IS THAT PUBLISHER A SCAMMER?
Your book is ready to be published and a publisher wants it.
Oh, joy! Break out the champagne!
Wait! Not yet…
Is this publisher for real?
Or is it a scam?
I can’t open my browser without being bombarded with ‘Ready to Publish Your Book Today?’ or ‘Publish Your Book Now’ scrolling across the page.
Because the search engines notice that I visit writing related sites. And those publishers paid big bucks to connect to people who regularly visit writing related sites. You probably get them, too.
Many authors want to be published by a ‘real publisher’, the self publishing route simply seems too daunting, or they want the validation of being ‘good enough’ to get published by a commercial publisher. You are in good company if that’s you…but you are also the natural prey for the scam publishers today.
Let’s start by defining PUBLISHER. Any company or person who publishes a book or multiple books is a publisher. If you publish your own books you are a publisher. But there are various types of publishers, so let’s clear the air here with a few definitions.
These are the big 5 New York companies, and they include dozens of imprints and fill the shelves of the brick and mortar bookstores. They accept agented submissions only. They charge no money and pay the author an initial Advance Against Royalties (cash up front) and a per-book royalty once that initial cash advance is paid back. These books are available in the chain bookstores in print and online as print and ebooks. The contract is lengthy and complex and requires an agent to ensure that the author’s rights and earnings are protected. The per-book royalty is relatively small.
SMALL PRESS COMMERCIAL PUBLISHER
These are smaller publishers and do not charge fees. They may occasionally pay a small Advance, but generally pay only a per-copy royalty. The books are sold online, although print copies may be ordered by the chain bookstores. They will rarely be available on the shelf in any brick and mortar bookstores. Some publishers produce ebooks only with a limited option to produce the book in print if it reaches a certain sales level. Others produce ebooks only, while still other small press publishers produce both print books and ebooks.
PUBLISHING SERVICES COMPANIES
These publishers charge fees and will produce and distribute the book for a price. They are minimally selective if they are selective at all and publish all or nearly all books submitted to them. They usually solicit submissions. They charge for cover work, editing, book layout and formatting, and usually offer promotional packages. These are fee for service companies, and authors need to be a wise consumer and make sure that the services offered are worth the price. Editing, cover, and promotion quality will help or hurt the book’s sales significantly. Be a wise shopper and compare multiple providers to determine which company provides the best quality at the best price for the services you actually need.
There is nothing wrong with buying the services you need in order to publish the book. Many authors find the necessary services or skills needed for self publishing are daunting and want a nice package deal so that they don’t have to shop individual contractors for the cover, editing, page layout, ebook formatting and the like. But you do want quality for the money you spend, and you want to pay a competitive market price for the services you purchase.
And…you do not want to get scammed.
SIGNS OF A SCAM
Pretending To Be A Commercial Publisher
The scam publishers pretend that your book’s sales success is important to them, that they accept books selectively, and they intend to make money from promoting and selling your book. If they charge the author fees for services, that is how they are making their money, no matter what they say. That means that the quality of the book and the success of its promotion are not important…to them. You have already paid them the money they are really interested in — the fees.
The Hard Sell
The worst of the scammers ask you to tell them a few details about your book. This may be a site masquerading as a place where writers can find publishers or agents, or it might be the publisher’s website itself. It might be a contest where the ‘winning’ books are referred to a ‘publisher’. You leave a few details including your contact information and a few minutes to an day or so later, you get an email or a call — a call for sure if you are willing to leave your phone number on the site. These folk are skilled hard-sell marketers and quickly tell you that your book has huge potential and with their expert development, it is certain to be a bestseller.
Promises of Grandeur
If you see or hear that word ‘bestseller’ in relation to your book, it’s a scam. No publisher can promise that your book will become a bestseller. You and the publisher can work at making it happen and hope it will. That’s it. Real publishers will be cautiously optimistic about a book’s future success. An ‘editor’ who gushes about how wonderful your book is and how it’s a sure bestseller is scamming you. Say goodbye and flee, holding on tightly to your wallet…
Copyright and Price Tricks
This is the dangerous one. The contract may be complicated and just how much is ‘net price minus production and shipping costs’ anyway? Some authors may find that they have granted that publisher the exclusive right to produce that book in all forms and there is no ‘end’ date for the agreement. The publisher now controls your book forever. Authors have had to actually purchase their own copyright back from the scam publisher in order to publish the book somewhere else.
These fake ‘publishers’ are really marketers whose goal is to get you to pay their fees. They are very good at their job, they know what you want to hear, and they will tell you exactly that. Unfortunately, they don’t direct that same energy to publishing and marketing your book. Once you write your last check to them, they are done with you and your book.
The average cost to publish your book with the big scam publishers seems to be at least $5000 by the time you add all the ‘bells and whistles’ they’ll tell you that you must have. This number comes from looking at anti-scam sites that tabulate the money angry authors have paid to the scammers.
I test out any publisher I run across, I find a lot of scams, and the record time for a callback from an ‘editor’ after I entered the information about my book was 3 1/2 minutes. It was from one of the companies I call The Big Bad Five. You know who they are — they pay top dollar for Google Ad Words and show up on your browser at the top of the page any time you look for anything related to writing or publishing.
Before you sign with any publisher, take a deep breath and ask yourself whether this is a genuine publisher, or a scam… Yes, what they tell you sounds so good. But remember that if the scam publisher does a poor job on your book, the readers will blame you, not the publisher!
Be sure and be safe!