Watch Out for Publisher Predators
As with any industry, there are good publishers and there are
others that you need to avoid like the plague.
Publishers charge to print books; it is their business.
But there are some who seduce a new author with promises
of extra-small fees—and then employ a bait and switch operation
in which the fees do nothing but escalate.
These particular “vanity presses” are considered to be
the predators of the print world because they often take
authors’ money and provide very little except a relatively
poor-quality printing job.
Are there red flags that can help you spot these sharks?
are some of the lines they use.
#1: We publish your
book for “Only [small flat fee].”
Carefully check out what this means, what is being offered.
Does this include proofs?
Does it include re-doing mistakes or changing layout?
What is the quality of the paper—does the ink bleed
through? (Ditto for
the cover.) Will
you have a real, live person to work with?
How transparent is this organization and what exactly are
the costs for their add-on’s (many of which are necessary)?
What have other authors had to say about them? (Check
writer’s blogs, Google and Yelp—see #5 below.)
#2: We list your
book on Amazon.
Think “Oh, big deal.”
Anyone can list on Amazon—set aside 30 minutes, fill out
the form and you are listed. Should
you be listed on Amazon? Yes indeed.
You can do it,
though—anyone can. Vanity
presses’ shot in the arm was Amazon—otherwise, their books never
got any type of national or international presence.
If you dream of getting
your book in a bookstore, though, you need to realize that many
bookstores do not deal with these types of publishers.
In a phone conversation with a key person at the Tattered Cover
Bookstore in Denver, I was told, “We don’t purchase vanity press
books—they usually fall apart, plus, they are costly per unit
and there is usually no return policy (standard procedure with
the established publishing houses).
It’s a clear pass for us.”
#3: We have the solution
for author success.
This “success” will be predicated on your buying their myriad
This can drive your “investment” with this enterprise up to many
thousands of dollars. Success
for them, but not for you.
#4: Publisher looking
Yes, there is always the rare gem, breakthrough author
that the world discovers (think J.K. Rowling) and sends into the
stratosphere. But this
is a rarity. Publishers
actually have authors up the wazoo—what they want is an author
who’ll buy their packages.
#5: “Author Beware”
notices from credible sites.
Start with a search on Google and put in the name of the
publishing entity you are checking out.
Follow it with the
words: complaints, scams and problems and see what pops up.
RipoffReport.com is a good place to go, too.
Bait and Switch.
Many of these companies pitch you—after all, most have a
boiler-room type operation because it’s all about quotas for
them—and seduce you so that you don’t realize that you have to
pay them much to publish your book.
Not until you have
submitted information—your name, contact info, book title, even
the manuscript—do you discover that you need to pony up more
funds to keep the process going.
Upshot: they’ve got your contact info now and wasted your
time, to boot.
#7: Do publishers
rip-off authors—and if so, do they do it deliberately?
The answer is simply yes, and they do it every day.
Your best defense: don’t
get involved with anything that looks like, feels like, or acts
like a predator. Here
are some to definitely avoid: Author House/Solutions, Xlibris,
iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, Palibris, Author HouseUK,
Wordclay and Balboa Press.
There are more and they are proliferating as book
publishing itself becomes easier and more accessible.
Denver Book Editor | Boulder Book Editor