Wednesday, April 21, 2010

10 Signs You Are Working for a Scam Publisher

1. On your first day, you find that your supervisor doesn't know what serial commas are and thinks that MLA style is what "all the publishers use."

2. On your second day, "god damn it" and "f@cking Christ" sound less like profanities and more like what you shout down the office stairs as a matter of convenience.

3. Your third day reveals that you are the only person in the office who actually reads the manuscripts.

4. Your fourth day involves a bitch-fest against Writer Beware.

5. Day 5 requires that you, Brand New Intern Who Could Easily Have Known Nothing About the Publishing Industry, must call up big-name agents and ask them to send you manuscripts. One agent asks if you are a traditional publisher, which makes Head Boss Lady become a Cursing Tornado who vows never to have professional relations with said agent again.

6. Day 6 is really boring. There is nothing to do.

7. On Day 7, a brilliant manuscript by a Stanford writing professor is rejected. The writing style, which bends the rules but is consistent and contributes meaningfully to the story, is said to be "wrong." You cry.

8. Day 8 brings phone calls from authors asking about their "royalties." Apparently, "because of the economy, we are sending out January's checks in July. All the publishers are doing that."

9. On Day 9, Head Boss Lady tells Second in Command Lady to pretend not to know which of the Head Boss Lady's "businesses" she will be working for in the near future. Thus, she can't really answer any of [insert dupe's name here]'s questions. Instead, she should "dangle the carrot" in front of him by asking how he would like to receive payment.

10. On Day 10, you finally see a copy of the standard contract. Not sure how "pay $5,000-$6,000 to be published, buy a bunch of your own books, and don't forget to promote yourself" sounds anything like "this is a traditional contract with an advance and royalties that are actually paid."

On your last day, an author who has already paid to be published gets spooked and buys his copyright back. The office is an explosion.

It's months later, you've received your school credit, and you walk out without remorse.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Encounter: Sid Fleischman

Being a teenager with lofty dreams has its advantages. First, I wanted to work in publishing. Second, being a Sandwich Artist by trade, I was really good at offering mustard.

Sid Fleischman was behind me in the sandwich line at the 2005 SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles, a couple years after I was no longer a teen by years, but still felt like one. When Sid appeared, I saw The Whipping Boy cover between my elementary school fingers, between the shelves of my elementary school library.

Being a teenager (an again feeling like one) is something like being stuck in one of those I-am-immobile dreams, only your limbs still move and don't do what you asked them to do.

It gets worse when you are being stared at. Like "interviewing" to get into a prestigious private school and losing my voice entirely. Or starting my period the day of the yearly ballet performance. (That's when periods were a big deal.)

Obstacle One: Pour yourself a drink.

First the ice cubes. Using the shallow spoon provided as a scooping tool, I managed to get one ice cube into my cup and three onto the floor. Behind me. In front of Sid Fleischman.

Obstacle Two: Decide what to do with the ice cubes on the carpet.

First, stare at them. Next, think of what you would even do with the sullied cubes if they were picked up. Or should I just let them melt? Third, decide to abandon them. Finally, look at Sid awkwardly.

Obstacle Three: Complete the assembly of the sandwich.

Sandwich-assembly being my specialty, I sped through the bread, turkey, cheese, and lettuce. I left the lunch line oddly, wishing I had something to tell Sid other than "OHMYGOSHIAMSOEMBARRASSED" OR "OHMYGOSHIREADYOURBOOKWHENIWASLITTLE." I couldn't think of anything, so I said nothing. I missed my opportunity.

Until I hear a voice behind me.

Paired with the voice was a smile.

Paired with the smile was patience.

"Did they have mustard over there?" Sid Fleischman said. There was a secret in his voice, and I suspected he did not actually need my help.

"Yes," I said, proud. "I can get it for you."

The old instinct kicked in.

"Would you like any mayonnaise?"

Sid, thank you for seeing me. You will be missed and always remembered.

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