Posted by: Kathy Temean | January 17, 2010

Authors Beware – Seven Tips

Over at Bookends blog they have been discussing scams in the publishing industry.  I was pointed to the blog by an author who wrote this post.

At an SCBWI monitoring workshop, we met an editor from a large publishing house. She requested and eventually read our YA/MG full manuscript. She requested revisions, which we completed and submitted. The manuscript was then “under consideration” for almost a year. (I still do not understand what that means!) During that time, we would see the editor at other events and she would consistently praise our work. Eventually, we got a rejection letter from her saying that the manuscript just needs too much editing for publication at this time. About a month afterward, we found out she’d left the house and opened an independent editing service. We approach her thinking . . . ”Here is someone we know is a professional and has the knowledge to correct any problems.” (At least she did not approach us.) We entered into a contract and pre-paid $750 (out of a $1500 total) for her to edit the manuscript, query letter and synopsis. She gave us a first draft revision date which came and went. We followed up. She responded she needed more time. This went back and forth for awhile. But the bottom line of the story is that in the end we got no editing, no return of our deposit and, now, cannot find her at all. So, here is my question, how do you know who to trust in the industry even with everything on the web? How do we even know we need the editing in the first place and this was not just part of her leaving her house?

If you want this person’s name you can find it in the comment section over at Bookends.

It made me think about how even the most savvy authors can be scammed or treated in an unethical manner.  So I called another author who had a different experience with a very reputable critiquing service and asked him to write up his story for you to read.

Here it is:

Approximately five years ago, I engaged a children’s book editor to read, line and copy edit and advise me on a middle grade manuscript.  Her fee was in the $600 range, paid up front, that was consistent with her stature as a successful children’s book editor before starting her own manuscript critiquing service.

To be clear, her credentials were excellent: a former executive editor with many years expertise under her belt.

She was initially very professional, providing an engagement contract to commence my work.  In turn, I was specific in what I wanted from her: a completely line and copy edited manuscript and a written critique with appropriate suggestions.

Several weeks after submitting the manuscript she emailed to say that she had read the first 30 some odd pages and didn’t feel the manuscript was good enough to warrant line and copy editing.  She offered, with NO reduction in fee, to review just the first 50 pages and provide only a written critique.  I declined.

I reminded her of the engagement (line and copy editing the entire manuscript) and asked that she return the manuscript and my payment.  I further offered to pay for her time reading the first 30 pages. 

She declined and refused to release me from the contract.  What she delivered was a scathing review of my writing (or more accurately, 50 pages of my writing) and no line or copy editing whatsoever.  In addition, she stated that she did not like children’s stories written in First Person (my manuscript was in First Person).  When I again emailed her, pointing out that if she did not like First Person, then she should have told me on the front end, it failed to gain any reconsideration.

In the end I lost $600 and am unable to recommend her services when contacted by other writers for a reference.  I felt, and still feel, ripped off.

Both authors did their homework and I don’t see much more they could have done to avoid it happening, but we all need to be aware of how easy it is to be ripped off. 

Here are somethings to think about before writing a check:

1.  Do not pay someone a large amount of money to start working for you.  I would think a few hundred dollars up front and go from there as needed.

2.  Ask for references.  (Like I said this would not have helped the two examples above.)  Not just one or two try to get more.

3.  Discuss a time frame for the work to be completed.

4.  Discuss how things will work if they do not like what you have written and they don’t feel they can do a good job for you.

5.  Call your SCBWI Regional Advisor to see if they have heard anything negative about the person or business.

6.  Always check  Writer Beware

7.  Then go to  Preditors & Editors

These two situations both stem from a critiquing service, but there are scams everywhere. So do your homework even for agents, and publishers.  If you are considering self-publishing, be very careful and don’t jump into signing anything without talking to a number of industry professionals who have their ear to the ground.

Please add any ideas that you have used to avoid the pitfalls of dealing with unethical people.



  1. Good info, but now I’m a bit nervous. Glad I read this now and not later.


    • Yousei,

      Sometimes you just can’t avoid someone who is dishonest and if they are they probably have developed a talent for it over the years, but most are stupid and can be avoided. Unfortunately, those few talented liars are out there, so I hope you never run into one. It can be quite hurtful and also lighten you wallet.



  2. Thanks for the info! I am really a newbie and did not realize…. well anyway, thank you again for the 7 tips info!!
    NoraD 🙂


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