Publishing scams and how to avoid them
Unfortunately, there are many publishing scams out there.
In my experience as an editor, I've seen authors fall victim to these scams, and it can happen to anyone, regardless of their background or education level.
They are really common because:
There is a lot of aspiration linked to the idea of publishing a book
A very small number of people earn a lot of money from book sales, and the success stories receive a lot of media attention
Authors are often sharing a very personal part of themselves, which can put them in a vulnerable position
The scams I’ve seen can be divided into two kinds:
Those who try to take money from you dishonestly
Those who try to make money from you dishonestly
Here are some examples:
1) Someone posing as a literary agent contacts you and wants to work with you on the book. Their terms and conditions sound okay, but when you check their website, you find it doesn’t show up in any search engines, nor do the names of people listed as working for them on their website. After forming a relationship with you, they tell you a publisher is interested but they need a downpayment from you.
2) A publisher expresses an interest in your book; you sign a contract and the book appears online a year later with Amazon KDP (self-publishing), and you note that the manuscript has received no editorial help: it has just been put through Grammarly and PerfectIt.
3) A scholarly publisher contacts you and says they’re interested, but they want a fee for copyediting the book. They put the manuscript through a peer review process and tell you it hasn’t passed, and when you ask for the copyediting fee back, they tell you it’s non-refundable.
I’ve seen scams affect both fiction authors and scholarly authors. It’s really important to protect yourself, as these scams operate on quite deep psychological levels. They all play on emotions linked to the desire to be published and get a message out there.
The third one is particularly sneaky on an emotional level, as it plays on your expectations of passing the peer review process, only to leave you feeling embarrassed.
In short, it’s highly unusual (unless you have a big audience already) to be approached by anyone.
In traditional publishing, money should flow to you.
If you’re self-publishing, you should pay for the production costs (cover design, editorial etc.) and those rates should match what you’re prepared to pay.
There are a few websites you can check for details of scams or con artists. These include:
If you're worried about unfair conditions in a publishing contract, then you should sign up to the Society of Authors (UK). They offer free contract vetting for all members. In the USA there is The Authors’ Guild.
I cover this topic in more detail in this blog post.
Have you come across any other literary scams? If so, share them in the comments to spread awareness – scammers can be quite creative in their methods!
Change of pace
I’ve decided to make this newsletter weekly rather than fortnightly. This is an aim inspired by Kristen Tate’s excellent newsletter. Each week I’ll see where I land – if I miss a week, you can bet I’m super busy with editing then!
Worldbuilding course now open for booking
Do you ever worry that your worldbuilding may reflect unsavoury real-world positions or ideologies?
If so, then check out my new course on the cultural, social, and political aspects to worldbuilding. It’s self-paced at present. Each unit covers a little theory and has a writing task designed to help you refine these aspects of your worldbuilding.
And that’s it from me for this week. Next week I’ll be in touch with a post on narrative distance and trauma.
Have fun writing!
Andy from The Narrative Craft