Press Publishing of Manuscripts and Poetry
Aspiring writers who place their hopes and dreams into the hands
of fraudulent literary agents and publishing companies are often
deceived into paying for an over-priced editing service, lied to
about the qualifications of the editors, misled about the potential
for acceptance by a publishing company, and ultimately rejected by
fictitious literary agents or publishing houses.
The dreams and aspirations of unpublished writers make them an easy
mark, falling for half-truths and dubious incentives. A recent investigation
of one company showed $10 million had been paid by 6000 would-be
authors seeking help getting their manuscripts edited and published
while another company was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution
to 4000 writers who used the services of these so-called "vanity
presses", "book doctors" or "literary agents",
which are noted for charging up-front fees but never delivering on
their promises of fame, fortune and notoriety.
Writers are encouraged to believe that putting a book together is
the quickest avenue to self-esteem, but after being duped, suffer
a shame compounded by years of rejection letters from mainstream
publishers. These companies take elaborate measures to disguise both
the fact it is a vanity press and that most bookstores will simply
not stock vanity press offerings
One company charged for this practice was Edit Ink out of Buffalo,
Never To Be Selected By Oprah
A budding author, you see an advertisement for a
company seeking manuscripts and are encouraged to send all (or
a large part) of your manuscript to the company for review. The
company then sends you a letter stating they have reviewed your
work and that it is certainly marketable, as it shows "great
promise and excellent commercial possibilities",
but just requires some professional editing.
They also send you a "joint venture" publishing
contract, which upon your signing allows them to publish your book — at
a cost to you of between $3,000 and $8,000 for such things
as part of the publishing, layout or typesetting.
This is commonly referred to as "vanity publishing."
Some companies initially charge about $1300 to "edit" your
book but then either ignore you or "refer" you to the next
stage in the sham publishing cycle. The referrals are made in bad
faith because your edited manuscript is still no closer to publication.
This next stage "publishing" company expresses great
interest in your literary masterpiece but declares that it needs
yet more editing. They in turn charge $5 per page to provide the
most rudimentary editing. From this they send 15% to the initial
referral service which took your $1300.
Soon you are deluged with an escalating schedule of reading fees,
contract fees and marketing fees, all collected without any effort
to actually agent your book in return. After resubmitting your edited
writings to the original literary agent or publishing house, you
are then informed that your manuscript has been rejected.
Violets Are Blue And So Are You
Novice poets yearning to see their work in print will often take
any opportunity to have their talent noticed. Not surprisingly, there
are individuals who would like to take advantage of that eagerness
and naiveté while reaping a tidy profit for themselves in the process.
A Maryland firm that has garnered a national reputation for preying
upon unsuspecting victims goes by the names the National Library
of Poetry, the International Library of Poetry, the International
Society of Poets, and the International Poetry Hall of Fame.
In addition to providing press releases to the media, they also
advertise poetry contests in many magazines as well as at their web
site, www.poetry.com. The advertisements, press releases and
web banners claim up to $58,000 in prizes will be awarded in the
After answering an ad in a magazine and submitting your poem, you
are notified that your poem will be included in a special edition
of their anthology. The carefully worded letter takes great pains
to assure you that you do not have to make any purchases, yet goes
on to list a host of available 'options'. Some of the options are:
$20 to add your biography, $29 to have your poem read onto audio
tape or $38 to have it mounted on a plaque.
Wishing to show that there is no attention to the art of poetry
or critical screening of submissions, humor columnist Dave Barry,
journalists from The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The
Chicago Sun-Times, and Arnold Diaz of the ABC News
program 20/20, have all submitted poetry to be considered by the ILP.
The journalists involved entered poetry that was intentionally badly
written and in the case of 20/20, the poems submitted were actually
penned by a group of second-graders.
In every instance, the poems were highly praised with the authors
being offered the opportunity to purchase an anthology containing
their poem at a "special pre-publication price" in the
range of $40 to $50.
Although ILP technically does publish the
work as promised, the anthologies are available by subscription only.
Because of the poor quality of most of the poems, anthology credits
are not respected by legitimate publishing professionals. Sadly,
many more people are taken in by this deception when local newspapers
report on people's inclusion in the anthologies as if they were a
genuine literary accomplishment.
Most reputable publishers will pay the author if a submission is
published. Smaller ones may not be able to afford paying writers,
but will at the very least offer a free copy of the publication.
A Prestigious Gathering of Poetic Accomplishments, Shipping Not
I’m sorry you will be unable to join us at the 2002 International
Society of Poets’ Summer Convention and Symposium in Washington,
DC--the largest and most prestigious poetry event ever held. As you
know, you were selected to be honored at this event, and we were
looking forward to your presenting your poetic artistry in front
of the more than 1900 poets from over 50 countries who will be attending.
However, because we don’t want you to miss out on this unique
opportunity altogether, we have arranged a way for you and your poetic
accomplishments to be a part of this event in a major way, without
your actually being present. Although you will be unable to participate
in the Convention contest (you must be present to win), you can
receive all of the awards we have scheduled for you--including
your custom engraved International Poet of Merit Silver Award Bowl,
your bronze Commemorative Award Medallion, and your Full One Year
Membership into the International Society of Poets for 2002-2003--if
you will allow us to present one of your poems at the convention
in your place.
We have arranged for professional poetry reader Alan Rose to read
your poem at this largest gathering of poets in history. Mr. Rose’s
dramatic baritone voice and imaginative style will give your poetry
a dynamic flair, as well as the worldwide exposure and recognition
that it deserves. Your poem will also be featured in printed form,
proudly displayed in a special room at the convention that will be
accessible to more than 2500 attending poets and guests.
And let me tell you a little about the actual awards that you will
receive by mail immediately after you confirm your participation
in this prestigious event by submitting your poem:
-- Your International Poet of Merit Silver Award Bowl (a $175.00
value) is a magnificent work of art in itself that measures over
10 inches across and over 10 inches high. It is handcrafted in silver
and has your name custom-engraved on a beautiful cherry wood base.
It is certain to enjoy a special place of pride in your home and
will serve as a fitting symbol of your unique poetic artistry.
-- Your bronze Commemorative Award Medallion (a $40.00 value) is
a deeply etched bronze medal brilliantly displayed on a 25 inch red,
white and blue satin ribbon.
-- And your Full One Year Membership into the International Society
of Poets for 2002-2003 (a $60.00 value) entitles you to a personalized
membership card, an ISP patch and decal, entry into special contests
during the year, and a subscription to The Poet's Corner quarterly
All that’s required for us to immediately send you all of
these Awards is for you to submit a poem to be formally presented
at the convention. Additionally, we must also ask you for the necessary
funds ($169.00) to cover the costs of the time and effort required
to present your poem before the convention attendees both aloud and
in writing, as well as the costs incurred in insuring and shipping
to you these extremely bulky and heavy awards.
We are, of course, ultimately most interested in meeting you and
having you personally present your artistry in front of the thousands
of other poets who attend these live events. Unfortunately, this
is not to be the case at this time, so we’re trying to do the
next best thing. But we sincerely hope to personally present
you with your most deserved awards in the future.
Convention Awards Chairperson
P.S. Your International Poet of Merit Award and bronze Commemorative
Award Medallion will be shipped to you by Federal Express, and will
be accompanied by an iron-clad promise that you will be thrilled
with your awards. If for any reason you’re not completely delighted,
simply return them any time within 60 days of receipt for a full
refund, no questions asked.
P.P.S. You'll also receive a $100.00 gift certificate off the registration
of a future ISP convention so that we can formally recognize your
poetic accomplishments in person at a date that's convenient to you.
Sent in by Mai Venn 08/01/02
A Consulting Editor for Tor Books sends along her comments
and experiences May 22, 2001.
Dear Les Henderson:
Here are a couple of publishing-related scams not mentioned in your
1. Display sites. These web-based operations charge would-be
authors a fee to display part or all of their unsold novels, usually
for some limited amount of time, under the representation that editors
looking for new writers will come to the site, read their work, and
wind up buying their books.
Speaking as an editor, I can tell you there's no way that's going
to happen. It's all we can do to keep up with the conventional manuscript
submissions. We don't spend our time surfing the web in search of
2. Coupons for review copies. A bunch of spammers in Georgia
were working this one hard a couple of years ago. The deal was that
you'd pay them -- I think it was thirty or forty dollars, but I can't
remember -- and in return would get three coupons you could send
to any publisher to request a "review copy" of any book
There was a fairly elaborate further setup whereby you'd post your
reviews to the scammers' site.
In theory, newspaper and magazine editors with too much time on
their hands and a crying need for amateur book reviews (a very unlikely
scenario) would find them there, pay to publish them, and you'd receive "royalties". However,
that was all window dressing. The heart of the scam was buying these
coupons you could swap for books.
Needless to say, nobody in the publishing industry had ever heard
of these scammers or their coupons. Occasionally a publicity department
that was running on automatic would send someone a copy of a book
they'd requested, but the coupon had nothing to do with that, aside
from its confusion value.
I've since heard from a friend who tracks frauds that the scammers
who thought this one up were expanding into coupons for would-be
reviewers of restaurants, resorts, music and videotapes, and computer
hardware and software, but I haven't gotten any more spam from them
so I don't know.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
For more on this type of scam visit her Weblog and
Victoria Strauss' Writer Beware section.
Jim MacDonald wrote in to let us know that one such operation, and
likely others, are still in business. Coupon
Woman Writers Warning dedicated to providing warnings of possible
scams or contests to avoid.