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Tools to help you spot unscrupulous publishers and agents

June 18, 2012

Editor’s note: This is an incomplete list, simply because I am not all-knowing. If you have additional resources, please add them in the comments.

With the current changes in the publishing world, particularly in e-publishing, and the speed at which these changes are taking place, it’s easy for new writers to fall victim to scams–publishers that promise the world, sometimes for free, only to find out that all was not as it seemed up front.

If you’re trying to write a book and edit it, and maybe looking at traditional agents and publishers, how can you avoid the kinds of crapweasels that will take your money and the intellectual property you’ve worked so hard on, and leave you little in return?

Fortunately, there are tools and people who will help you avoid being victimized. Before you pay an agent, editor, or publisher, you should check them out to assure they’re legitimate.

Writer Beware

Writer Beware is hosted and maintained by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, but it’s a wonderful tool for any writer. Science fiction writer AC Crispin, along with Victoria Strauss and Richard C. White, keep an extensive information source of alerts for writers, including agents, publishers, and contests to avoid and some options if you’ve been scammed.

If you’re on Facebook, like their page to get their alerts added to your feed. You can also check out the Writer Beware blog. Both resources are updated on a regular basis.

Preditors and Editors

Preditors and Editors has an extensive list of agents, publishers, conferences, workshops, even software writers can use. It recommends some, but steers you away from others, with explanations about why you should avoid them. It’s created and maintained by David Kuzminski and its extensive lists are a wonderful resource.

Association of Authors Representatives

The AAR is the trade organization for literary agents, and includes a strict ethical canon for doing business. It includes a list of its members, all of whom have pledged to follow the canon. Its FAQ is must reading for any author looking to find an agent for the first time.


If you’re considering working with an agent or a publisher, go to Google, type the name of the agent or publisher, then the word scam.  For instance, if you type PublishAmerica scam, there are a large number of hits linking to content from people who would seem to believe they’ve been scammed by PA. If you type Donald Maass scam, you won’t find much to indicate people believe they’ve been scammed by Mr. Maass or his agency.

Other writers

Finally, other writers are a great source of information, either individually or in groups. The Florida Writers Association and Mystery Writers of America have resources members can use to connect with each other (I am or have been a member of both, so I know.) Other writers organizations probably also have similar resources. Take advantage of them.


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