Publishing a book today is easy with self-publishing services that are generally offered for free online.
Or if not free, they are very cheap.
This low-cost simplicity, however, has made it a goldmine for shady scam agents and predatory publishers to deceive new authors who are trying to get their book published.
If you want to publish a book, be careful about the choices you make.
Beware of the scam agents and sharks in self-publishing
Almost every week, I receive an unsolicited email from a long-time publishing scammer.
It reminds me that the publishing seas are still infested with these untrustworthy sharks.
In general terms, these scammers prey on either an author’s dream of becoming published.
Or on the fact that an author may not know how to self-publish and has given up on traditional publishing, but still yearns to be published.
It is easy to fall prey to these dubious publishing experts and land into their expensive traps.
Writers beware. Don’t be fooled by scam agents. Here are some warning signals for new authors.
Unsolicited invitations to submit your manuscript
Reputable publishers and literary agents all have huge slush piles. None of them would be asking you to make their pile even higher.
If you are asked to submit your manuscript by someone you don’t know, especially by unsolicited email, DO NOT reply.
Your red flags should be flying because it’s 99.9999% sure to be a publishing scam.
If you are approached out of the blue by a publisher you don’t know who wants to publish your book, be careful.
It is a common ploy and a clear telltale sign of vanity publishing companies to avoid.
Offers to help you get published
Social media is full of helpful people.
However, many charge a lot of money for their helpfulness. But they may forget to tell you about this upfront.
The new term that there are editors and predators is now a common expression in self-publishing industry circles.
Watch out for uninvited offers to give you feedback on your manuscript for a small reading fee. The fee may not be that small.
Self-publishing is basically free, so DO NOT pay for what you can do, or can quickly learn to do yourself.
Marketeers and racketeers
Advertising and marketing a book is time-consuming.
There are costs involved for reputable services such as Facebook advertising, Google Adwords, paid blog posts, or an advertorial in a local newspaper.
These are all normal expenses. Most of them are relatively inexpensive and beneficial.
Offers to market a book for a package price by someone you do not know, and who guarantees success is a sure sign of a scam.
DO NOT pay for book promotion and marketing services packages.
Arrange and pay advertisers for your book advertising directly with reputable and well-known advertising service providers.
I’m a publisher
There are many legitimate publishers, hybrid publishers, and small press, especially in niche markets.
But you should always check the reputation of a publisher before committing yourself to a contract.
You can check a comprehensive list of publishers and service providers that have been vetted by ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors).
DO NOT enter immediately into an agreement with a publisher.
Before you rush in, make sure you check its background, history, reputation, and ethics first. You can also ask for references from authors who have been published by the publisher.
I can do everything
Writer, reader, editor, copy editor, proofreader, publisher, cover designer, book marketer, and self-publishing consultant.
No one person can supply all these services in the publishing process.
Beware of failed writers trying to make a buck on the side by offering services that they are not qualified to provide.
DO NOT pay for amateurs in the publishing world.
If you have to pay for a service, pay for professional services offered by reputable providers.
Make informed choices
After you write a book, there are no easy ways to become a published author and be successful in book publishing.
The best way to avoid scammers and the possibility of being ripped off is to understand that publishing a book will be a tough job.
For those authors and writers who are trying to publish for the first time, there are three established and safe avenues to getting a book published.
It is the old fashioned business model of publishing.
It means approaching literary agents with the hope of being contracted and having your book published and then promoted by one of the large publishing houses.
It is the most difficult and time-consuming method. It will involve sending submissions to a lot of agents and then waiting and hoping.
The rejection rate is so high these days that a new author will need a lot of luck. It is not impossible, of course. But for new writers, it is not very easy at all.
Pros: No publishing costs to an author, and sometimes pay an advance.
Cons: Difficult to get published, and royalties can be quite low. An author also must sign away the rights to a book.
As the name implies, self-publishing means that an author will have to do everything necessary to get a book published.
Then you need to market it and hopefully sell enough copies online to get a return on your time invested in writing and self-publishing a book.
For authors who are new to electronic self-publishing, it will be a learning curve.
You will need to have a good knowledge of basic word processing, computer, and Internet skills.
You also need to do image resizing, as well as have a good understanding of file management.
Self-publishing is generally free. But there will be some costs in preparing a book for publication.
These could include expenses for a book cover, editing, and proofreading.
If you think self-publishing technology is beyond your ability, you could consider an assisted self-publishing service.
But always make sure you retain all the rights to your book, and that all royalties will be paid to you directly by the online book retailer.
Pros: Quick to publish in ebook or paperback. Free or at least very cheap, depending on preparation costs. Authors own all their book rights. If your book sells, you receive a high royalty rate of usually 60-70% per copy.
Cons: Some computer skills to learn. All facets of publishing, marketing, and selling are the responsibility of the author.
What to expect to pay for reputable services
Pre-made ebook cover. US$30-60
Custom made book cover. US$250-500
Proofreading and correction – basic. US$ 200-400 for approx 80,000 words.
Assisted self-publishing services. Preparation of manuscript files and publishing for you on Kindle Direct Publishing for ebook and paperback, and Smashwords or Draft2digital for ebook distribution. US$200-250.
Vanity publishing has been frowned upon for a long time. But there are still quite a few large vanity publishing houses around.
Some traditional publishers used the services of one vanity publisher. It was a means to offer expensive self-publishing packages to new authors. But it was only vanity publishing in a new form.
Thankfully, most have closed down these expensive pseudo-self-publishing services now.
Unfortunately, some vanity publishers have re-branded and re-named their services as self-publishing, which it definitely is not.
Never confuse self-publishing with vanity publishing
It doesn’t matter how well-known or established vanity publishing is, or if it goes by a new name.
New authors need to be aware that it will be a very, very expensive way to publish a book.
Most of their websites make no mention of the prices they will charge, which should be a warning.
You can read my take on Newman Springs Publishing as an example of what to look for when you are deciding on a book publisher.
Vanity publishing means that the author pays for everything for a book to be published. It can often amount to thousands of dollars.
This cost does not typically include marketing a book other than that it will possibly be available on the vanity publisher’s website.
There is rarely a mention of what book sales you can expect to get.
Vanity publishing is easy. But it is an awfully expensive way to fill your basement with 5,000 copies of a book, which you may or probably, may not ever sell.
What’s the key warning sign that you are dealing with a vanity press? It is when the publisher finally asks you to pay a considerable amount of money up front to publish your book.
It is the moment when the words scam and publishing sharks should spring to your mind very quickly.
Update: Dog Ear Publishing, which had a very bad reputation, has reopened as Bookplate Press, so beware. You can read more about it in this watchdog advisory article on ALLi.
Vanity publishers are not interested in selling your book
Vanity publishers only want to sell books to you, the author.
There have also been many complaints about the high-pressure business practices of certain vanity publishers.
Be careful. Search the Internet for customer feedback on any company you might be considering.
Do it before you commit yourself to a publishing contract and handing over your money.
Samita Sarkar wrote an excellent article about how to spot publishing scams for the Huffington Post.
Her warning signals in the piece are very good advice. These four are classic for high-pressure selling vanity publishers.
“The publisher’s website contains little to no information to attract readers, and is almost entirely devoted to selling to authors.”
“The website contains slogans about helping authors, “tell their story” by “letting the experts guide them,” etc.”
“In exchange for your name, email address, and phone number, you can download a free publishing guide.”
“Expect a call later on that same day, before even opening the guide.”
I can personally attest to this last point. I was once pestered with almost daily phone calls for over two months by one of the most well-known vanity publishers.
Pros: Trade publishing quality books with paid editing and cover design services.
Cons: Annoying high-pressure selling by some vanity publishers. Usually extremely expensive with no effective marketing support.
As a new author, if you receive an offer that is too good to be true, it surely will be.
When you publish a book in any form, there is no guarantee of success. No amount of money thrown at a publisher will make it any easier to succeed.
In my opinion, a new author has two sensible choices when it comes to getting a book published.
The first is to take the traditional publishing route. Try to find and work with a literary agent or a reputable small press publishing house.
The second option is to self-publish and enjoy the learning curve and the journey.
Both are tough. But that’s the reality of book publishing today. There is no easy way.