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In it for the money - 8 signs that your publisher is scamming you

Your job as a writer is to write. With self-publishing, you’re also expected to have a hand in editing, marketing and sales, graphic design, as well as a host of other jobs that would normally be handled by a traditional publisher. It’s recommended you get professionals in to help you with the heavy lifting, but how do you know you’re not being scammed?

There are various self-publishing companies out there that offer services once you’ve finished your manuscript. There are a few that will try and take your money but bring very little benefit to you or your story. Fortunately, there aren’t that many, but how can you tell if the company you’ve hired to help put out your book is scamming you or not?

1 They charge Reading fees

There should never be any barrier to entry for someone agreeing to work with you on your book. You should never have to pay someone for them to consider if they want to take on your book.

Any legitimate service, agents, presses, freelancers, publishers, should be willing to take a look at your manuscript for free before you arrive at any agreements.

Anyone you contract to work on your book will get paid when the work is complete. Publishers don’t get paid until the book sells.

Don’t pay for a consideration.

2 They Guarantee bestsellers

Whereas some companies can make the claim of past successes, no one can make an absolute promise of a ‘bestseller’. Publishing is a gamble, that’s why traditional publishers are so exclusive, they need to do their best to make sure a book sells, but it’s not a guarantee.

Companies that guarantee bestsellers are just in it to take your money and won’t care when the process is finished. You need to be looking for a company that will do everything in their power to give your book the best possible chance at success, and check what their marketing plans usually consist of.

3 They shower you with praise

Here’s something you probably don’t want to hear, your book isn’t perfect. It’s probably littered with spelling and grammatical errors, has the odd plot hole, there will be a lot of style inconsistencies, and some things just might not make sense to anyone but you.

This isn’t a bad thing, it’s part of the natural process. You will need someone to go over your book, at the very least beta-readers, a line editor, and maybe a developmental editor.

If a publishing company insists that your book is perfect, needing no changes before going to print, you should walk away. They’re trying to get your money by doing the least amount of work possible. If you fall for their lies you’re handing over money for nothing.

4 They’re anonymous

A publisher shouldn’t be shy about who and where they are. They shouldn’t just be an anonymous contact form on a website, or a generic email address.

You need to be able to speak to a person, either by telephone or, if possible, face to face. You need one point of contact that can hold your hand through the process, someone you can trust and that will give your book as much time and dedication as you have.

5 Small charges build up fast

You can expect to pay for the few odd extras when hiring a company to help publish your book, but when you’re being charged for every single thing, every round of revisions for the design, layout, or editing, for every ISBN, for things you would normally expect to be part of the service, then things can become expensive.

You need to look for a company that will guide you through the process, and show you how the system works so you understand exactly what’s going on.

6 They offer to get your book on Amazon

So what? When Amazon are the biggest book retailer by a large margin, you’d expect your publisher to put your work on Amazon, especially when it’s so easy, doable with just a few clicks.

This is not a selling point. If your publisher is using it a main feature of their service, walk away, you can do it yourself. They’re trying to suck in authors who aren’t tech-savvy, by making it appear to be a complicated process.

7 Take royalties but provide self-pub service

The two normal sides to the publishing coin. The first is the traditional method, where a publishing company will take your manuscript, get it edited, a cover designed, and get it into shops, then take a royalty on the units they manage to sell. The other is self-publishing, where the author will hire various people to take on the work for them, retaining all rights and profits.

If your publishing company makes you pay for all the work carried out, and tries to take a royalty after the book has been published, then there is no incentive for them to market it and ensure it’s a success. They’ve got their money, and will be moving on to the next author to scam.

Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you get involved with a publishing company. If they don’t give you a clear pricing structure, or percentages involved, walk away.

8 They try to claim your rights

Check any and all contracts for any mention of your rights and sub-rights. If they try to claim them, walk away. If it’s not mentioned specifically, get it written in that you retain all rights to your book.

You don’t want your book to become successful, and then find that your scummy publisher is going to reap all the rewards.

Remember, when you self-publish, you retain all control and rights. Don’t let a company provide a self-publishing service and try to take any control from you. You’re the boss.

Let us know what scams you've found below, and be sure to sign up to our newsletter which includes tips and tricks, and special offers for our services, including ready-made book covers and designs, eBook formatting, and promotional tools.

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