I have run into countless writers who have spent hundreds of dollars on literary agents, vanity publishers, and book doctors, in the hopes of making it big in children’s publishing. It really breaks my heart to hear this because the truth is, there are people out there feasting on hopeful newbie writers, turning a very legitimate business into something reeked with fraudulence. THIS ANGERS ME. AND SNOOP! In fact, it’s upset me enough that I’ve decided I’d shell out some of my own money to help combat the scams that are out there. You might have even gotten to this page by clicking on my sponsored ad. (If you did, pat yourself on the back. You’re a very smart cookie).
Here’s the deal. If you do a Google search, a lot of the links go to vanity publishers or predatory “agents” who will try to convince you that if you PAY them, they’ll make you successful nearly instantly. BUT LISTEN TO THIS: DO NOT PAY ANYONE A DIME TO REPRESENT OR PUBLISH YOUR BOOK (unless you really want to self-publish. If this is the case, [read post, should I self-publish my children’s book?->should I self-publish my childrens book]).
If you’re hoping to make it big with a reputable publishing house, standard industry practices is Agents and Pubishers pay you, not the other way around. This means, if an agent decides to rep you, he won’t charge you a DIME until he’s sold your book to a publisher. If you want to know how REAL literary agents operate, read AAR’s Canon of Ethics. AAR is an organization that has established ethical standards for literary agents. Many good agents are members, but it’s not a requirement. If you find an agent who’s breaking many AAR rules (like charging reading fees to consider your manuscript, demanding payment up front, etc., promising some analysis to be read in 24 hours, selling critiquing services along with representation), you don’t want to sign up with them. You’ll want to report them to Preditors and Editors. This is a great place to see if a name you’ve found has already been listed as “not recommended.”
The same goes for “publishing on demand” (or POD) publishers, self-publishers, and vanity presses (all the same thing essentially, though they will claim they are not). If any of them say they will make you big on Amazon or in bookstores, RUN THE OTHER WAY. The truth is, if you go this route, only you can make your book big by doing some serious hard-selling. [read post, should I self-publish my children’s book?->should I self-publish my childrens book] to find out why.
When it come to book doctors or people offering critique services, you’ll certainly find you don’t always get what you pay for. THIS KILLS ME because I offer paid critiques myself, yet I still hear stories about how someone paid a lot of money for total drivel. Often book doctors are out of touch with the children’s writing industry and you have to ask yourself why you should seek advice from someone who is probably less informed than you are. So be sure that you’ve exhausted all your other resources (seeking out free advice from other writers, critique partners, and even this website!). And if you do go with a paid critique service, get recommendations from people you trust before you shell out a ton of money. Also know this: critique services, even my own, won’t ensure your book’s success. Only you can do that by writing a good story that publishers actually want to buy and deliver that to them at a time that they want to buy it.
Finally, not everyone who shows up on the Internet is a scam. There are professionals out there who are operating legitimate businesses helping children’s writers. To find out the real deal on organizations you’re unsure of, look to resources like the Society of Children’s Book Writers (www.scbwi.org) and Illustrators and visit The Blue Board. A simple search on there should get your answer. Or just ask me and I’ll point you in the right direction!
Cynthea (and Snoop!)