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Three Ways To Avoid A Self-Publishing Scam

Letter press self-publishingA guest post by Donna J. Erickson.

Lots of new authors are opting to self-publish their print books and e-books because it’s much quicker and easier than trying to break into traditional publishing. Self-publishing also allows the author to have more control–especially in the areas of cover design and publication title. When new authors begin exploring their options, they often conduct an online search for companies offering self-publishing services, which leads us to this critical question: Are the most popular listings for self-publishing companies on the Internet necessarily the best?

The answer to that question is “no.” The companies on the top of the list have simply paid the most to appear there. These companies pay top-dollar to pay-per-click search engines to get to the top of the list. Does that make them better than the others? Absolutely not! They are just paying more money per click to have you visit their site.

In fact, some of these big-name companies (also known as vanity presses) have been sued and found liable for not delivering what was promised. And many authors have brought their nightmare stories to Internet discussions. So how can you avoid becoming the next casualty? Here are some red-flag suggestions on what to watch out for:

Beware of Offshore Affiliates

Many of the big names outsource their customer service to the Philippines, India, and other remote locations. Authors have complained that these individuals are often not knowledgeable, inaccessible, and hard to understand. This could be a sign you’re headed for trouble. A credible company should have in-house services with a qualified and helpful staff to assist you. Some companies may have in-house customer service that disappears once they have your money. Try to get feedback from other authors who have done business with them before you give them your money.

Beware of Poor Quality Editing

All editors are not alike. A less-than-reputable company will hire inexperienced editors who will work for low pay. I’ve heard of an instance where an author ended up with more mistakes after the editing process! Find out about your editor’s background, location, and level of experience. Ask to see a before-and-after sample edit. If they refuse, walk away.

Beware of Inflated Pricing

Like any major purchase, you need to shop around. If Company A can provide the same services as Company B, why are they priced twice as high? Company A may not care about you or your book. They may just want your money. Some of these outfits are really not about publishing books; they are only about making money. If a company accepts any manuscript–rather than being selective in their process–that sounds like a scam.

Before you give any money to a publisher, make sure you research their background and policies–especially on contracts and refunds. For more detailed information, you can read my book, “No-Hassle Publishing: An Author’s Guide to Today’s Changing Industry.” I’ve uncovered some facts that could save you a lot of grief. Read actual testimonials from other authors. Check discussion boards and join social media groups (such as LinkedIn and Facebook) for comments and feedback. You don’t want to become the next victim with a “horror story” to share about vanity presses.

Donna J. Erickson is the author of No-Hassle Publishing: An Author’s Guide to Today’s Changing Industry and the owner of aflairforwriting.com, a writing/editing/and publishing service. She has 25 years of experience in the industry, and her company offers a full array of quality services for authors who are self-publishing.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • jorgekafkazar

    I’ve had good luck with a couple of short runs via Lulu. There are other POD’s and printers. One thing to watch out for: the extras. If you ask Lulu to provide other services, or ISBNs, the price goes up rapidly. Asking a POD to provide editing services is like asking your mechanic to re-upholster your car. You know Joe is going to have someone cheap do it, then charge you top price for lowest quality. Most people here are better editors than the typical POD contract editor.

    • As the author of this piece, I thought it was important to let people know there are better options than vanity presses. I wrote my book and formed our publishing division (A Flair For Writing – Publishing Services) to help new authors avoid getting scammed. All of our editors are thoroughly screened and tested. They need to pass a skills test to prove themselves. We guarantee a top-quality product at an affordable price with unlimited customer service.

    • I’ve had good luck with Lulu too, Jorge. And I avoid the extras like the plague! Hire my own experts when I need them, and keep my dealings with printers super simple.

  • Laura Davis

    Oops, my apologies! I just noticed this is a guest post. Good advice, Donna! I shouldn’t post before coffee!

  • Laura Davis


    This is great advice for new authors. Thanks for writing it!

    I recently completed work as developmental editor on a Young Adult novel. The author debated whether to go self-pub or traditional press. In the end, he went with an offer from a small press. The book has just come out and it has more errors than the manuscript had when it left my hands and the author’s. The jacket copy (which they wrote) has 4 errors in about 125 words. Inexcusable! He would have been better off self-publishing.

    I would advise anyone considering to publish with a small press not to get all caught up in the joy of having broken into the traditional publishing scene, but, rather, to investigate carefully. Look at other books the house has published. Are they full of errors? If so, you might actually be better off self-publishing.

  • Very good advice. I remember seeing something like this back in 2002 when I’d finished my first book. When the Spidey senses tingled, I knew not to go that route; I’m really glad I listened to myself.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..Evernote For AndroidMy Profile

    • Mitch, I too win when I listen to that small but true voice.

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