Thursday, June 14, 2007

Money flows TO the writer

After reading an editorial written by Hope Clark, I popped off a response. She printed the letter in the June 3 issue of FFW Small Markets. Here's what I said:

Your article "You Get What You Pay For - Investing in Your Writing Career" reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the intent behind "Money flows TO the writer, not FROM the writer."

A writer should invest in her career. A good education, the proper writing tools, business stationery, and related expenses should all pay off in the long run.

What doesn't pay off is sending money to rip-off artists who scam would-be authors who don't know any better--the "agents" who charge fees up-front, the "publishers" who charge writers to be published, the "editors" who charge for negligible editing services, the "contests" that exist solely to make money for the contest sponsors, and on and on and on.

One of the most important questions a writer can ask when faced with a business decision is, "Which way does the money flow?" If money is moving from the author's pocket to someone else's pocket, there's a good probability it's a scam or a shady business arrangement. If the money flows to the author's pocket, there's a good probability that it isn't a scam.

But determining which way the money flows is only the beginning. Writers must make many decisions throughout a career and the best thing a writer can do is understand copyright law, contract law, and standard business practices within publishing.

Then, and only then, can a writer make informed decisions about her career. If a writer chooses to pay a contest entry fee, it's because she has done her due diligence and has good reason to believe the contest is sponsored by a legitimate organization. If a writer chooses to self-publish, it's because she understands the benefits and limitations of self-publishing (and knows the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing). If a writer chooses to take money from her pocket and put it into someone else's, it's because she has made an informed decision and understands how that decision impacts her career. A writer should never let ignorance guide her career decisions.

With more than 30 years of publishing experience--including 11 books, more than 1,000 shorter pieces, and time spent on the editor's side of the desk, I will happily and loudly proclaim that "Money flows TO the writer, not FROM the writer."

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