2011: A Writer Beware Retrospective

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

As we begin the new year (Writer Beware’s fourteenth!), here’s a look back at some of Writer Beware’s most notable posts and warnings from 2011. 


First One Publishing’s Writing Contest: This contest was intended to promote a brand-new publishing venture, and it accomplished its goal–in the wrong way–by requiring entrants to surrender all rights to their material.


Karma’s a Bitch (For Scammers): Two notable scammers–Robin Price, whose Media Arts International conned aspiring book and screenplay authors out of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and David William Caswell, whose New Century Publishing took thousands of dollars from writers but never published their books–got their comeuppance.

Why Your Self-Publishing Service Probably Didn’t Cheat You: Writer Beware often hears from self-publishers who are convinced they’re being scammed by their self-publishing services–but it’s more likely that their expectations were unrealistic.


The Interminable Agency Clause: This clause in an author-agency agreement gives the agency the right to represent a sold property not just for the duration of any publishing contracts, but for the life of copyright. Writers’ organizations warn against such clauses–for good reason.

Book Fair Bewares: There are many reasons for writers to attend book fairs. Unfortunately, there are just as many ways for unscrupulous people to take advantage of that.


Net Profit Royalty Clauses: Net profit royalty clauses–which calculate royalties not on the list price of your book, or on the publisher’s net income, but on net income less a menu of additional expenses–can reduce your royalties to a pittance.


Literary Agencies as Publishers: a Trend and a Problem: In 2011, partly as a result of the growing popularity of ebooks, literary agencies began transitioning into publishing. These initiatives pose a raft of conflicts of interest, as well as some serious potential pitfalls for writers.

Getting Out of Your Book Contract–Maybe: Some practical suggestions for (maybe) escaping a bad book contract.

Clark, Mendelson and Scott: New Name for a Fee-Charging Agency: A fee-charging agency by another name smells just as nasty.


The Cruelest Hoax: An aspiring writer punk’d by a jerk posing as a reputable agent: the true story of one of the meanest tricks I’ve ever encountered.

Farrah Gray Publishing: This tale of a publisher that tried to force a pair of authors to pay more than $100,000 in marketing fees after the contract was signed illustrates a hard truth of publishing: even with every possible precaution, what looks like a duck will sometimes turn out to be a turkey.


Taking Famous Names in Vain: In which PublishAmerica tries to extract money from its authors by pretending to have connections with J.K. Rowling, and gets a spanking.


The Agenda of The Write Agenda: In which Writer Beware exposes the smear campaign being waged against anti-scam activists by an anonymous group calling itself “The Write Agenda,” and considers whether some familiar faces may actually be behind it.

A Small Press Implodes: The Inside Story of Aspen Mountain Press: The ugly demise of a once-promising small publisher has some lessons to teach about the precariousness of the small press world.


The Brit Writers Awards: Questions and Threats: The questions surrounding this new awards program, and the dubious methods it has used to cope with criticism.

Introducing Writer Beware’s Small Presses Page: A new section of the Writer Beware website that provides an overview of issues to consider when submitting to small presses, as well as tips to evaluate publishers and warnings about unsavory practices.


The Fine Print of Amazon’s New KDP Select Program: Amazon has opened its Kindle Lending Library to self-published authors–but some troubling language lurks in the Terms and Conditions.

Publisher Alert: Arvo Basim Yayin: This Turkish publisher, which has been actively soliciting writers on the Internet, has breached contracts by missing publication dates and not paying monies due.