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Volume 41. No. 2.
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The Perils of Publishing
Science fiction author Vera Nazarian '88 explores the opportunities and dangers for would-be writers in today's publishing world.

Last year, Vera Nazarian ’88, along with her cohorts from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, proved that anyone can get a book published, even when it is authored by someone named Travis Tea. (Stop: Read author’s name again.)

Their hoax was deliberate. The group of 30 science fiction writers purposely concocted poorly written prose in Atlanta Nights, hoping to out self-described traditional publisher PublishAmerica as a vanity press that would publish anything. Their gripe with the publisher stems from the company’s attack on sci-fi and fantasy authors. Hence, the PublishAmerica sting, which resulted in an offer from PublishAmerica to publish the book.

“With print-on-demand technology and desktop publishing, anyone can produce a ‘real’ book—printed to order, available online, without inventory, distribution costs or returns,” said Nazarian. “Anyone with a computer and the ability to create PDF files can set up shop as a ‘publisher.’ Who needs editing, quality control or even a basic command of English? This new breed of vanity press is dangerous because it masquerades as the real thing, with nothing to lose. Savvy authors recognize scams—shady publishers who pay only royalties or token advances with no bookstore placement except distribution online, book doctors who ‘edit’ for a fee, agents who charge clients (real agents are paid commission as a percentage of publisher payment to the author) and show no history of client book sales.”

Nazarian (www.veranazarian.com) has published numerous works of short fiction in anthologies and magazines, her debut novel a mythic philosophical fantasy of many layers called Dreams of the Compass Rose. Her second novel, Lords of Rainbow, was an epic fantasy about a world without color. She lives in Los Angeles.

Working on other book-length projects, Nazarian offers authors some advice on getting a book published:

-- Learn all you can about the publishing industry beyond Writer’s Digest and Writer’s Market.
-- Use the Internet to Google for publisher Web sites, submission guidelines, addresses,
editorial names. Get to know Bertelsmann, BEA and Publishers Weekly. Start here: www.publishersmarketplace.com.
-- Attend conventions, conferences and trade shows to network, gossip and make friends.
-- Read industry blogs to get to know the daily habits of professionals.
-- Treat this as an extended job search. Research the marketplace, brush up skills in your preferred area and get your ‘résumé’ in order—a clever combination of you, your manuscript, its presentation and your professionalism.
-- Acquaint yourself with scams, dangers and misconceptions. Visit Writer Beware: www.sfwa.org/beware.
-- Follow author James D. Macdonald’s rules of thumb: Money always flows toward the writer; writers sign checks only on the back, cashing them.
-- Finish your work, use proper manuscript format; submit it according to guidelines. If you’ve been working on that “great American novel” for a decade, stop; force yourself into a deadline or begin something new.
-- Expect rejection. For every sale, you will get hundreds of heartless returns.
-- Persevere. Be thick-skinned, insanely self-confident, driven.
-- Accept constructive criticism; use it to improve your writing.
-- Believe in your work until others believe in it enough to publish.

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