Friday, June 22, 2007

Scamming of Desperate Writers

Almost all of the Bradean write. Like depression, it's in our blood, and no generation escapes unscathed. And also like depression, it's been the dirty little secret that no one used to talk about even though everybody knew.

So imagine my surprise when Pop started talking about his writing. He told me, "I'll let you read my novel."

Lucky me. The chosen one.

He started mailing me manuscripts. A new one every two months or so. A couple hundred pages each - single spaced. Breathtakingly bad.

Perversely enough, I enjoyed reading the first one. To quote my favorite line from Sunset Boulevard, "Sometimes it's interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit." But too much of even a deliciously bad thing can be too much, so I sacrificed my sister to him. I reminded him that her degree was in liberal arts, which was practically an English major, and since he'd paid her college tuition, she owed it to him to apply that degree to his work. (And to think that at the time I was pissed off that he refused to pay for my college.) Then I packed up his stuff and sent it to her. Unless she's waiting a hell of a long time to take her revenge, she's forgiven me. Amazing. But then, she's always been a much better human being than I am.

Eventually, he sent me another novel though. My only comment was that perhaps he should start a new paragraph when a different character spoke. He was furious that I dared critique him. That was followed by several years of stony silence on the writing front. Until now.

At the family reunion last weekend, Pop found me hiding in a deep chair in the living room trying to read. He started talking. Instead of playing the good daughter and pretending to listen, I walked away. He followed me. I went into the kitchen, where there were potential victims in abundance. Alas, I am truly the chosen one. Pop sat opposite me and continued talking.

Pop does not do conversations. He delivers sermons. Generally, I tune him out, because nothing is required of me but occasional eye contact and a few nods. He wouldn't get the subtle sarcasm of an "Amen."

It was a bit funny listening to him rant and rave about how unfair bookstores are
that they won't stock vanity publishing books. He doesn't use the term vanity publisher,because somehow he believes that the company he pays to print his stuff is a legitimate publisher. I don't bother to correct him. He wouldn't hear it anyway. Besides, I'm not into dream crushing.

Everyone in the family was giving me those pity looks, those "thank god it's you and not us this time" glances that are half guilt, half relief. I can't hate anyone for that. I've also given those looks to Pop's victims.

My mind wandered, as it usually does during his sermons, but something he said snapped me back into consciousness. He found an agent. Huh? Come on. Even good writers can't get agents nowadays. He must have sensed that I was listening at that point,because he told me the whole sordid tale. Some con artist is asking thirty thousand to represent him. Thirty-thousand dollars. I don't care what Pop does with his money, except that it sucks to be old and broke. So I did something absolutely
unthinkable. I interrupted his sermon and offered to be his agent for thirty-thousand. Hey - if someone is going to rip him off, it might as well be someone who will turn around and use it to pay his nursing home bills later on.

It amazes me that despite all the warnings out there that people still fall for this scam. The thing is, too many people are looking for a shortcut to success. They want to believe that the publishing world is hostile to new writers, that publishing houses "steal" ideas, and that the rules of good writing somehow don't apply to
them. There are whole groups of these people, each as ignorant as the last, and they swap around rumors and myths like they're gospel. The truth isn't that hard to find. A few hours of research on Predators and Editors would be a real eye opener. But those writers won't take legitimate criticism, they won't take advice, they won't even bother to do their homework and get educated about how the real world of publishing works. It's painful to watch. It's even worse when it's someone you know. But what can I do? It's not as if Pop will listen to me. I obviously know nothing about it.


mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

But wait, did he give you the 30,000?


Hope you're well!


Kathleen Bradean said...

Bwahahahahaha. Of course not. And I wouldn't take it even if he offered it. Not because I'm noble, but long experience has taught me that my family always gets its pound of flesh in exchange for cash - usually by slicing off a chuck of my soul.