New authors, beware of vanity publishers and experts making you offers that are too good to be true
Have you received an email or social media message from an agent or publisher offering to publish your book?
If you are an author, you may have received a lot of them. On average, I get at least one per week.
Because indie authors are active on social media, it is easy for a predatory publisher to get your contact details. Then come the offers for their publishing services.
When publishing businesses make you an offer that includes the word free, it is a signal that you should be very suspicious.
Free manuscript appraisal, a free handbook, free book marketing or free editing are common inducement offers for an author to buy an expensive publishing package.
It is a classic approach of vanity presses that try to lure you into expensive contracts promising to produce quality books.
Sadly, many new authors fall prey. I know this by the number of messages I get from authors who have been published by a vanity publisher and have regrets very quickly.
Some of these publishing houses call themselves self-publishers. This description is just not correct.
Self-publishing is a free service available to all authors. You can use Amazon, Apple, Nook, Smashwords and Draft2Digital to name just a few of the many reputable self-publishing services.
But unfortunately, new authors continue to fall for the same old traps.
Writers beware! Author Solutions has a reputation
By far the most commonly mentioned vanity publisher is Author Solutions.
It trades under a long list of names including AuthorHouse, AuthorHouse UK, AuthorHive, iUniverse, Palibrio, Partridge Publishing, Trafford Publishing and Xlibris.
These two short quotes from a page on The Alliance of Independent Authors explains the vanity business model very well and also Author Solutions’ defence in a class action lawsuit.
“Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so by selling books back to its authors, not to a general readership, and by selling its authors expensive publishing, editing, and marketing services that are effectively worthless.”
“Author Solutions preys upon the dreams of authors by selling them expensive services that sound exciting but do not actually sell any books. Their defense: They aren’t being deceptive because they aren’t trying to sell books. Of course, for nearly 200,000 authors who have paid thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars to buy expensive services that promised to promote their books, Author Solutions’s (sic) indifference to book sales comes as more than a bit of a surprise.”
You can read the article in full here.
There are many more vanity book publishers and publishing businesses that operate in a similar manner. They usually offer to publish trade books, but never mention anything about selling your books to readers.
If your dream is to be a published author, there are better and far more cost-efficient ways to do so.
Vanity presses only want to sell books to authors, not to readers.
Related reading: How Much Does It Cost To Publish A Book Using Self-Publishing?
The latest book scam. The Editor in Thief
It takes a long time to write a book.
But new Kindle Unlimited charlatans have found a shortcut. They pose as an editor, and once you send your manuscript, they publish your months of years of hard work for themselves.
So not only do you lose your money, but you also lose your book.
I was only made aware of this awful scam by an author who fell for the trap.
After sending the Word document for editing, it took only two days for the book to appear on Amazon Kindle Unlimited. The scammers didn’t even change the title, only the author name.
Authors need editors, so how can you avoid this new trap?
First, check if the editor has a website. It should list price estimations for a variety of editing services. You can ask the editor if they have a website, or you can do a Google search.
Next check the email address. If it uses the site name, for example, www.firstclassediting.com and [email protected] you can proceed with reasonable assurance.
But if there is no website, and the email address is Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail with a non-descript name, be very careful.
Scammers hide behind these types of email accounts with addresses that often consist of a jumble of letters and numbers. For example, [email protected]
Hiring any service online should be approached with caution. Make sure you do your research, ask for referrals and proceeded slowly.
The self-publishing services scam
Anyone can publish a paperback or an ebook for free, so why would anyone pay someone to do it for them?
Some authors are not confident enough in their computer skills needed for the publishing process. Also, they may not be knowledgeable about all the options available to them.
So naturally, they look for help. If fortunate, they will find a friend or relative who can help them do everything for free.
But these authors often become victims when they place their trust in someone online that they don’t know.
The cost can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Most of these assisted self-publishing services deliver on their promises, although it is outrageously expensive.
However, there are some who ask for payment up front and then take the money and run.
Once again, like checking an editor, look at the website and email address and definitely ask for referrals from clients.
Taking the traditional route
By far the best way to get your book published is to find a literary agent to represent you.
It is not easy, but if you can, an agent will work for you to have your book published through a traditional publishing house such as Random House, HarperCollins Macmillan, Simon & Schuster or one of the many subsidiaries of these publishers.
By taking this route, you may be fortunate enough to receive an advance, but they are not as generous as in years gone by.
Additionally, traditional publishers incur all the costs involved in book publishing including editing, cover designers, book marketing and print production.
They will publish and distribute your book to bricks and mortar bookstores as well as online retailers.
Signing with a publisher who produces, distributes and markets your book allows you to concentrate on being an author.
A lot of authors nowadays skip this opportunity believing that it is impossible. But publishers always need fresh new talent, so the door is certainly not closed at all.
But you will need to knock very loudly. It’s a tough road, but certainly worth a try before rushing into self-publishing.
You never know your luck.
Self-publishing definitely means do it all yourself
If you decide to self-publish, you are the boss. For many authors, it has been an enjoyable and profitable choice.
You will need to do everything, and pay for what you can’t do. You will probably need to pay for a book cover, an editor, negligible print book costs and book promotion.
However, your royalties will be much higher than if you were traditionally published. You can get up to 70% if you use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
You can also use other publishing platforms and book distributors, often called aggregators, such as Smashwords and Draft2Digital. In this way, you can sell your books on many different book retailers.
With either, you can make your books and ebooks available on Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo along with many other outlets including libraries. Their royalty rate is around 60% on average for ebook distribution.
You can publish in paperback using print on demand (POD) or an ebook.
With basic computer skills, you can have a book online and for sale within 24 hours in many cases.
The publishing services of Amazon and aggregators are totally free. It is, of course, the main attraction.
However, it must be said that book sales can be difficult to attract if you are a new author.
Self-publishing is not easy street. But it is a safe way to publish if you stay with the three services I mentioned above.
Related reading: The Four Essential Elements You Need To Sell Books On Amazon
In today’s publishing industry there are two ways to publish and be sure you will not be scammed.
Take the traditional route, or self-publish and do everything yourself.
Avoid becoming tempted by offers from people and publishers that you don’t know. It might seem like a wonderful opportunity, but it is rarely the case.
It is very hard work to publish a book and a gamble. It’s a fact that very few books sell well.
Handing over a huge amount of money to someone you don’t know will never make it any easier or guarantee success.
Don’t let sharks and publishing scams take advantage of your dream.
Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services Reviewed & Rated by the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli)
Check Alli’s vetted list for publishers with a history of problems that are clearly marked in red. You will find well-known companies such as AuthorHouse, Dog Ear Publishing, Dorrance Publishing and Page Publishing, just to name a few.
Thumbs Down Publishers List by SFWA.
Further reading: Vanity Publishing And Self-Publishing Are Not The Same