Don't Be Publishing's Hoochie Mama: Lessons from Disgraceland

Yesterday, in a fit of disgust, I switched off the Today Show, which has lately stooped to repeated interviews with the Tiger Woods Bimbo of the Day. The two young women I saw interviewed came off as no more or less than your average, starry-eyed groupies, bedazzled by the glamour of the world's most famous athlete and wanting to grab a bit of magic for themselves. Each was so "honored" by his royal golfness's notice that she would put aside her upbringing, her morality, and her common sense for the chance of a hook-up she dreamed would lead to something more.

I see way too many writers whose sensibilities are so overcome by the possibility of "fame" (or at least publication) that at the first hint of praise by some smooth-talking scoundrel with a gleam in his eye, said writers toss off all dignity, caution, and publishing savvy and land themselves in bed with the most unsavory of "agents" and "publishers." By the time these deluded innocents realized they've been had, their dignity is wrecked, their hearts are broken, and they've tainted themselves in such a way that no reputable agent or editor will want to come anywhere near them for fear of catching something.

So just as you'd warn a girlfriend, I'm warning any of you who might be tempted. In any legitimate publishing relationship:

1. The money always flows to rather than from the writer. (For a great discussion of what's a scam, read Laura Resnik's excellent post here at the Novelists Inc. blog.)
2. The agent or editor hasn't left behind him/her a string of infected partners. (Check for known scammers at Preditors & Editors.)
3. A legitimate offer won't evaporate if you ask for a little breathing space. Practice saying these words: "I'd like to take a couple of days to think this over." Then use that time to run a little background on your suitor, so you won't end up as publishing's hoochie mama du jour.

Now that the public service announcement's over, I'd like to say happy birthday to Boxing the Octopus! Our little blog project turns three years old today! We so appreciate those who have been with us for the ride.


jenny milchman said…
Wow, I haven't commented in a while, though I always love my BTO! But this post is drawing me out. The shadiest character I ever heard of in the biz actually left the country with a writer's dreams/ms in her hands. It is hard when you a) want something so badly and b) are swimming about in really unknown waters. I think your rules of thumb are right on the money. If you have a great story, you will find the right people to help usher it into being.
Hi, Jenny,
So nice to see you lifting your head up again! Hope you're doing well.

I think there should be a special circle of hell for those who prey upon the dreams of others. What it takes to avoid them is knowledge... ana self respect.

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