Unpublished authors can get desperate after a few rejection slips land in their mailbox. They sometimes try to bypass the mails and get the attention of an agent or editor some other way. There are plenty of ways that look good on the surface.
Once you have written something, you immediately have to worry about being plagiarized, getting ripped off by vultures that prey on writers, and protecting your copyrights. And for American writers, there are those pesky "moral rights" the publisher wants you to give up. Why would they want your morals?
There have been mumblings in cyberspace about "moral rights" clauses in contracts with American publishers. This has nothing to do with either the author's morals, in the traditional sense, or the possibly immoral content of their books. It has to do with the definition of "moral rights" in the Berne Convention ... something which the United States has not come to terms with in their own copyright laws, but the clauses still govern sales by an American author in countries that have signed it. Typically, the clause assigns the "moral rights" to the publisher, and specifies that the Berne Convention will not apply.
Agencies Who Continually Advertise for Clients
If you see a steady flow of ads soliciting new writers, whether in print or on the Internet, be very cautious. The good ones are selective about clients and seldom advertise because they get new clients from their listings in writing books, authors' queries, and networking. Tips that an ad is probably too good to be true: they emphasize huge advances that first-time authors can receive, the ad has appeared in every issue of the writer's magazine for months, and within a couple weeks of your submission of a sample they reply with a request for your full manuscript and money for "reading fees" or "representation" and such. They may request several hundred dollars up front.
A perennial scheme, now with a Web twist, is the "listing service". In theory, the service will put an excerpt of your work in front of an agent or editor by sending them a fat book full of excerpts, or in the Web version, by placing them on their site. Agents and editors will supposedly read these books or sites searching for new writers.
Do they work?
The responses ranged from "Internet? I don't even have e-mail!" to "Only if manuscripts stop coming by mail."
In other words ... stick to the normal route. The services do what they promise, but agents and editors won't read the books and web sites because they get plenty of new writers the old fashioned way.
Your Rights as an Author
This is a list of the Rights owned by an Author. Each of these Rights can be offered for sale together or separately. When negotiating with an Agent or Publisher or when Self Publishing your work you must protect these rights.
- Book Club
- Electronic Media Rights (Internet or Web)
- Excerpt Rights
- Film Rights
- Foreign Rights
- Reprint Rights
- Revised Edition Rights
- Serial Rights
- Syndication Rights
- Subsidiary Rights