A Starting Guide To Avoiding Author Scams


1. Introduction

As a writer, getting your book published can be a dream come true. However, with the rise of self-publishing and the accessibility of the internet, it has become easier for scammers to take advantage of aspiring authors. These scams can not only take your money but can also waste your time and delay or even derail your publishing dreams. Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself on common publishing scams and how to avoid them.

In this guide, we will provide you with tips and resources to help you navigate the publishing industry safely and avoid scams. From fake literary agents to vanity publishers, we’ll cover everything you need to know to protect yourself and your work. Let’s get started!

2: Common Book Publishing Scams and How to Avoid Them

2.1 Literary Agent Scams

Literary agents are an essential part of the traditional publishing process. They help authors navigate the industry, negotiate contracts, and secure book deals with reputable publishers. However, not all literary agents are legitimate. Scammers may pose as literary agents to take advantage of unsuspecting authors. Here are some common literary agent scams to look out for and how to avoid them:

Upfront Fees: Legitimate literary agents make money through a commission on the sale of your book. If an agent asks you to pay upfront fees, it’s a red flag. This could be a sign that they are not confident in their ability to sell your book or that they are simply looking to make money off of you.

Guaranteed Book Deals: No literary agent can guarantee a book deal. Publishers ultimately make the decision to acquire books, not agents. If an agent promises you a guaranteed book deal, it’s a red flag.

Lack of Industry Experience: Before signing with a literary agent, do your research. Make sure they have a track record of successfully selling books in your genre. If they lack industry experience, it could be a sign that they are not a legitimate agent.

By being aware of these common literary agent scams and doing your due diligence, you can protect yourself from falling victim to a scammer.

2.2 Vanity Presses

A vanity press, also known as a subsidy press, is a publishing company that requires the author to pay for the production and distribution of their book. While there are some legitimate self-publishing services that require an upfront fee, vanity presses often charge exorbitant amounts for subpar services, such as editing, formatting, and cover design.

Here are some warning signs to look out for when dealing with a potential vanity press:

Upfront fees: If a publisher requires you to pay a large sum of money upfront, it’s likely a vanity press. Be wary of any publisher that promises to make you a bestseller for a hefty fee.

Poor quality services: Vanity presses often offer low-quality editing, formatting, and design services. They may also provide inadequate marketing and distribution services, leaving authors with poorly produced books that go unnoticed.

Pressure to buy your own books: Some vanity presses may require authors to purchase a certain number of copies of their own book as a condition of publishing. This can lead to authors being stuck with boxes of unsold books and wasted money.

Lack of transparency: Vanity presses may be evasive or unclear about their publishing process, royalties, and fees. They may also use misleading or confusing contracts to take advantage of unsuspecting authors.

Avoiding vanity presses is essential for any author looking to publish their work. By doing your research and being cautious, you can avoid falling victim to predatory publishing practices.

2.3 Pay-to-play publishers

Pay-to-play publishers, also known as hybrid publishers or subsidy publishers, require the author to pay upfront fees for their services. In contrast to traditional publishers who invest their own money in the publication process, pay-to-play publishers shift the financial risk onto the author.

While some pay-to-play publishers offer legitimate services, others engage in unethical practices such as charging exorbitant fees for services that can be obtained elsewhere for a fraction of the cost. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

Large upfront fees: If the publisher is asking for thousands of dollars upfront, be wary. Legitimate pay-to-play publishers may charge a few hundred dollars for services like editing, cover design, and distribution, but the fees should be reasonable and clearly outlined.

No quality control: Pay-to-play publishers that accept every manuscript that comes their way without any quality control measures in place should be avoided. A reputable publisher will have a vetting process to ensure that only quality manuscripts are accepted for publication.

Lack of transparency: If the publisher is vague about their services and fees or refuses to provide a contract, it’s a red flag. Always read the contract carefully and ask questions if anything seems unclear.

Unrealistic promises: Publishers that promise guaranteed bestseller status or make unrealistic claims about the success of their authors should be approached with caution. Publishing is a highly competitive industry, and no publisher can guarantee success.

Lack of author control: Pay-to-play publishers may retain the rights to the author’s work or require the author to purchase a certain number of copies, limiting the author’s control over their own book. Make sure to read the contract carefully to ensure that you retain ownership of your work and have control over the publishing process.

In conclusion, pay-to-play publishers can be a risky option for authors, and it’s important to do your research before signing a contract. Look for transparency, reasonable fees, quality control measures, and author control over the publishing process.

2.4 Writing contests with exorbitant entry fees

While writing contests can be a great way to gain exposure and recognition for your work, some contests charge entry fees that are simply too high. Be wary of contests that require a fee of several hundred dollars or more, as these are often a red flag for scams.

To avoid falling victim to these types of contests, do your research beforehand. Look for contests that are well-established and reputable, and check reviews and testimonials from past participants. Make sure the contest rules and judging criteria are transparent and clearly outlined, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the organizers with any questions or concerns.

If you do decide to enter a writing contest with an entry fee, make sure the fee is reasonable and in line with industry standards. Also, be sure to read the fine print and understand what rights you are granting to the contest organizers by entering.

2.5 Book marketing services that make unrealistic promises

Another way that authors can fall victim to scams is through deceptive book marketing practices. Unfortunately, there are companies and individuals who prey on authors’ desires to promote their books and sell more copies. Some common book marketing scams include:

Promise of “guaranteed” book sales: No book marketer can guarantee sales, as there are many factors that contribute to a book’s success. Be wary of any marketer who promises a specific number of book sales or revenue.

Fake reviews: Some book marketers may offer to provide fake positive reviews for a fee. This is not only unethical, but it can also get your book removed from online retailers if discovered.

Overpriced marketing services: Always research the going rate for marketing services before agreeing to work with a company. Some scammers may charge exorbitant fees for basic services like social media promotion or email marketing.

Unsolicited marketing emails: If you receive an unsolicited email from a marketer claiming they can help you sell more books, be cautious. Legitimate marketers typically do not send cold emails to authors.

To avoid falling victim to book marketing scams, research any potential marketing partners thoroughly. Look for reviews and testimonials from previous clients, and ask for references if possible. Additionally, be wary of any marketer who promises guaranteed results or who uses pushy or aggressive sales tactics.

2.6 Low Quality Service Providers

Low-quality service providers and scam pretendors on freelance platforms such as Fiverr can be a challenge to identify and avoid. These individuals may claim to offer professional services such as editing, book formatting, or cover design at a fraction of the cost of reputable providers. However, they may deliver subpar work, miss deadlines, or disappear altogether, leaving authors frustrated and out of pocket.

To avoid falling victim to these scams, authors should do their due diligence when selecting service providers. They can start by researching the provider’s reputation by reading reviews from past clients and checking their portfolio of work. It is also advisable to ask for references and to speak with past clients to get a better understanding of their experience.

Additionally, authors should avoid providers who promise unrealistic results or offer prices that are significantly lower than the industry standard. Quality services require time, skill, and expertise, and providers who offer their services for significantly lower prices are likely cutting corners somewhere.

Finally, authors should be wary of providers who request payment upfront or who ask for access to sensitive information such as bank account or credit card details. Legitimate service providers will typically request a deposit or partial payment upfront but will not ask for full payment until the work is completed to the author’s satisfaction.

3. General Red Flags To Look Out For

  • Unsolicited emails or phone calls
  • Promises of guaranteed success
  • Pressure to sign a contract quickly
  • Lack of transparency about fees and services
  • Poor reviews or ratings from previous clients

4. How to research a potential service provider

When considering working with a publishing or book marketing service provider, it’s essential to do your research to avoid scams and ensure that you’re working with a reputable company. Here are some tips on how to research a provider:

  • Check their website: A professional and well-designed website is a good indicator that the company is legitimate. Check for a physical address, contact information, and a clear description of the services they offer.
  • Look for reviews
  • Ask for references
  • Check for warning signs
  • Check their social media presence and engagement
  • Check their credentials: Look for any industry certifications or memberships that the company holds, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) or the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). This can be a sign that they are committed to industry best practices.

By taking these steps, you can help ensure that you’re working with a reputable provider and avoid falling victim to scams or low-quality service providers.

5. Tips for protecting yourself from scams

  • Always read the fine print
  • Don’t sign anything without fully understanding the terms
  • Research any company or individual before working with them
  • Trust your gut instincts and don’t let anyone pressure you into making a decision

6. Resources for Help

If you suspect that you have been targeted by a publishing scam, there are several resources you can turn to for help. Here are a few options:

Writer Beware: Writer Beware is a watchdog group that provides information on literary scams and publishing industry news. They have an extensive database of known scammers and resources for writers.

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi): ALLi is an organization that provides support and resources for indie authors. They offer a range of membership levels, from free to paid, and provide guidance on publishing, marketing, and more.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB is a nonprofit organization that provides information on businesses and charities. They can be a valuable resource for researching a publishing company’s reputation.

Preditors & Editors: Preditors & Editors is a website that provides information on literary agents, publishers, and writing contests. They also offer warnings about scams and other unethical practices.

Reedsy: Reedsy is a marketplace for publishing professionals, including editors, designers, and marketers. Their vetted professionals can help authors avoid scams and achieve their publishing goals.

Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA): The IBPA is a trade organization for independent publishers. They offer a range of resources and services, including a directory of vetted service providers.

Remember, research is your best defense against scams. Before signing any contract or making any payment, take the time to thoroughly research the company or service provider. And if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your instincts and protect yourself from scams.

7. Conclusion

As an author, it is important to be cautious and vigilant when navigating the publishing industry. Scammers and predators are unfortunately all too common, but with the right knowledge and resources, you can protect yourself from falling victim to their schemes.

By following the tips outlined in this guide and doing your research, you can increase your chances of finding a legitimate and trustworthy publishing service provider. Remember to always read contracts carefully, avoid high-pressure sales tactics, and ask for references and credentials.

In addition, there are many helpful resources available to authors who may be unsure of how to navigate the publishing world. From industry organizations to online forums and social media groups, there are many ways to connect with other authors and learn more about the industry.

Ultimately, by staying informed and taking steps to protect yourself, you can ensure that your writing journey is a positive and successful one.

Scroll to Top