I've been known to say that writers are very commonly viewed as a docile herd of plump ruminants. In the view of a surrounding marauder pack of predators who are in the writing grift solely to make money off writers who lack the experience, self-confidence, or soundness of ego to avoid becoming jackal chow.

You have seen this since you first started writing. Or certainly since you first looked at a writing magazine or investigated having your work available to be widely read, maybe loved, perhaps even purchased.

It's been that way forever, or at least for my whole lifetime, which is about as "forever" as I can visualize. There have been changes. The big "vanity" houses have become thousands of little "subsidy presses": T-Rex replaced by schools of piranha. The big writers conferences now compete for your dollar with hundreds of webinars and workshops. Freelance editors and designers have swarmed out of the woods, along with hordes of "coaches", "consultants", witchdoctors and various flying monkeys. (Who are quick to deplore the "tsunami" of new writers diluting the body of literature.) Short summation: thousands of people and institutions have entered the writing arena for the express purpose of getting your money. And they are happy to sell you any scenario or overall picture that will facilitate charging you for the privilege of "being better".

And writers flock to them like pigeons around a park bench crone dropping crumbs from her Danish. They want to "be better", even if they don't have any idea what that might entail. They want to be "professional", to be "real writers". And are persuaded that they can buy that. So they take the college courses, hire the promotional wizard, pay a thousand bucks for a generic cover or five hundred for a cloned video trailer. The question would be: does it work? Did it pay for itself? Did it make them "better"? Much less better off? Generally not, though many would not admit it.

Writing is a fairly amorphous kind of activity, short on measurement or technique and lacking entry-level barriers. Like Love or Good Parenting or Fashion, in that much can be promised and nothing delivered without affecting the desire to throw money. So writers get exploited. They get warped into unfortunate paths and mentalities. They get cowed into doing stupid things for a lot of money because they want to get real or read about it in a writer magazine.

Speaking of that, get clear on something: magazines like Writers Digest are not on your side, by any stretch of your fevered imagination. They get their money from advertisers, and almost nobody advertises anything to writers that does writers much good. For years their biggest source of income was the scummiest layer of vanity publishers and "set your poems to music" scams. You are the flock they feed to their advertisers.

And they make big bucks (from writers) selling books like Agents Market that are inferior to and more dated than free online data bases. (If you want to look for agents, try this free download instead of buying that overpriced hardback.) But they're dependent on the good will of all those agents and magazines and programs that they list in those books. So they're basically on their side. Which is why they continually tell writers to shut up and do whatever agents and editors tell them to. So of course you shouldn't expect a reply to your query, and should never show your work to more than one buyer at a time even it they take six months, and you shouldn't use brand names because Caterpillar or Kleenex or whoever buys ads telling writers not to. They're like plantation overseers. And you, frankly are the crop. They are horrible to try to write for: they are all about money flowing from writers, not to writers.

Now they're forced to face up to self-publishing. So you see ex-editor Jane Friedman giving a $90 webinar on SP when she's never published a book in her life. And it ends up being all about which vanity scam to pick.

This rant against WD might come as surprise to many reading this--unless they know me--but it's a specific area of focus for the concept that writers are seen as game, as fodder, as fatted fields, by many, many hungry maws.

If you go to a writing conference, your swag bag will be almost exclusively crammed with appeals to buy into something. Including all those "presses" that don't even have stores to buy their books because all their money comes from writers. Why do you think they can afford to print up expensive brochures and send them to you or pay the conference to hand them out? (One of Chairman Lin's Excellent Dicta: Anybody who wants to mail you a brochure for writing and publishing services should best be regarded as a communicable disease. Another: If you encounter a publisher who says they were founded to "help writers"...RUN!)

More than any other field of the arts, writing swarms with predators who want to feed off you. Don't let them.