When writers choose Associated Content as a writing outlet, we can be confident it’s legitimate. We’ll find very clear directions about how and when AC will pay upfront for articles, or when something might earn click pay only. And the payment arrives as promised. A writer can publish exclusively or non-exclusively here. Some other content sites do this, too.
But as the Internet endlessly expands, finding places to do online writing and even what’s left of print publishing is becoming more hazardous-especially where the promise of earnings is higher. Since everything is sent by computer, we deal with people we’ve never seen. We can’t shake their hand or see their face.
If we’re not careful, we could fall victim to someone stealing our ideas and articles for themselves, get ripped off for hundreds of dollars, or even become a victim of identity theft.
Here are Three Top Ways Writers Can Recognize Fake Writing Opportunities:
1. The Agent Who Worships You:
You’ve written a book manuscript that will knock peoples’ socks off. You look online for an agent. You find a guy who looks reputable (according to his self-accolades), and you send a proposal. You get a letter like this back:
“Dear John, Your writing is the greatest thing since sliced white bread. Nobody’s ever written on this topic so well. You walk on water. I’d like to represent you and am sure you’ll be published within the year. I need $300.00 upfront for my expenses in order to present your manuscript to prospective publishers.”
Wrong! Stay away from this person. He (or she) is playing on your vanity. He’ll whet your whistle with a couple of bites but no offers. After some time passes and you get impatient to be published, he’ll tell you he’s found a “subsidy publisher” that wants to split the cost with you. Dump this guy. He’s looking for another piece of the pie.
A good agent would say something like: “This shows promise. I’d like to try and help you get published.” They won’t ask for a sum upfront; only a percentage after publication. Nor will they promise a timetable. Some may require a certain amount of postage to send out your choice of a total number of promo packages. You pick the number of packages, then you send the money for postage or send pre-paid envelopes.
If you’re willing to pay for your book to be published, you don’t need an agent at all. Go straight to a publisher that is honest about being a subsidy press, print-on-demand or self-publishing press. Or publish an e-book on your own.
2. New Magazine is Looking for Writers:
Be very careful. Impostors are setting up websites complete with a “prototype” of their first online or in-print issue. Recently, one fake magazine even falsified Press Releases and put a picture of model/TV host Tyra Banks on the “cover.” Here are the signs of a losing situation:
-Joe Smith calls or e-mails you back to say they’ve accepted your submission for a future edition. He gives you “his personal cell phone number.” He says you can only talk to him; he’ll be your exclusive editor or content manager. When you call, he answers with just his name or “Hello” instead of the magazine name.
-He’ll give you a possible publication date and payment quote for something delicious like $250 to $350 for your first piece, which rarely happens anymore. Many magazines want your first article for free, even if you’re an old pro. The Internet has been a slippery slope for writers–unintentionally reducing writers’ pay scales and drawing business away from legitimate magazines until they can barely afford to pay even their usual freelancers.
-He may send you a Freelance Contract or Writing Agreement that has a space for your signature and Social Security Number. This puts you between a rock and a hard place, because most legitimate publications do want something signed or submitted online.
-As months go by and there’s no payment or magazine, he’ll start backing down on his promises. Or, he’ll just stop returning your calls.
Bingo. This person has just ripped off your work and intends to shop it with his own name on it. Or worse, you may have fallen victim to identity theft. He now has your signature and Social Security Number.
Here’s how to avoid this scenario:
-If he will only give you his personal phone number and you never get to talk to anyone else, search for another way to contact the magazine directly. If you can’t find one, ask him for a representative with whom you can speak about their product just once. If he becomes indignant and tries to make you feel guilty for doubting his word, run the other way. Do not sign anything or give any personal information.
-Call the agent of the star who’s “appearing on the cover.” See if they really did a photo shoot for a company by this name, or released existing press photos. If they’ve never heard of the magazine or editor, it’s a sure sign of fraud.
But here’s what to do if you already signed something before becoming suspicious:
-Take out a Credit Alert with at least one major credit monitoring company. This can cost you an annual fee, but it’s worth it for one to two years.
-Monitor your own credit regularly by calling your credit card companies for recent charges.
-Make sure your bank accounts have directions for who can sign.
-The U.S. Social Security Office will tell you they can’t help until after something happens, so you’re on your own to be diligent.
-Immediately print out all e-mails and write a record of your phone conversations with this person, before you start forgetting details. Keep a paper file or DVD as well as a computerized file.
3. Pay Us a Sum Upfront and You Can Write for Our Website:
Okay, now they think writers are really stupid! Sure, content sites are making money off of advertisements. Their business is making more than we will earn for our articles. But that’s okay! If they weren’t here, writers would have fewer online venues for exposure.
But pay the site for the “privilege of writing?” Think about it. Writing is sort of an “in the spotlight” gig. Consciously or subconsciously, it’s nice to see your name in print, and these new sites asking for upfront payment from the writer are aware of that. Again, they’re playing on your vanity.
You’re better off ghostwriting and getting paid without seeing your name, than paying a website to “let you write.”
Was this helpful? See my other Associated Content articles on writing:
-AC Writer Shares Print Publication How-To’s
-How to Write Reviews and Recaps – What’s the Difference?
And special thanks to Associated Content contributor John Mario who encouraged me to write this article from my personal experience and horror stories from writing peers.