Unpublished writers certainly aren’t an endangered species. We can be found in all sorts of environments across every continent (I’m sure there’s at least one in Antarctica) where we wreck our postures and strain our eyes as we weave our words into all sorts of patterns waaaay into the wee small hours. Our print-outs could probably account for a number of rainforests. Most of us would be lying if we said we didn’t crave the validation of a publishing contract.
There are some who see our numbers as a "demand" or a "market" and have spawned a niche industry in providing "supply". Because there are nearly as many prepared to take wannabes' dough as there are wannabe writers.
I'm talking about the huge range of courses, conferences, competitions, mentorships, webinars, subscriptions, associations, face-to-face pitch sessions with agents and manuscript assessments now available. It's a sizeable industry, but I dont begrudge them if they offer value for money. It just makes me wonder how many hopefuls use these, and still end up without a publishing contract.
For those who take the e-book self-pub route, there are more people who would accept money to edit your baby, or to promote it somewhere on-line. (I hear that Amanda Hocking spent thousands to become an e-book giant).
Then, there are unscrupulous “publishers” who prey on the naive by offering contracts that translate as “give us your money, we'll keep the rights, we’ll print it as it stands, and you’re stuck with promotion and distribution”. (boo, hiss)
I’ve been mingling in on-line fora (plural of forum, people!) for nearly a year now, and have learnt so much for nothing more than the cost of my internet subscription. People in my face-to-face writing group have been generous, too, as has my on-line crit partner. It seems that there are just as many people who willingly offer their time and opinions as there are people who turn it into a business. The pay-for services would really have to be of outstanding quality to compete with the kindness of writers on blogs far as I’m concerned.
Having said that, I did a short writing course about a year ago, and still refer to the notes. So that was money well spent, and I would recommend it to those who are starting on the dream. Besides, it was the list of resources provided that alerted me to the whole world of writers’, editors’ and agents’ blogs that I had no idea existed – and that I now spend a few hours each day reading and commenting on.
So, what would a champion tightwad like me spend money on?
I think I’d like to go to at least one local conference, just to meet people in the industry, but not to shove my manuscript under editors' noses.
I have paid for comp entry fees, and will continue to do so. I baulk at manuscript assessment services, but accept that I may have to try at least one, just to see if I actually learn anything from it. There’s one webinar I have my eye on, but as PayPal can’t cope with my bank account details, I’m unable to pay for. I often read course descriptions, but I've become very picky (who runs it? do I like their work?).
I don’t think I’d feel comfortable at a face-to-face pitch session with an agent - yet.
So, anybody prepared to comment on what sorts of services they have actually paid for as writers, and which were worthwhile? Please, share....