Friday, May 2, 2008

Guest Writer: Manuscript Doctors--Quacks? (Athena)

Hunger Mountain, affiliated with Vermont College and the Hunger Mountain literary magazine, auctions manuscript critiques.

There’s something a little slimy about this, and it’s not because you might not get a decent critique from these people; what bothers me is that what’s really being "sold" is not so much these folks’ "critical expertise" (which could be anywhere from excellent to non-existent) but something utterly unspoken—that maybe these writers will, through their connections and the force of their personality, help one get published.

Isn’t that what people who buy these critiques are secretly hoping for? And why shouldn’t they hope for that?

And why shouldn’t there be the slightest chance it could happen?

But since it’s all insinuation and none of it is fact, it makes the "sale" somehow…creepy. In almost all instances, maybe in ALL instances, 100 dollars or more is paid to get a critique that one could also get, for free, from a friend—but the money is paid in the hope that "maybe this somewhat successful writer will fall in love with my work and become an advocate for it."

The payment, or "sale" is completely based on unspoken, false expectations.

I suppose that’s why this is run like a "benefit auction." This mitigates its crass, commercial character. It still doesn’t change the fact that something is being sold.

Maybe the Hunger Mountain site should be required to post a caveat:

"These writers are NOT offering their services as commercial editors, publishers, or advocates for a writer’s work. They only provide critiques, as stated, and there is no guarantee the writer/purchaser of said critique will agree with the critique."


Admin note: There is nothing inherently wrong with offering or accepting editorial services for a fee, but I agree with Athena that the Hunger Mountain approach raises some red flags. If this were an unknown literary agency or a poetry [dot] com type of site, the watchdog groups would be all over it with warnings.

I suggest that if you are thinking about bidding on these services to please ask questions first; be clear on expectations and know what you are getting for your money.

Each auction offers an email address for questions--use it before placing a bid. Getting specifics in an email will be your best protection should the deal go awry.

I also welcome
Hunger Mountain staff/reviewers to respond.

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