A Message for New Writers

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Happy Diwali to everyone who’s celebrating!

In the spirit of the festive season, I wished to share a message with all those who’ve dipped a hesitant toe into the waters of writing relatively recently.

This past Friday was the 13th, and in true ominous fashion, I received a message on Instagram from a woman writer (frankly in this era of the Internet I can’t be sure that she’s either a woman or a writer) who asked if I’d like to contribute to an anthology. When I asked for details, I got more than I bargained for – an entry fee slapped in right at the end.

Now don’t get me wrong – an entry fee or submission fee alone wouldn’t dissuade me. But I had many follow-up questions for this lady. Who was the publisher of the anthology? How would the entry fees be used? What were the quality checks being conducted? What was the sales and marketing plan for the anthology? And why couldn’t profits from the sales be distributed among the contributing writers?

I received answers to only a few of my questions, and those too were unsatisfactory. The lady herself would publish the anthology. It sounded like she would use the entry fees to pay herself for the hard work of compiling the book, and quality checks included checking people’s messages on Instagram. When I informed her in no uncertain terms that publishing houses, literary journals and other legitimate publishers paid writers for their work, she sounded incredulous.

When I shared this with my fellow writers, they all advised me to not waste my time and block all interactions with such potential scammers going forward.

I would have done so except for some choice lines by this woman, that worried me about how new writers might fall easy prey to people like her.

A few of her statements:

  1. It is completely unreasonable to ask for money until you are a famous writer.
  2. This offer is for new writers who aspire to have a future
  3. How will new writers ever gain experience?

My responses to each of these:

  1. I have had 40+ short story publications and have been fairly compensated for my work without paying anything to anyone, and I am not a famous writer.
  2. This offer has to be targeted to new writers because who else will shell out their hard-earned money in exchange at instant publication?
  3. New writers will gain experience by writing, submitting, getting a mix of acceptances, close calls and rejections, learning their craft and critiquing stories of fellow writers.

Hence my message for new writers is – believe in yourself enough that you don’t need to pay anyone to publish your work. Even if you don’t get hard cash you may receive a print copy of the anthology or any other form of payment, but you shouldn’t need to fork over cash for it.

If you disagree or are looking for help and resources with your writing, check out the Resources for Writers on my blog itself.

What do you think of this whole episode? Would you like to share a message for new writers? Please do so in the comments below!

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