Can someone, anyone, explain to me why would-be writers are so keen to give away their money to someone, anyone, who tells them they have talent?
This scenario is all too common:
W-B Writer opens his email one morning. There is a message there from someone he's never heard of. OMG! It's a publisher! It says so right there in the email! It's Marie and she represents Lee Chew Publishing of Fleece Street! And she's interested in W-B's deathless prose which she heard is brilliant!
All W-B has to do to start his literary ascension is send his first three chapters and a small processing/reading/editorial/gullibility-testing fee and he'll be on his way!
I read about this scenario, or one very much like it, on a near-daily basis. I read about it on writing-related message boards which abound on the net.
Guess what W-B?
That's where Lee Chew Publishing "heard" about you too. You posted about your ambitions and your email is in your profile.
If someone you've never heard of approaches you with promises in exchange for money, do what you'd do if some seedy-looking guy offered you a Gen-U-Wine Rolex for 10 bucks. Walk away. Keep your wallet in your pocket.
Real publishers and agents don't go trolling for talent on bulletin boards. They're far too busy fielding queries and reading manuscripts from writers who realize how the game is played.
It's played without shortcuts. It's played by a fairly well-established set of rules (that can occasionally be bent but rarely broken).
Those rules are:
1- Write something other people will want to read.
2- Research legitimate agents/publishers. Legitimate agents will provide a client list and be happy to talk up their deals. Legitimate publishers have books in bookstores and libraries. Neither will ask you for money to read and assess your book's merits. If accepted, agents (at least 90% of them) won't ask for money until they've sold your book. Then they'll take a percentage. If you deal directly with a publisher, the only money talked about will be your advance and royalties.
3- Draft a dynamic query letter and/or proposal and send it to those agents and/or publishers in batches of five or so. (Doing it in batches allows you to fine-tune the query if the initial one fails to spark interest. That way, you haven't already had a hundred doors closed to you.)
4- As author and writing guru James D. Macdonald wisely recommends - while waiting to hear back, start working on another, better book.
If you simply MUST give someone your money, stuff some in a nearby church's poor box. Don't feed the sharks.