All eyes were on the frightening beast.
Nobody wanted to be its next feast.
It was drawing terribly near,
Making the future less than clear.
(“Little Ray & Shark Patch Things Up”)
Predators, fraudulent agents and too-good-to-be-true creative writing competitions are some of the problems encountered when becoming a writer, publishing a book and marketing a book.
Problems on the way to becoming a writer: Fraudulent agents often tie writers up for a year, for a fee. They may have zero connections in the industry. Writer clients merely are being exploited. The rate of placement is so low that these “agents” need not do anything, but wait until the end of the year to report that the creative fiction or nonfiction work of the writer client cannot be placed. Writing contests also may be a rip off. Writers hear of award-winning work and believe their own work is equally worthy. Before entering into creative writing competitions, it is important to study past winners. Did they all come from the same publishing house? If so, outside writers merely will contribute to the awards in a writing contest destined for insiders. Writers must read the fine print. Who owns the story when the contest ends? Entire industries prey on writers who want to publish a book or market a book.
Are your book sales getting whacked by pirated copies offered free of charge? Never submit PDF files to the government. These are readily requested and received by anyone who asks for them. Send printed book specimens. These are not easily pirated, because there is a cost to copy and ship them. Thanks to Freedom of Information Act requests, anyone can receive records in digital or print form from the U. S. Copyright Office and in bulk from the Library of Congress. Requests cover all documents created since 1978, including recorded specimens of writers' books. Copies of PDF files received upon request subsequently may be uploaded to websites, where downloads are available to users at no charge. Free goods generate a lot of traffic to websites. Popular sites are monetized through advertising, membership fees or other means. An online search for specific book titles should uncover these pirated offerings. The victimized writers can hope that users will be reluctant to download these pirated books, due to fears of malware, or that legitimate copies will be purchased after preview of the pirated PDF versions. Another hope is that mainstream publishers will take into account any readers' comments on these unethical sites when evaluating the potential for these books. In the meantime, of course, writers' book sales may suffer.
Spammers and scammers and other cyber attackers also lurk everywhere online. They find readers, writers and educators on social media. They attach themselves to our websites. Hackers often use small, non-secure sites as a springboard to reach larger target sites, while leaving destruction in their wake. They direct traffic from our sites to those trumpeting their noxious purposes. They steal our identities. They attack entire networks with contagious, malicious code. Problems like these are becoming common. Social media may not be aware of attackers who locate us within their networks, but attack from the outside. It is not necessary to steal our devices or our passwords to attack us. Denial-of-service attacks can originate with attacks on unsecured home appliances or services that use simple default passwords. The government is beginning to look into online fraud. Only the government can sanction into law the strong legal consequences needed to deter the predators who lure innocent tech users into toxic disaster online. However, as online users, we must understand how online fraud works to avoid becoming unwitting agents used to spread online fraud through the networks attached to our businesses, events, organizations and causes.