Back in July, after my thesis received final approval from Little U., one of the last tasks I had to complete to tie up loose ends on the manuscript was to get it copyrighted. For Ph.D. dissertations, Little U. makes copyright mandatory and takes care of this detail to ensure the filing with the U.S. Copyright Office actually happens. For MFA degree holders, you retain the right to pursue official government protection -- or decide your thesis is so objectionable to your artistic eye that you'd rather not afford it such an honor.
I have to say, by the time I was done with my manuscript, I felt only 40 percent of it was really decent enough to consider reworking for future use -- as smaller essays to send to literary journals or as a jumping-off point to reshape the work into a very different book. As it stood, 75 pages wasn't enough to sell as a complete work, especially since it had no ending. (Yes, it stops, but it has no sense of conclusion.)
Because that 40 percent had merit, though, I did go through with registering for a copyright. And within a few months, I started to get postcards from a certain company claiming interest in publication.
Don't get excited yet. This is not a company that likely pays its authors for their work. It is a subsidy press, also known as a vanity press, which will ask its "candidates for publication" to cover some or all of the printing, distributing, and advertising costs. Obviously, I haven't done further research on the particular organization that mailed me, but it is generally safe to say that any group that calls itself a subsidy press does not follow the standard publishing model -- possibly to the author's financial, if not reputational, detriment. So if you've ever been contacted by one of these companies, be forewarned (and then laugh, as I did, because you've seen through their attempt to flatter for money).
How did they even find me, you wonder? Well, per the postcard, a "researcher" "discovered" my registration -- not my manuscript, my registration -- with the Library of Congress; i.e., someone who regularly trolls the record of copyright applications, which is in the public domain, picked out my name along with hundreds of others and put me on a mailing list. How do I know no one has actually looked at what I've written to determine its literary merit? Well, when the postcard is addressed to a "Mr. Contemporary Troubadour," it's pretty clear. Really, if the work is written in the first person and begins at the patient check-in desk of an obstetrician's office, you'd guess the writer was a woman, right?
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