In this season of all things scary, nothing is more frightening, to a writer, than a scammer. Oh, it’s so tempting, I know, to shell out a few bucks just to have a copy of your story in hand.
Don’t do it.
The best defense against scammers is, as in everything, knowledge. Do a little research. Find out if that offer that’s too good to be true is, yup, dammit, too good to be true.
Probably the best known site is Preditors and Editors, where writers share their bad experiences on agents, editors and publishers.
Contests can be a great way to catch the eye of an agent or editor. If, in fact, they are legitimate. While you never never never want to pay any money to an agent to represent you, contests charging fees aren’t necessarily scams. In order to run a contest, some funding is necessary. If the fee isn’t greater than about $20 (and that’s fairly high), it’s probably legit, but, as always, best to check first, such as on Poets and Writers’ list of legitimate contests.
On the Elite Skills site, use the links at left to find info on known scammers and report your own scam story.
Scammers also target freelance writers, as evidenced on Freelance Daily and Light Keeper. Light Keeper’s site includes Dave Barry’s typically ironic response to a query by the National Library of Poetry (aka the International Library of Poetry), known for its scams.
Also for poets, Wind Publications provides a list of the Worst Poetry Contests.
Science and Fantasy Writers of America’s comprehensive site covers agents, writers services, independent editors, contests, POD services/publishers, and don’t forget to check the Whom Not to Query heading for the “Thumbs Down” Agents and Publishers. includes up-to-date information.
If the agent or publisher isn’t on the Known List of Scammers, but gives you a sickly feeling in your gut, then Marcia Yudkin advises on how “You, Too, Can Sniff Out Scams!”, and she provides two more links. Thanks, Marcia. We writers need to stick together.
Lor Sjoberg provides more advice in Wired's article, How to Get Published and Avoid Alien Bloodsuckers. Seems appropriate for the season.