Caveat emptor! Buyer beware! Oh, I know, writers are sellers, not buyers, but we also do buy services to help us get published or to help us market our books. Whether we are buyers are sellers, though, we must perform our due diligence.
Recently I received the following e-mail from a member of The Writers Network:
You once mentioned in your newsletter that Tell-Tale Publishing was looking for novels of historical fiction. My third book is called 'Mate!, a contraction of Checkmate!, what chess players say when an opponent's king is toppled, thus ending the game. It's a story about how the assassination of Lincoln is tied to Stonewall Jackson's untimely demise from (supposedly) friendly fire.
In any event, I sent the manuscript off to Tell-Tale Publishing, and it was accepted back in 2010. Its CEO, Elizabeth Fortin, sent me an advance of $25 and handed the book over to an editor. After two years of silence, I wrote to her and suggested she forget it. I returned the advance.
I am writing to you because I think this is something you should know and should not hype companies like Tell-Tale Publishing. My first novel, The Better Angels, was publishd in 2000. It was a delightful experience.
I wrote back to Bob and said I can't and don't perform due diligence on every lead I put in my newsletter. I get many leads from WritersMarket.com, for example, and it supposedly checks out its sources, but who knows? At the bottom of every one of my newsletters, I have the following warning: "With the exception of Zebra Communications, information in this newsletter is not to be construed as an endorsement. Be sure to research all information and study every stipulation before you accept assignments, spend money, or sell your work."
It's always the writer's job to check out sources, publishers, agents, editors, and others, but even after thoroughly checking these things, stuff sometimes happens to disappoint us. About ten years ago, for example, a respectable publisher in California bought two books from people I knew in Georgia. One author had a rewarding experience, won many prestigious awards with her book, and sold many copies. The other author had complaint after complaint about the publisher. His book never won anything, and sales were slow. He finally demanded and received his rights back. I might note that I read both books, and the first author's book was considerably better than the second author's book. In my opinion, author number two was fortunate to find a publisher at all, but obviously the publisher originally had faith in the book. How odd, though, that two authors had completely differing experiences with the same publisher!
In our world, it's always essential that we investigate the people who make us offers on our books, and then we have to be patient, compliant, helpful, and kind. In the end, we have to be a little lucky, too.