Hey NaNoWRIMo--You're Doing the Right Thing!!!

Pulled from the comments column of the preceding post!

I'm cross posting this response that I made on A.C. Crispin's post here in case folks don't click over and read the latest comments:

Ms. Crispin, I was forwarded your email by one of the volunteers that you sent it to and she was kind enough to include a link to this page. My name and contact info is available on the Contact Us page at NaNoWriMo.org and I am the moderator of the forums (a full staff member). If you sent it to the admin address, it may be mired in with all the other webmaster emails.

I would love to have some input on how to help us educate and empower our writers. Not all are new to writing (in fact we have quite a few published authors in our midst). Many gain an incredible sense of 'possibility' during the challenge and once they've written a book and found that they do have a voice, they want to share it.

I am not aware of a 'significant percentage' of our writers falling prey to scams, but that doesn't mean that it isn't happening. If you have some specifics on what's been happening (PublishAmerica, Noble House Press or some other questionable scheme), I'd like to know.

We currently have the following in place:

* When any writer signs up for the site or clicks through to renew their participation we mention quite clearly about Literary Predators in our Terms for the site.

* Within the forums there are numerous threads already available regarding resources (including at least eighteen pre-existing links to your Writer Beware alone before this blast) in multiple forums, including one that I requested be drafted at the beginning of the season and stickied to the "Marketing & Self Promotion" forum.

* The forums are available all year round, so conversations and resources are available for continued support and reference.

* At the end of NaNoWriMo we launch a page called "Now What" which will include resources, advice and of course cautions about scams.

* Currently on our Young Writer's Project (ywp.nanowrimo.org) site we have a large resource page (Amber's Virtual Library) that includes some frank and easily understandable information about scams and cautions about contracts/publishing for our younger writers.

* Additional text and resources adapted from Amber's page have been made available to our regional volunteers to share with their groups either through the forums and/or via email.

* Each year LuLu.com has extended an offer for a free book to all winners, my hope is the POD/Self-Publishing route such as this mitigates writers paying to see their work in print. The LuLu.com forums have additional support and advice about writing scams and their community appears to operate with similar vigilance to warn their peers.

* We scrub the forum to keep predators of all kinds away from writers – they are not allowed to solicit writers on the site nor post in the forums.

* And of course since your emails and postings the forum conversation on the topic has amped up.

Our writers hold you and your organization in great esteem, as you are consistently mentioned along with Preditors and Editors each year as the best resources for writers ready to begin their submission process. Now that you've seen what steps we currently employ, can you tell us how else we can help writers empower themselves (without scaring them off of writing, off course)?


Tattieheid said...

Sounds to me that they are doing their bit

Trouble is you can't force people to read and properly understand that advice.

The extra uproar might make a few newbies pay more attention so it probably hasn't done any harm. But it does indicate avoidable communication issues between genuine parties.

It might be time for various organisations across the spectrum to speak more directly to each other and agree a co-ordinated approach to highlighting such issues and have systems in place for big events like this, saves unnecessary confusion.

But we the internet surfers/lurkers/writers/readers/commedians and adoring blogger fans need to do our bit as well and perhaps become more involved on a practical basis.

Anonymous said...

"My name and contact info *ARE* available"...Geez...so much for confidence building...

Brooke said...

I find it a bit odd that Ann and Miss Snark would think the good people at NaNoWriMo wouldn't do their bit. They're pro-writer -- NaNoWriMo is, after all, a completely volunteer enterprise, just like this blog, or Ann's and Victoria's work.

To be frank, Ann's tone was kind of off-putting. A little holier-than-thou. I think what Chris Baty and his volunteers are doing is worthy of praise, and I'm not surprised to see them taking immediate strides to warn naive new writers about the risks of scam agents.

Miss Snark said...

I only know that in December I see a spike in queries from people who tell me they've been motivated to start/finish their novel by NaNoWriMo.

The NaNoWriMo site has a nice happy page on people who've published novels after doing NaNoWriMo.

When I surfed over to NaNoWriMo's site I didn't see "things to watch out for when you're done" but maybe I just missed it. They said they do; I believe them.

I wholeheartedly agree that NaNoWriMo is a great idea. I also know that going from 29 people to 59,000 people in six years means a whole lot more people are googling "how to publish a novel" on 12/1 and not all of them are clued in to how legit agents work.

Anonymous said...

As a matter of fact, many of us WERE off put by her attitude. The whole tone of the email in question (sent en masse to a large chunk of the Municipal Liaison emails, but none actually to the true admins of the site) was very "You should be protecting your writers better".

Perhaps I was a little off put, anyway, but that's neither here nor there. At least the information is getting out.

BuffySquirrel said...

What more can they do? I'd be tempted to suggest "get rid of the lulu.com connection".

But then I'm a grouchy sqrl.

Zette said...

Every single writer's site on the Internet is faced with the problem of telling their members about scams and warning them what to watch out for. The truth is that some of people will not care, will not listen, and will go on and do whatever they please, mostly because they think they've found the easy way to publication.

This happens at NaNo every year, and there is nothing Chris Baty, the moderators or even Ann Crispin can do about it. We do post warnings and give advice to anyone willing to listen, but that will not stop some of them from still doing something stupid anyway. These warnings are often found in any publishing-related post we happen to find, so they are spread out across the site.

People should also be aware that the majority of NaNo participants do not spend time on the NaNo boards. In fact, using the sites data base information:

78,800 participants (rounded up)
23300 have posted on the boards
Around 5400 of those people have only posted once and about 10,000 have posted less than ten times. It's hard to blame the boards for the acts of people who are never there. Chris Baty and the others do what they can to promote writing-related wisdom, but there will be people who don't pay attention. If that weren't true, then we wouldn't need sites like Writer Beware at all.

The majority of people who write a book during the NaNo madness are not interested in any form of writing career. I know that sounds odd, but most of them are writing for the fun of it, and many (too many, but that's a personal opinion) are writing fanfiction, and many of the others are writing stories about themselves, their friends, or whatever else they want to put out just to show that they can do it.

Going through the process of editing and submitting is not of any interest to them, even if they were interested in writing something that could be published. Some of them will go to lulu.com and be entirely and wonderfully happy with the result because they never expected more.

I spend a good part of every NaNo year explaining to people why it is not the place to go if you want a real career in publishing. I do this repeatedly. People still do not listen. It's not the fault of the site, Chris Baty, the moderators or anyone else. It's the nature of people to sometimes make stupid decisions, and all anyone can do is set up warnings whenever they can. (To be straightforward and honest, I've also pointed out that Miss Snark may not always be the best answer in every case, despite the fact that she's helped in many ways.)

Of course, there are always those who finish their first work and rush off to the world of publishing, certain they've been brilliant and they'll be snatched right up by the first place they send their work off to. And, of course, the number of those people spike after NaNoWriMo. But the truth is that these people would do the same thing no matter what time of the year they happened to write, and it is not fair to blame their behavior on NaNo. Nor is it fair for Ann Crispin to write a... well, a snarky letter to the people running NaNo as though they have done nothing at all. It's not their fault that some people are not paying attention, any more than it is Ann Crispin's fault that people don't always listen to her, either.

Many of us at NaNo post, point people in the right direction, and every year a few people come out wiser for it. That's the best anyone can do.

Michaelc said...

There is very little on the Nanowrimo website that offers explicit warnings, and what there is is in non-obvious, easy to overlook places. No one, least of all Ann, is blaming Nanowrimo for clueless writers. It would be very easy to go the extra mile and give prominent warnings on the Nano home page and in the FAQs. If you've been following the reaction to Ann's letter, you'll see that many participants feel that she made important points.

Zette said...

You are right -- another link to a 'don't do this' never hurts. It won't stop a lot of people from still doing stupid things, but even if you reach a couple more, it never hurts. Unfortunately, people don't read FAQs, emails, posts, or (as pointed out) the 16 other places that were linked to Writer Beware link. It is easy to lose track of the fact that not everyone is paying attention, even to the places where they are posted.

Odd, but I don't seem to see such a link at this blog, either. Did I miss it?

Obviously, it's very easy to think you have something covered. To have someone else come along, and in a rather rude opening to a note, take you to task for not doing it as well as they think you should is not always going to help. I know rude is in vogue these days, but a note that started out with less of a jab, and more of an offer of help, might have been of more assistance, rather than annoying some of the people who were already trying to do the right thing and making them feel as though they had to defend their own work, rather than joining in and making more changes.

But it still won't reach most of the people. Look at how many people don't pay attention to warnings on packages. (grin)