One out of every eight people calls themselves a writer, which means there are roughly 24 million people in the United States who carry that banner. Unfortunately, there are charlatans and scam artists just waiting to ambush the unsuspecting author. How can novice writers protect themselves?
Anyone can call themselves a publisher. Always remember money flows towards the author from the publisher, not the other way round.
What to look out for:
Charges the author a fee upfront, to have their book accepted, considered, or read. These fees are sometimes called a reading fee, intake fee, or administrative fee.
Directs authors toward specific editing services or gives authors’ names to these services, with the caveat that if the author hires the editing service, their book will be published. Every book needs editing. It is part of the publisher’s job to provide that editing at no cost.
Offers a contract where the author has to pay for part of the publishing costs. The acquisition editor will sometimes say that the publisher’s list is full for that season, but the author’s book has so much going for it, they would still like to publish it. However, the publisher’s resources are fully committed and the author will have to share in the costs.
Some publishers offer contracts that are unfair, such as they obtain rights that should remain with the author of the work.
Some publishers’ contracts contain a clause that if the author says anything negative about the publisher, there is a monetary fine.
There are also publishers who hold the rights for a lengthy time period, regardless of whether the book is still in print or selling.
The publisher doesn’t disclose they are a Publish on Demand (POD), or vanity/subsidy publisher. There is nothing wrong with an author using a subsidy/vanity publishing company as long as the author is well aware of the disadvantages. Publish on Demand books are not, as a rule, stocked by bookstores.
Some POD publishers will insist that their books are available in book stores, as a way to get around this issue. Available is not the same thing as stocked. Available only means the book can be ordered through the bookstore. Since the majority of books sold, are stocked and sold by bookstores, this situation puts a damper on sales.
What else can a writer do to check if a publisher is legitimate?
Go to the local bookstore and see if any of the publisher’s titles are stocked. Ask the manager if necessary.
Search the Internet using the publisher’s name plus the word ‘scam’ or ‘complaint.’
A publisher’s website is targeted at its customers. If the website promotes the books they’ve published that’s a good sign.
If the website is focused on recruiting writers, that’s a bad sign.
Go to forums or bulletin boards that are for writers and see what the authors who have published with the publisher you’re considering have to say about their experience.