You would be hard-pressed to come up with a more heartbreaking scenario.
A writer spends two years crafting the best novel she’s capable of writing. After much toil and travail, her abstract transhumanist coming-of-age young adult police procedural is polished and ready for submission. She queries agent after agent, only to receive form rejections in return.
Then, one day, someone says yes.
Dear Ms Kamarajian, the agent writes, I read your manuscript, Super Robot Cops, with interest. I believe you’ve written the next Great American Novel. It is my pleasure to offer you representation. Welcome to the Not-a-Scam Literary family.
In my opinion, your manuscript needs no further polishing and is ready to move to market as is. Please submit the nominal administrative fee of $2000 so we can get the ball rolling.
Our hypothetical author is over the moon. Someone wants to publish her work! And really, what’s two-thousand dollars here or there, if it means she can make her writing dream come true? She takes out a second mortgage, calls in some debts, and sells her guinea pig into slavery. She submits the “administrative fee” and waits.
Untold eons pass. The sun grows cold. Humanity moves underground, sliding slowly into degeneracy as social order breaks down. Ms Kamarajian is still waiting for word on her novel. She will wait forever. Ms Kamarajian has been had.
How Do I Avoid This Scenario?
In the Internet age, scam artists lurk around every corner, waiting to ensnare the gullible, the desperate, and your grandma. (Mostly your grandma. How many “tool bars” is she going to download before she figures it out? Christ, Nana.) Most of us know to cast a wary eye on Craigslist ads and YouTube comments. Yet when it comes to finding representation for our novels, we are strangely deferential to perceived authority. Part of it, I think, is that we just want to get published so bad. The other part is straight-up failure to research.
Here are some sites to help you do just that.