Bear Traps by Perry McDaid

There are a number of unsavoury traps out there for novice and naïve writers cleverly and not so cleverly disguised as oases where one can refresh self-belief, and havens where whatever ails you can be fixed. There are even sites which promise cheap extensive cosmetic surgery which will make your work beautiful and so attractive to the world in general that it cannot help but be in constant demand. 

There are organisations who either promise short-cuts to mainstream publishing, or that publishing with them equates to mainstream publishing. Those of us who have been about for a bit - or who have been taken in at some time in the past – know these to be confidence tricksters, and the lack of policing in the cyber world has made it easier for them. 

RULE OF THUMB: If any publisher requires an up-front payment for publishing your piece, should they present the agreement in the most official-looking of contracts, SHUN THEM and report them to the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) or whatever the equivalent is in your country. They can access the computer crime squad with more effect than you. 

It’s also wise to scan the message boards of sites which might be attractive for prospective writers to gauge the quality of the service – test the waters, so to speak. 

Where the moderation is suspect and a certain clique of members seem imperious to moderation of comments and further examination reveals that they are tangibly favoured in that their work receives most of the benefits offered, it is well that you dismiss any ambition you may hope to achieve through such arenas, and restrict their use for whatever function you see as favourable to your requirements. 

Where a site is full of relevant advice aimed at improving your creative writing experience – even where it is material you don’t want to hear – take a closer look. It may be just the forum which is intended to be genuine. 

In general, commercial advert driven sites singing their own praises are usually not the ones to go to. They sing their own praises because no-one else will – except the favoured few, and – for all we know – these favoured few may be a group of friends who have started up the site not to promote good writing, but themselves. 

Spotting the dubious is easy enough when you know how. Genuine sites moderate to protect the writer, not themselves. Genuine sites will not praise work unduly. Genuine sites will not present their perspective as THE IDYLL. Genuine sites will not be prejudiced against the contending voice. Genuine sites will adhere to their Terms and Conditions and Codes of Conduct even where such require the disqualification of flagship writers. Genuine writing sites don’t pretend to have a backdoor into a career in writing. 

Beware the bear-traps and keep to the open: the sites which offer much and expect little. You’ll be surprised at how many quality avenues and paths for creativity are actually out there – if you just but look for the silver lining.

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