it. What she wanted to know was whether this was standard practice in the industry. I am so glad she asked. But I know that for everyone who finds someone to tell them How Things (Should) Work ™, there are probably many more that don’t.

Anyway, I directed her to: http://www.sfwa.org/Beware/fees.html and also to the forums on Absolute Write http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/.

Just in case there is someone out there reading this who doesn’t already know: Reputable agents work on commission. Commissions are based on selling your work. They make money if you make money. It’s a motivational system.

(There can be occasional, usually rare, overhead charges, but they are the exception, not the rule. And the agent should always discuss them with you ahead of time and get your approval.)

(Paranthetical #2: There are very good critique services out there that are worth their weight in gold (and cash). Plus there are some great free ones like Critters and OWW. Can anyone recommend some good non-SFF ones? Since I’m trying to expand my mystery/thriller and YA lists, those would be good to know…)

It makes me so steamed that I get emails like this every week (not at the authors). It’s hard enough getting the few every week full of vitriol aimed at a straightforward (and I’ve been told, not unkind) query rejection. These people out there who take advantage in this fashion just make it that much worse. I guess it explains why sometimes it’s no wonder that writers can come to view agents as antagonists in the publishing process rather than enablers.

So, where would you direct a new writer just starting out so they could get the information they need about things like how to query, how getting an agent works, how not to get scammed, etc.?

27 responses to “Repeat after me. Money flows towards the writer.

  1. I prefer Forward Motion Writers to OWW. It’s a great comuunity with solid writers of all levels of experience. Within the site are smaller private critique groups for about every genre of fiction. This is where the real value comes from, since you can find writers of similar caliber to work and grow with.
    I’ve been with a fantasy crit group there for nearly 4 years. I’ve workshopped almost my entire novel there. Great feedback and fantastic advice. I expect to see their books hitting bookshelves soon. 😉

    • I’ve been with Critique Circle the past couple years. They host a mixture of genres (including thriller/mystery, YA), do private and public critting. Plus the site is password protected (your posted work won’t appear on websearches).
      The Absolute Write forums are great too for finding information.

  2. You already sent them to my favorite place; Absolute Write. 🙂 Also, Ann and Victoria’s blog-Writer Beware, which is listed on SFWA as well. They can also check out all agent blogs (reputable agents).:-)
    Agent Query is one: http://www.agentquery.com/ And Absolute Write again (they have a forum just for agent blog listings): http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=37784
    Hope that helps someone. 🙂
    ~Tyhitia
    http://obfuscationofreality.blogspot.com/

  3. SCBWI is a great resource for Children’s Book and YA writers. They do charge an annual membership fee, but they also provide local and national benefits. They have a manuscript exchange program on their site too.
    Our local SCBWI chapter has a social networking site online where we do online critiques and swap chapters for in-person critiques.
    And it’s a nice credit for your writer’s bio on queries/to editors.

  4. I admit to being biased, but DII takes all genres. We take a limited membership, but we are free and accept members as long as there are openings. And P&E liked our critique rules. 😉
    Right now we have 8 openings.

  5. Actually, I tend to send them here. Also to Miss Snark’s archives, AgentQuery, and AbsoluteWrite.

  6. Tiny nit: OWW isn’t free, alas. ($49/year.) It was quite excellent when I was a member, though grad school derailed me.

    • Thanks for that correction – I think I was remembering that the first month is free and then you can decide if it’s worth the paid membership. And they also have a 6-month membership ($30) and a month-to-month ($6).

      • For about 6 months – maybe a year? not sure – when it first starteded up, OWW was free. You might have been thinking about that. It was also multi genre, for that matter. (Actually, I met my current crit group on the romance site and we split off together.)
        ~Lorelie Brown

  7. While I continue to maintain print was long overdue for a shake up like this, I don’t see this economic downturn as any kind of validation for self-publishing in any way.

  8. The Writer Beware Blogs! is a good source too.
    http://accrispin.blogspot.com/
    Erin

  9. Yeah, I think a friend of a friend got scammed not long ago. She went to copyright her book–not knowing that you don’t need to do this–and the person at the “copyright service”, whatever that was, recommended she send her book to…erm, Publisher X. (Not sure if I should name it here.) X is of course one of those folks who will take anything. The cover of her book is now very pretty, and the typesetting is fine, but I don’t imagine she’ll see anything like publicity, and I suspect she may have had to pay something to see it in print.
    Sigh. I wish I’d known about this ahead of time so I could’ve warned her off.

  10. OWW — only the first month is free. thereafter, it is paid membership.

  11. With regards to OWW, I wondered how people manage over there. I tried it out for one month. Posted a chapter for feedback. Did my part on checking out other material on the site, giving detailed feedback, etc.
    But in return I received only one or two one sentence or so comments that weren’t…what I would call helpful.
    I wondered if that was just the ‘newbie’ experience. Is it different if you become a paying/permanent member? Or?

    • I paid for a year membership years ago. I found the crits uneven. Some were really good. Others, not so much. It’ll be the same anywhere, but I prefer non-open crit forums (where you just pop-in and post/crit). Finding a long term crit group is much more helpful. How can someone who has just popped in crit chapter 15 with any perspective on the story/characters?

    • I’ve found OWW to be wonderful, but I have some great reviewers, a few of whom have been following along since I started (less than a year ago). Like any place, the quality of the reviews does depend on the reviewer. I also do at least one critique a day and have been trying to do two most days. That tends to generate more return critiques.
      ElissaM

  12. I would direct young and impressionable authors to the blog of Miss Snark, literary agent.

  13. Aid for the new writers
    There are plenty of sites and books out there for new writers that are of great help. Websites I have found of interest include: agentquery, writersbreak, fictionfactor, writing-world, as well as authors’ websites, blogs such as these and some of the websites already suggested.
    I hope this helps!

  14. I direct new writers to the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (where I used to work) or to a similar organization where they live. There’s one in every province in Canada, and some states. I can’t speak to the usefulness of the American organizations, although there’s one in both of the states I lived in (TN and NH), because I’ve simply kept up my membership in WFNS. WFNS’s website has some great tipsheets in the FAQ section which I often link to.
    At least two of those provincial organizations – Saskatchewan’s and Nova Scotia’s – offer manuscript evaluations, if people want a critique from a professional who is writing in their area. You don’t have to be a member to use these services. I did this when I was in my early 20’s (more than a decade ago). It cost something like $100, iirc, and I got comments on about fifty pages worth of poetry, from a poet whose work I admired.
    Also, the forums at Poets & Writers magazine are pretty good. You have to register to use them, but it’s free.

  15. Your link to SFWA is the absolute single best place to start that I’ve ever heard. It tends to scare new writers to death, of course. Seems to me sff.net also used to have a lot of folks you can ask about things like that.

  16. Where would I send newbie writers? Honestly, to blogs like this one. Nathan Bransford, Miss Snark’s archives, Janet Reid, The Swivet. And to editors’ blogs, like Editorial Ass and Editorial Anonymous. Those are the places where I’ve learned the most about the publishing process. Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors are good resources for checking out specific people and entities, but I’ve learned so much more just by listening to pros talk about their jobs.

  17. Very Classy
    I just want to say that I think it was really classy of you to direct her to the help she needed. Many agents would not take the time to answer a simple question. I mean, I know they’re all busy, but sometimes people just need some help. I love that you did what you did. As I said…very classy.
    C. L. Freire
    http://www.myspace.com/clfreire
    http://www.writerstogether.com

  18. Wow! I am overwhelmed with all the great resources! Thank you everyone who commented to help us newbie writers!
    One questions: I am in an excellent critique group, but we all are writing different genres… How important is it to be in a group of the same genre? So far, I’ve learned so much, the group has been essential to my writing growth, but is it better to all be writing fantasy (or what-ever-the-genre)?

    • I do think that it depends on the size and maturity of the critique group.
      Although I write fantasy, I prefer the larger mixed groups, because I write cross-genre. This means that I’ll have more romance, paranormal, young adult mainstream, or science fiction type writers regularly checking into my work. The basic sword and spell fantasy group kinda ignores me… sadly enough. 😦
      The + as far as joining a fantasy only group means that you possibly don’t have to return the favor to genres you don’t ordinarily read and wouldn’t be much help on.

  19. (All right, absolutely no idea what that garbage is in the previous post’s url, but can’t find a way to delete it. Can you remove it for me? Sorry.)
    Compuserve Books and Writers forum has a writing workshop that is free. You just “pay” to upload your chapter by critiquing x amount of other works of your choice.
    I was going through some old rejection letters last night and was surprised to see a very reputable agent had sent back a notice about charging a $50 reading fee. I don’t think she does that now, but I was surprised.
    I spent $50 for Barbara Rogan’s get acquainted offer, in which she edits/critiques your first 5,000 words and it was well worth it to me. She points out things to look for in the rest of your work to make it better, so you have a guideline to use for self-editing. Barbara is a successful author, teacher and editor and a former agent, so she brings a lot to the table.
    I would definitely steer clear of an agent’s reading/critique fees.
    Julie

  20. Great resources listed. I heartily adore Miss Snark’s archives, and that would prob be the first place I’d send new writers.
    Critique Circle is also fantastic. You can have access to it for free, though paying members do get a couple of extra benefits, and the system works really well. I’ve learned more by critting other people’s work than I ever did in any of my university writing courses.

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