Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Author-Publisher Relationship

I've always told authors that for the most part, they shouldn't worry when sending their work out to different publishers. My belief is that publishers and editors are basically honest and ethical people, and if they aren't they don't stay in business long. I've also maintained that the genre community is fairly close-knit, so if someone were to do something stupid to an author, like try and steal his writing, the community would rally around and stand together in protest.

Rick Ferrel Moore sent me a story some years back for critiquing. The story: "Electrocuting the Clowns." It was a good story. I made my comments and he accepted them with grace, and then wisely ignored most of my feedback. Imagine our surprise when his tale started appearing around the web with another author's name stuck on it. I won't go into detail about this here, if you want, read Rick's own account. I am sure based on Rick's efforts and others who have allegedly been wronged by this individual that he will eventually find it difficult to continue his scam. For instance, I am positive that a bookstore where he is scheduled to do a book signing, with this information coming to light, will cancel his appearance.

All this being said, let me return to my original premise...I don't think authors should fear for their work, especially in the age of the internet. While the net might make it easier to suck people in, it also makes it harder to hide. Search engines are a wonderful floodlight. My students have found that out. When they have attempted to plagiarize text in the past, all I've had to do was cut and paste a sentence or two of their writing into a search engine and voila,  I would be able to find out if they were cheating.

A friend of mine who taught English at the college level is fond of telling how his students, when given an assignment on Poe, would "google" the topic and sometimes copy information from an essay on a blog, rather than come up with their own thoughts and research. Unfortunately for them, the blog they would plagiarize belonged to their instructor.

I still maintain that as a whole, editors and publishers are a trustworthy lot. As authors we must submit. Bottom line. However, we can lower the chance of becoming prey for the unscrupulous by first checking where we are sending our material and by making sure we keep copies of email and cover letters. However, even the most careful author will get burned. It's part of the price of doing business. It won't make it any less painful. That being said, the writing community will continue to police itself and those who continue to lie and cheat will find themselves boxed into a corner until they are toothless and without credibility.


Charles Gramlich said...

There will inevitably be cheats and thieves but I do believe they are relatively rare, as you do. I agree with you.

Rick said...

The creep has been collecting novel short story submissions for his new online mag "Darkened Doorways." He's now using the name Leo Wolfe. New name same sleazeball. So far we've located seven names he hides beind. What a sick scam. I wonder how many of those stories submitted to "Darkened Doorways" he'll steal?

Anonymous said...

It's just sickening to think someone claiming to be an editor could steal your work. I'm considering joining a writers' union to have access to their legal team, just in case.

That said, as a writer, we have to submit as much as possible.

Gwendolyn said...

I needed this balancing perspective after reading Christine's blog. Because I was seriously freaked out and had thought about never submitting my work again. Or posting anything online, ever. But you are so right. Most of us have integrity, and it would be a little like never walking across the street ever because some people drive drunk. You're right; you just have to be aware and make informed choices about where you submit. And Christine, the union thing sounds like such a smart idea. Rick- wow. I'm so sorry you are having to deal with this.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Charles, we can't let one spoil it for the many.
Rick--It is sickening to think of all those hopefuls sending him material.
Christine,Gwen---Things balance out. This guy is finding himself being dragged into the light, proving the point that the writing community is tight knit and self policing