Recently, while reading a write-up of a self-publishing nightmare, I ran across mention of something called Yog’s Law, attributed to one James D. Macdonald. Having never heard of Yog’s Law before, I clicked through and learned the following:
Macdonald is well known for his work in educating aspiring authors, particularly for his advice on avoiding literary scams. Early in his career he was asked by such an author how much he had paid to have his books published, and in response began a campaign of educating other writers about the problems of vanity publishers. As part of this campaign, he coined Yog’s Law, which states “Money should flow toward the author,” which is often quoted by professional authors when giving advice on getting published.
Less than a day later, I read this in a blog post by Richard Curtis:
The line that once sharply separated traditional publishing (“We pay you”) and vanity publishing (“You pay us”) has all but dissolved in this corrosive environment of fabulous riches.
Mere hours later I found Yog’s Law quoted a third time, in a Jane Friedman blog post analyzing the Harlequin Horizons debacle:
People like to say (and I’ve said too) that money should flow TO the writer, not AWAY from the writer.
But I can see a business model emerging where publishers work with authors in more diverse ways. What we’ve held to be sacred—that a writer should NEVER pay to publish—may change.
To be clear: there are a lot of literary scams out there, and a lot of naive writers who get taken to the cleaners as a result. Whatever work James Macdonald has done to protect writers from predatory service providers who peddle false promises is a good thing.
Understanding Yog’s Law
As maxims go, Yog’s Law is not bad. In a moment I will speak to the fallacy of Yog’s Law, and to the convenience of revisiting the rule when the publishing industry decides it wants to get in on the writer-servicing business, but as a general guideline I think Yog’s Law does what it needs to do. It tells writers that anyone asking them for money should be viewed with suspicion, and that’s correct. That this core tenet could be expanded to cover most aspects of anyone’s life does not detract from its effectiveness as a general rule for aspiring writers. [ Read more ]