Tuesday, June 08, 2010

American Author Contest (or, Why Writers Should Use Craigslist With Caution)

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Craigslist is a fantastic resource if you want to buy bikes, furniture, kitchen equipment, etc. There's some research involved, and the listings don't always work out, but if you're diligent, you can find some amazing deals. For writing jobs, though...not so much.

It's pretty much a given that any agencies and publishers advertising for clients on Craigslist should be avoided. Let's just say that Craigslist is not a top literary venue; the best that can be said for these operations is that they're clueless (the worst, of course, is that they're scams). You need to be careful about freelance writing opportunities, too (here's just one example of why)--though this is true of just about any jobs listing site. And contests are another potential problem. I've heard from a fair number of writers who've had the experience of entering a Craigslist-advertised writing contest and having their entry fees vanish into a black hole.

Recently, I've gotten a number of questions about this Craigslist listing:
American Author Contest

Just like American Idol - but for writers.

If you are already finished or still working on your munuscript [sic], contact us for complete details.

Writers who respond receive the following:

Thanks for your interest. We are looking for the next generation of great American Authors. Please see our website: www.booksbybauer.com - American Author link.

Thanks & good luck.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

[name redacted]
Author / Editor
Bauer Communications

As it turns out, the American Author contest is not so much a contest as a promotion--though what exactly is meant by "promotion" is not at all clear. "We are excited about the opportunities we are providing for aspiring authors with our American Author promotion," the website declares. "We are providing access and opportunities where they previously didn’t exist from pretentious inaccessible publishing companies." (Uh oh. Badmouthing "traditional" publishers--never a good sign.) "Like American Idol’s phenomenal impact on unknown singers, if you are a great author, we’ll make you shine too. Granted, they are two totally different markets and processes." (Gee. Ya think?) "[B]ut the potential for both is unparalleled."

Okay, so that's about as clear as mud. But there's no ambiguity about the fact that, to be eligible for the American Author contest or promotion or whatever it is, writers must enroll in Bauer Communications' "First-Time Author Program," which costs $295 and appears to be a sort of mentoring/publishing program, providing a "getting started" tutorial, a couple of consultations, a finished product review, and a publishing and marketing strategy.

I expect I don't need to expound upon the obvious issues of excessive entry fees and contests that serve as shills for paid services. However, is it possible that the First-Time Author Program might be worth it? Could it provide enough value that authors wouldn't feel ripped off, even if they didn't make it into the contest?

Well...

The "Getting Started" tutorial (which is described as "a concise crash course on a proven formula for the book writing process," and is sent out as a teaser to writers who respond to the Craigslist ad) is rich in advice such as "Next, you will come to the middle of the book which will arise on its own once you have gotten past the beginning" and "Make sure that your ending is relevant to the beginning and the middle." I don't know about you, but that's not the sort of information I expect to pay for.

As for the consultations and reviews, Bauer Communications claims to have "over 100 entry-level and advanced editors standing by ready to work with you." Leaving aside the question of why one would want to work with an entry-level editor, the fact that no names are provided means that the editors' credentials (not to mention how many there actually are) can't be verified--and if you can't verify an editor's credentials, you have no way of knowing whether they're qualified to comment on your work.

As for publishing and marketing strategies, the existence of Additional Services suggests that further fees will apply. Also, it turns out that Editor [name redacted] of Bauer Communications is also Author [name redacted] of Bauer Communications (this information can be inferred from emails, but is not indicated on the Bauer Communications website). In other words, Bauer Communications appears to be an outgrowth of a self-publishing endeavor. Draw your own conclusions about the level of publishing and marketing expertise that implies. (If you think that's snobbish, consider that neither of the two books Bauer Communications has published to date are available at Amazon.)

So...a contest that's not exactly a contest, and can be entered only by paying $295 for a package of services of, shall we say, debatable value. Yet more evidence that on Craigslist, as elsewhere, it's Caveat Scriptor.

[This post edited 1/20/11 to redact the name of an individual no longer associated with Vauer Communications.]

13 comments:

Lisa_Gibson said...

Absolutely proceed with caution whenever the word 'craigslist' pops up. ;) Great post

Deb said...

Who's the Bauer in this whole deal? No name? Oh--not Bauer as in Barbara? The mind boggles.

Tina Haapala said...

Great post. It's so hard for people who are trying to break in to know what is legit. Not everything on craigslist is a scam (I've been hired for a few temp jobs, non writing, in the past. Oh, and that's how I met my (now)husband:P). But the "writing gigs"/"jobs" are almost always this kind of bait and switch. The misspellings and really short copy are the first warning signs.
Thanks for having this site, very helpful!
Tina
http://www.excuseeditor.com

Anne R. Allen said...

Like Deb, I immediately thought of the infamous scam-agent Barbara Bauer. Are they related?

Whether this Bauer is Patrick Barbara or Jack, this sounds like a big fat scam, so thanks, AGAIN for keeping the unpublished masses out here safe from would-be predators.

Victoria Strauss said...

There is no relationship between Bauer Communications and Barbara Bauer that I know of.

We need to be careful using the word "scam." Opportunism and/or cluelessness don't necessarily add up to dishonesty.

Jayde Scott said...

Very strange and confusing listing, if you ask me. And what's the fee for? Whenever you see a fee, don't bother, just run!

behlerblog said...

What? Craigslist isn't a legit publishing cross reference? Gosh, didn't I see Harlequin's listing for submissions whose stories involve romance between left handed cheerleaders with Tourette's and anemic vampires?

S.M. Carrière said...

A really good post today. Thank-you once again for keeping us beginners on the straight!

DeadlyAccurate said...

"Next, you will come to the middle of the book which will arise on its own once you have gotten past the beginning" and "Make sure that your ending is relevant to the beginning and the middle."

This made me laugh from the sheer absurdity of someone thinking this counts as actual teaching. I have two more for them:

If you put letters in the correct orders, they will become what are called "words."

If you put words in the correct order, they will become "sentences." "Sentences" can be used to convey thoughts and ideas, but they must not be used all willy-nilly.

LivingtheWriteLife said...

Thanks so much for this information! I am a writer who got so excited by the CL posting that I didn't even think that it could be a scam. Thanks for saving me the time it would have taken to do the necessary research. It's much appreciated!

Anne Campbell said...

re. editors associated w. contests: I've had experiences w. outfits that turned out to be promoting editing services where the critiquing was so poor no serious writer would benefit from it, e.g. absolutely wrong on grammar or punctuation. (I checked Fowler and the Oxford Dict. of American Usage and Style).The contests may be legitimate, but beware of the services 'offered'.

firsttimeauthoress said...

Point taken.

arbraun said...

Never pay for author services. It's always bad news. I would never trust Craigslist with anything after what I've seen on cable about ads buying and selling young girls.