Writing: Outsmart the Scammers

A few days ago, I received an email that looked very official. It gushed about how some folks at a production studio were dying to have me write a script for my book, Thank God for Cats. But upon closer scrutiny, I knew it was a fake.

Writing Tip for Today: Scammers are out there, writers. Here are some tips to stay safe and avoid disappointment or worse:

Ego Strokers

Writers for publication of all levels of experience want recognition and success—financial, platform and name recognition. Whether you’re chasing that first byline or trying to get an agent, you want to climb the writing ladder to gain the next level in your writing. This often means a quest for teachers, coaches, editors or agents.

When you’ve read all the writing advice and attended workshops, conferences and critique groups, I think it’s natural to yearn for that one special person who will say “yes.” If you’ve received a lot of “nos,” this longing can be even more intense. Unfortunately, this writer is exactly the type scammers, posers and crooks are looking for.

If you hire an editor or coach, understand that anyone can claim to be an editor. Agents do usually have organizations which vet their members, but if writers become desperate, they often risk signing on with people who say they’ll shop your book, but only after you pay this quasi-agency to improve your manuscript. I have no doubt that this “film scout” who contacted me would lick his lips and then tell me how much I’d need to pay for him to “improve” my script.

Consider the Source

The best way to avoid these scammers is to put flattery aside. The idea that someone—anyone—says your stuff is great can be emotionally blinding. The most common scam is asking for money to develop, improve or otherwise work on your manuscript. Instead of heading for Cloud Nine, do some research.

The first thing I did for this email scam was look up the address listed on the very-official-looking letterhead. This one said it came from Steven Spielberg’s company, DreamWorks, and listed an address. Hmm, it checked out. I went back to the email and evaluated the sender’s name: Rhiley Roads.

The name seemed unusual, so I googled it with film scout. Several writing watchdog sites, such as AbsoluteWrite and WriterBeware listed the same name (with different production companies) as a total scam. Always check and recheck to be sure you know what you are getting into before you respond to these emails.

For a few moments, my endorphins soared. Steven Spielberg! But then reality kicked in. Why would anyone see Thank God for Cats! as a movie? It is a humorous look at cats and their slaves, I mean owners, but there is no Main Character and the book is more anecdotal than a storyline. When you look for an editor, an agent or a coach, remember to check sites like these before you sign. Never pay an agent up front. Get editorial help in writing. Look for recs or warnings on the internet. 

The most common scam is asking for money to develop, improve or otherwise work on your manuscript.

Success is a Long Road

Several years ago, I really did land a big New York agent. Cloud Nine had to make room for me, and I thought I could skip past a lot of those ten thousand hours of practice because, well, I was gifted. But the big deal agent didn’t sell my novel and I waited another decade before my debut novel finally published (without an agent I might add).

I can’t blame a writer for wanting Oprah to call or to hit the bestseller lists. We’re writers and we want readers. Yet writers rarely are able to skip to the head of the line. I think you become a better writer each time some editor rejects you or that dream agent says your platform is too small. The temptation to write what’s trendy at the moment stalks all of us.

In the wake of this scam film scout’s email, I had a little talk with Writer Me. I reminded myself that most successful authors get there after years of practice, turn-downs and rewriting. Also, as unfair as it is, luck can also play a role. I can’t control my luck, but I can resolve to be the best writer I can be. Avoid those who would take advantage of your dreams, get your BIC and write your heart out. And don’t believe anything Rhiley Roads says.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Writing: Outsmart the Scammers

  1. Thank you for the good advice. I am an author and have four books that are published. Now I am trying to market these. I love the writing and hate marketing.

  2. Hi Valerie,
    Almost every writer I know loves writing, hates marketing. This tension can be so frustrating! I guess we all do what we can with what we have and try not to get ensnared by the bad apples.
    Keep Writing,

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