Home » It's All Write » SPOTTING A PUBLISHING SCAM

key-padIt’s the beginning of the year and you’ve likely made a list of your resolutions and goals for the new year. For some of you, that list will include  “get my book published”. 

For the serious among you, the ones who want to put in the research to find a publisher that is suited to your manuscript, I want to caution you to beware. Publishing scammers are now not only in the internet.

From what people have told me, there are publishing scammers operating right in the country.

Unscrupulous people in Botswana who want to take advantage of writers desperate to be published.

You need to know how to pick these folks out and stay away from them.

First let’s get something very clear. There are traditional publishers and there are self publishers or vanity presses.

In traditional publishing, you submit your manuscript.

They read it and evaluate it. They are looking for one thing-a book they can sell. If they think the manuscript has potential to make them a profit, they will offer you a publishing deal.

They will assume all of the costs of taking your manuscript from where it is to book form. They will pay for all distribution and marketing costs.

They will earn money from the sale of your book to recover those up-front costs. They normally pay the writer between 7-15% royalties on books sold. The writer pays them nothing.

A vanity press makes money from writers not readers who buy books.

The writer will pay the vanity press for all of the costs to produce the book.

These costs include editing, proofreading, design, printing, distribution and marketing. There is no assessment of the manuscript.

If the writer has the money, the vanity press will print the book now matter how awful it might be.

I have no problem with a vanity press as long as they are very honest about what they are doing and do not give writers the wrong idea.

Here are the common set-ups for publishing scams:

1. A VANITY PRESS POSING AS A PUBLISHER

In this case, they might have a website and a name that looks like a proper traditional publisher.

They may give the impression your manuscript has been assessed and found to be of a publishable quality when in fact it has not.

They hide the fact that you are actually paying for all up-front costs under terms such as “editing fees” for example.

They talk about their powerful sales force which will be marketing your book when in fact the only person marketing your book will be you.

You must purchase the copies of the books you want to sell.

They have you sign a contract where you are paid royalties on sales, very similar to a traditional publisher, but in this case the vanity press has not risked any of their money on your book at all, but yet they want to be paid for doing nothing.

As you sell the books you paid for they will take a percentage of the money.

2. AGENT- EDITOR SCAMS

These folks are commonly found from display adverts on the internet.

The work of a literary agent in the traditional publishing world is to help the writer find a publisher for their manuscript.

The agent makes money by taking a percentage of book sales revenue, usually 10%. Again, legitimate agents make money from book sales, scam agents make money from writers.

In the scam, you find the agent “loves” your manuscript, but advises you to get it professionally edited.

Not surprisingly, they know just the guy. An expensive editor that they give you the contact details for. Once the manuscript editing has been paid for, the agent is done with you and the two, the scam agent and editor, split the takings.

Also on agents- no honest literary agent asks the writer to pay them anything up front. Agents, like publishers, earn their income from the sale of books. Never pay an agent anything.

It’s time to get working on your resolutions. Do your research, make sure your manuscript is polished and professional, and then start sending it out to publishers and agents. I wish you the best of luck.


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