Challenge,  Fun Stuff,  publishing

Scary Scam

Invite to Judge a Contest…

Today, in separate emails, both Kris and I got an invite to judge a contest. The point of the contest is to get writer’s work in front of agents and traditional publishers.

Yes, Kris and I got that invite to judge a contest to help new writers get their work in front of agents.

I will let you stop laughing now.

This woman thought it would be a great honor for me to do that, since she had no idea at all who I was. So while laughing and trying to decide what to say in return, I made the mistake of looking up the woman and her scam. It is in Great Britain and has the word awards in the title. (I am not promoting them in any way, so don’t ask.)

The woman does nothing but this scam and all the stuff around it.

To get ten pages of a novel looked at and “judged” the writers must pay 30 pounds. They have the right to also pay for extras like… wait for it…

— Editor Development

— Project Editing

— Film Rights Promotion (This one is flat scary.)

And a bunch more stuff too head-shaking to even mention.

The authors, by submitting in the terms of service, must be willing to hold this company free of fault if something the company does…. wait for it…

“Causes a loss of copyright.”

That made me laugh and shiver in horror at the same time.

There is nothing at all I can say about scams like this to hurt writers. Very smart humans who somehow manage to write something become instantly dumb in these areas. She has managed to get a few supposed agents and British editors to help her out as judges, so I decided to take a snarky response to her because anything else I would say would make no difference. Actually, my response will make no difference because someone like her who is hurting writers would never have the courage to write me back and defend what she is doing.

Here is my response to the scam queen…



I am not sure if I am honored or insulted by the invite, to be honest.

But let me say this. You do realize I am a bestseller (Times and USA Today) with over a hundred novels traditional and over a hundred novels now indie? Any simple Google search will find most of that.

And I believe, with a lot of proof (including me and a ton of my professional writer friends) that all agents are crooks. Period.

I blog about that all the time and teach that all the time, trying to keep writers away from agents and New York or British publishers. No reason at all for a writer to waste their time going to traditional publishers to give all their IP away in a bad contract and get 6-8% and then get stolen from by agents.  Writers should be in control and get 70% of all sales.

So afraid you got the wrong guy, but I have to admit, your letter made me laugh. I am the WORST choice on this by a billion miles. I believe in helping writers, not crushing their dreams.

And I would wish you luck, but you destroy a lot of writer’s dreams and I hate to see that.

Maybe you should join this century instead of being stuck in the myths of 1990 and find a way to really help writers instead of feeding them into an almost-dead machine that does nothing but smash hopes and steal from writers.

So thank you for thinking of me. Now go yell at the person who suggested me. They are not your friend.




  • Philip

    Dean — One aspect of the agent myth you frequently post about, and I really appreciate as a former attorney specializing in contracts, is how agents are NOT lawyers yet take a huge chunk of a writer’s money to review and negotiate legal agreements.

    This boggles my mind.

    An author could hire a REAL contract attorney for less money and actually have someone who’s not only an expert on contracts but also owes the writer, by law, a duty of loyalty and has an actual revenue generating state professional license on the line if they screw up!

    • dwsmith

      Philip, exactly. And that’s not counting the fiduciary aspects of an agent taking a writer’s money and mingling it with their own personal money and other clients and send part or all of the money through when they want. No rules. Once you actually look at book agents from any sane perspective, it makes you shudder. But writers are not sane when it comes to this.

      I had one writer friend who worked in banking on his day job. He signed up for an agent and was all excited. So I asked him, thinking he was smart, what kind of investigation did he do into the agent and the agency finances. None. Did he have the publisher split the checks and paperwork? No. Did he let the agent (a non-lawyer) negotiate the contract? Yes. Had he even met the agent? No.

      So here is a smart banker, without research or investigation, giving his large publishing checks to a total stranger with all the paperwork for that money, while the agent broke the law negotiating a legal contract without a law license. It wasn’t until I asked him if his bank would ever do that kind of thing that he started to wake up and went pale as a ghost as he realized what he had done. It took him a while to unwrap that mess.

      • Philip

        Exactly. If a lawyer ever commingled client funds, event one cent, he could face disbarment. But your banker example is a great illustration of how emotion plays such a big role in all this. This ties in with your publishing myths because I suspect writers “get dumb” because they believe the myth that agents and New York publishers are essentially literary gods and kingmakers, therefore they’d never wrong a writer. In fact, the writer seeks his very validation from their imported credibility so of course he wouldn’t question them.