Monday, March 08, 2010

Warning Ten

Many people in NetPubLand have already commented on the latest PublishAmerica plan to separate aspiring writers from their money, and I really have nothing more to add, except maybe some hastily-ejected saliva aimed in the direction of the CEO's head.

There are some things I've noticed about money-making/writer-faking entities in Publishing that do shriek scam to me the minute I see them, so I thought I'd compile a ten list on them:

Anything and Everything: There are a few major publishing houses that do publish a fairly wide range of books, but no one publishes everything. Generally a publisher wants to see a limited range of genres, and if they solicit any type of new submissions it's usually whatever they think is going to be hot in two years. If a publisher says you can send them anything written in any genre of any length, it's like code for "We don't care what you write, we're just interested in your wallet."

Big Promises: There is no secret handshake. Please, let me repeat that again: there is no secret handshake. So when a publisher claims to have some insider top-secret shortcut way for you to achieve the recognition you deserve, that will absolutely positively put you on the road to success, and make this kind of promise to everyone in the world who reads their schlock, guess what? They are LYING to you.

Bonuses: This comes in a variety of packaging, like: Submit in the next ten days and you'll receive a 10% discount on premium cover art! or Refer one of your writer friends to us and earn $100 toward the cost of production! Look, over the years I've referred other writers to publishers, editors, and agents. I've never been offered or accepted a dime for it. Occasionally it's cost me. So if there is some cash or discount incentive being dangled, they're probably only offering it so you'll pimp their schlock for them while you still pay for their questionable services.

Conspiracy Theories: Hard as it may be to believe, Publishing at large is not conspiring to prevent your genius from being made known to the world. However, anyone who suggests or even implies that is happening to you, and uses it as a reason to purchase their services is conspiring against you. They have hatched a dastardly plot to feed your paranoia in order to deduct large amounts from your checking account. Don't let them get away with it.

Miracle Diet Tone: You know that swallowing two pills, no matter what's in them, is not going to make you lose weight (unless they're an emetic. Then you're going to puke up a pound or two.) To ditch those unwanted love handles, you're going to have to exercise and modify your eating habits. Same thing with publishing. There are no miracle solutions to getting a publishing contract. If there was, no one would sell it to the general public, I can assure you.

No-Name Blurbs: If you don't recognize the name of the published writer pimping the publisher's goods, chances are the blurb is made up or was written by someone who got a 10% discount on their premium cover art in trade. Reputable, successful authors do not blurb scam artists.

Number One: You know who the number one publisher in publishing is? Depends on the yardstick you use, frankly. Scholastic is definitely the largest children's publisher in the world; Bertelsmann AG owns Random House, which is the largest English-language trade book publisher. I wouldn't spit on Lagardère SCA, either. But I can almost guarantee you that is not, as they claim to you to be, number one in Publishing.

Unsolicited E-mails: Any venture you are tempted to try because you received a wonderful-sounding e-mail that was also sent to all of your writer friends is not wonderful. It's SPAM, which rhymes with SCAM; treat it as both.

Upfront Fees: Unless a writer decides from the beginning to self-publish (and I am not trying to imply there is anything wrong with this; I've self-published and I'll probably do it again some day) we do not pay anything for the privilege of getting our work into print. Neither should you.

Web Site Testimonials: Testimonials on the publisher's web site all have several things in common: they sound awesome, they promise the moon and the stars and other chunks of the universe, and they're all nothing but sales tactics. A legit publisher does not have to sell themselves to writers; they get all the submissions they need every day plus a few thousand they don't. Seeing a testimonial should be like a big red flashing sign in your face that says "We are in the business of making money off ignorant slobs. Are you one of them?"

Finally, there are two things you can do to protect your income from scam publishers. One is to do your homework, research them and ask questions about them around the writing community. Talk to authors who are published and gather opinions. Ethical, professional writers will be the first to tell you about the scam artists in the industry.

The other thing is simply to refuse to pay anyone in order to get published. Submit only to publishers who don't charge you for the privilege. Make that your #1 rule and it will never steer you in the wrong direction.


  1. Yes, like a publisher should pay for copyright registration. (If they can't pay an advance and can't afford to register copyright, how can they afford to publish your book?)

  2. When I was driving to Target the other day, I passed a billboard advertising someone's book. The publisher was listed as Author House, which I'm pretty sure is a vanity press. Although it also may be a long the lines of

    I don't believe I've even seen a Nora Roberts book on a billboard.

  3. @sandy I believe Author House ha connections to several other big vanity and self-pub scams. The guy who owns them all (I forget his name, K-something)I believe he was the one who got Thomas Nelson and Harlequin to open their self-pub and vanity imprints.

    Great post! I've already decided if I go the self-publishing way to only go with lulu or maybe createspace, if i still have my free-proof coupon.

  4. Anonymous7:37 AM

    Bracken's Law:

    Money flows TO the writer. Money flows TO the writer. Money flows TO the writer.

  5. The number of writers--even those who should know better--who believe in the conspiracy theory is shocking. Shocking and sad. I see them on writer chat boards, I meet them at writer's conferences. I was even in a writer's group with one. Nothing seems to break that mindset.

  6. It still astounds me that people get caught up by these scams, but since they prey on writers' fears - and we do have an abundance of fears - I guess I can understand. Thanks for shedding some more light on these cockroaches, Lynn. Maybe someday the light will be bright enough to scorch them out of existence.

  7. Great reminders, Lynn. Thanks. :-)


  8. So sad when people are so desperate to get published that they allow their common sense to take a holiday.

    And there's no way I would ever use Author House, even if they approached me with the guarantee in gold that I'd never pay a cent and make a million. Just the association with them would make me cringe...


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