The Blinders of Desperation

If you saw O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, you might remember this scene where Tommy Johnson sold his soul to the devil.

I took my middle son, Cody, to Oklahoma City last week to pick up his truck. On the way we discussed his mechanic’s wife, who had published a children’s book. He showed it to me and I read it while he was gathering his clothes. I noticed, as I suspected, it was put out by Publish America.

Cody told me I should write children’s books so I could get published also. I told him I couldn’t afford to get published by them. Then I explained they publish these books and sell them to the author at wildly inflated prices and then the author has to try and resell them for a profit. In this case, the author buys the books for $15 and she tries to sell them for their list price of $25.

This is a tiny book that you might see at the dentist showing children how to brush their teeth or some other give away to promote something. It will probably last less than a week in a normal household with normal small children.

We continued to discuss the book and finally Cody said, “Mom, why do you have to be like that? You’re such an elitist. It’s not going to win any prizes, but I think it’s cool she wrote a book and got it published.” The unspoken thought that followed that was, “at least she has a published book, do you?”

He’s right. At least she has a book in her hands and I don’t.

The thought that flits across my mind after that is how much do I want a book in my hands?

The answer is, not bad enough to self publish.

Even so, I can see the attraction for writers. Writing a good book at times seems easy compared to the publishing journey. I think I’m a good writer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to work at it. Every now and then a gem drops on the page, precise and beautiful at birth. That doesn’t happen often. Mostly a lot of sweat and blood pours on to the pages as I write, rewrite and revise. It’s not an easy process and the publishing quest is even harder. However, it’s a path we all must tread if we are serious about our writing.

It seemed almost odd that a few days later, Janet Reid posted something on twitter about a contest for writers. She did a blog post about it here and it gained a lot of attention. Read through the comments, that’s where the real gems are.

Like this one that Janet pulled out and put in the body.

While I appreciate your comments. And I understand your vested interest in this business because if we’re successful, we eliminate the need for literary agents, the contest hasn’t launched yet.

So to post our rules and a link telling people that this is a contest to avoid is both self-serving and misleading. Are there issues with the rules, yes. But I think you should wait until the contest officially launches on Feb. 11, 2011, before you tell people to not join it. That’s the fair thing to do.

Could I, a 20-year veteran in publishing as a writer and publisher, afford to put out a contest that rips people off? I’m not desperate. The goal is to truly find the next great author, something not too many people are actually looking for. What’s been your success track record?


Karen Hunter

PS: I sleep extremely well every night because I operate in truth.

I glanced at the rules and the first thing that caught my eye was the entry fee of $149. The contest promoter responded with several interesting things in defense of this contest, but there really is none. This is a blatant rights grab and not only are they taking your rights, not just the winner, but anyone who enters, but they are also charging you $149 to take them.

Yes, please read the rules, anyone who enters this contest loses all rights to their manuscripts forever.

The sad thing is, if this contest goes forward, there will be a large group of desperate writers who scrape together the $149 to enter and only later, will they realize they lost their property. The contest promoter also said if they are insufficient entries, they reserve the right not to award the grand prize of $5,000 and a publishing contract the write MUST sign. They don’t say what’s in the contract or give you an option to negotiate. You are bound to sign it by the rules of the contest.

If you go to the “about us” page, you will note this statement, “It’s time for the producers of books to reclaim their power.”

How utterly ironic. This publisher is about to empower writers, but first they’re going to hold a contest to gut them.

So, once again, we come to the question. How much do you want to publish? Are you willing to self publish? Are you willing to enter this contest and hope for the best? Are you willing to join the James Frey stable of writers who give up their rights to their work for a few hundred dollars?

A caveat here, I have nothing against self-published authors who prefer that route, but let’s be realistic, not everyone should be published and a lot of self-published works shouldn’t have been.

At some point, the writer needs to take the blinders of desperation off and realize there are worse things than not being published.


  1. If I say I agree, and then tell you that even though you’re 100% right, people will enter this farce anyway?

    You asked what’s worse. Not getting your screenplay to the big screen 😉

  2. You’re absolutely right. People will enter and be disappointed.

    I’m not sure not getting the screenplay to the big screen is worse. If it got to the big screen through someone who stole all my rights, what have I gained aside from a lot of bitterness?

  3. I think the answer is to publish short stories to build up your name as an author to get a published book. Short stories are easy to get published on the internet and if they are good a fan base will delelop they you have a bargining chip when you have that novel in your hand.

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