The world of writing and publishing in the digital age is vast, and it comes with its own dangers. Scammers lurk everywhere promising deals that aim to cheat and rip off would-be writers of their money and their publishing rights. How do you avoid publishing scams in the 21st century?
Scammers seek to make money off of inexperienced writers’ lack of experience, knowledge, and need for validation. They often use the names of respected publishing houses and agents to make money off of potential victims. One of the biggest writing scams are vanity presses, where authors have to pay to get their work published without receiving anything in return. Vanity presses get their name from the fact that writers submit to these presses to get published, regardless if their books are good or not. These presses also charge an obscene amount of money at around 50% or 75% stake in the work and will do no editorial or marketing work whatsoever. These scammers use flattery and stroke the writer’s ego to get what they want and dupe the writer out of their money and publishing rights in the process.
There are several clues about publishing scammers and how they interact with you:
- They will try to excessively flatter you or say “You deserve to be published”
- Company representatives can’t explain their business model
- The company does not have an email, phone number, updated web site, social media presence, reviews, or books
- The publisher requires a “reading fee” to look at your book
- The publisher requires you to buy copies of your own book in bulk
- They pose as a “literary agent,” but literary agents never approach authors
- They ask for money up front
- They use a fake company email URL with extra hyphens and words, or even ends with “gmail.com”
- They use legitimate logos in illegitimate ways
- They never ask if the developmental rights for the book are available if they are asking to turn your book into a movie
- They pose “best seller guarantee” offers
Thankfully, there are ways to discover and avoid scams. The most important step a writer can take is to perform research, and there are several ways to do this research:
- Look for author complaints and negative reviews to check if this publisher/agent is a scammer
- Ask for and research previous clients for their take on the publisher/agent
- Check how long the publishing company and agent have been in business
- Use Writer Beware to keep a lookout for scammers and scamming practices
- Make sure the company distributes through a wholesaler like Ingram
Keep in mind that you are in control of the situation. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, if they mention that a “Book Scout” liked your book, ask why the Book Scout liked it. If the person does not have an answer, it is highly likely a scam. If you want the scammer to stop contacting you, ask them to put you on a no-call list and unsubscribe you from their messages. Legitimate company usually maintain these lists so it is considered a reasonable request. If the scammer does not respect your wish, then tell them that you will report them to the Attorney General’s Office for violation of the Consumer Protection Code.
Scammers are more abundant than ever but you, the writer, have the power to fight back and avoid the scammers. Remember that getting a book published-whether it is for self-publishing or traditional publishing-takes a lot of hard work, time, and dedication to be successful and scammers do not believe in your book being good and worthy of being published. Scammers only care about your money and stealing it away from you.
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