This is a public service announcement for anyone publishing (or interested in) publishing online.
There is a new start-up writer’s site with a very dodgy business model currently sending out emails for their ‘beta’ trial. They send a very emotionally manipulative template email which (almost) reads as if it was personal:
“Hi, James Osiris,
I’m Robert, and I’ve been a big fan of web fictions and fan fictions for many years. I’m amazed by the talent of many internet writers and the countless fascinating stories I can find online. I came across your story, LILIUM – God Has Heard (Book 1), on Web Fiction Guide and enjoyed it very much and really hope that you are generously rewarded for your hard work.”
The email goes on to try and press the signup on you.
I read over the ByChapter website, which purports to pay you ‘points’ for your work. Every 100 words nets you one point. 100 points is worth $1 (minus the ‘loyalty fee’, which I imagine being collected by knuckle-dragging gorilla men with Long Island accents). There is no disclosure of publishing rights taken, use of your work, nothing. Just a vague promise of being paid peanuts via a dubious ‘points’ system.
This was a good approximation of my reply (the original was lost in the Interwebs somehow after I sent it, and won’t appear in my sent folder):
I was genuinely touched by your template email and generic boilerplate introduction. After considering the amount of time and effort you must have put into phishing the Web Fiction Guide to find my name and title, I found myself excited. Wondering. “Could it be? Could there at last be an entrepreneur who wants to help writers instead of profiteering off their work?”
Not a fucking chance.
You see, Robert, back in the day, companies used to pay their workers in something called scrip. Scrip was basically company-issued currency which company men could only use to purchase items at company-owned stores, and which was worthless anywhere else. They only got whatever the company gave them, when they wanted to give it to them, in the quantities they could be fucked providing.
You are proposing to pay writers – who are already being screwed by people outsourcing and over-commercializing their art and effort – in company scrip. It takes me around 4 hours to write 2500 words of quality draft material, then around another 8 to edit it into a final publishable form. For 12 hours work, posting on your website, I can look forward to a grandiose daily salary of $2.50. That’s enough to buy a tub of yogurt and a packet of ramen. One packet. Assuming, that is, that you don’t just randomly close down, redact, or mix up my number of points.
Your email is emotionally manipulative, but it will no doubt seduce young writers desperate for praise, even though they would make more money and make better use of their time giving back alley handjobs. You are a parasite. Your business model is simply yet another blood-sucking crab in the unwashed pubic hair of the internet freelance market.
On the off chance you are actually a reader who is interested in my work and genuinely wants to support artists, you can find God Has Heard on Amazon for the princely sum of $7.77, in real actual spendy money, at this link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00J3XYUYM.
My Name Is
James Osiris Baldwin.
P.S – Your website does not mention the terms and conditions, or the publishing and serialization rights you hope to claim. That might give you place to start.”
The thing that pissed me off about this particular campaign was the ‘I read and loved your work!’ part of the boilerplate. It pushes the sore deep bruise that nearly every writer has – the desire to have our work validated and loved by strangers – in an effort to exploit us. I HATE this.
Beware of scams. Never sell yourself short. Your work is your time and energy in physical form. Even the scribbled out draft pages of your manuscript is worth more than $1 per fucking 1000 words.