As a warning, I am writing the rough draft of this post on my IPhone while I do cardio at the gym (cue gym selfie below). I am trying to be more efficient and thought that this would be a good time to get in some writing.
Earlier today, I was browsing Facebook and amid the swath of political drivel, I found an advertisement for a publisher looking for authors. Several red flags flickered almost immediately. Though this post is inspired by an actual publisher, I am going to omit their name because when I reached out to them, they deleted the content. It seemed like they were more of a naive kid rather than a malicious con-artist. Regardless, here are 6 Red Flags to be aware of when looking into a publisher.
Red Flags of Scam Publishers
1. Poor Marketing Design
It doesn’t take an award winning artist to know when something looks like shit. While taste is subjective, quality is not. If the publisher has an unappealing website, or the covers of their books look bad, they are not going to somehow hit the design of your book out of the park. This doesn’t mean that they should be blacklisted, but you should know that they are not going to offer the same value as Penguin or Tor. I guess this doesn’t mean they are running a scam, but it is definitely something to keep in mind.
2. Hosted on a Free Domain
Again, this doesn’t mean that a publisher is trying to pull a con, but if they do not have the budget to afford their own domain, how can you expect them to have the budget to pay for proper editing, proofreading, cover design, and layout? Publishing is a business, and a business requires capital. If it seems like they don’t have it, they probably don’t.
3. A Large Portion of their Books were Written by the Owner
This is often a sign of a self-pubber who has decided to branch out. It likely means that they do not have much room in thir budget (if they have a budget at all) and that they are a one man operation. A good publisher has dedicated artists, editors, logistics personal, and publicts. I don’t care who you are, there isn’t a single person who can fulfill all of these roles to the same standard as a large publisher. If most of the books are written by the owner, you run the risk of them trying to fulfill all of these roles themselves.
3. They Don’t Offer Editing, Proofreading, or Cover Art
In the worst case, a publisher doesn’t offer these services at all. These are tasks put on the publisher’s shoulders and are the sole reasons why they are justified in earning a share of the revenue generated by your book. If they don’t offer these services or they try to make you pay for them, they are a scam. Some might argue that they are new or are strapped for cash, but that doesn’t make it better. A publisher needs to provide value to your work. If they don’t, then they are not legit.
4. They Solicit Money from their Authors
This is less of a red flag and more of a god damn neon billboard. A publisher assumes the financial risk of their business not the author. If a publisher requires a fee to submit or they recommend a fee-charging editor before they accept a writer’s manuscript, they are running a scam. They don’t make their money from selling books, they make their money from stealing money from writers who do not know any better.
5. How do they plan to reach their market?
This is a major question to ask every publisher. If they plan to use Createspace or Lulu, don’t give them the time of day. You can do the same yourself and will not have to split any of the profits. Again it comes back to value, in some way, a publisher needs to increase your efforts, even if that means only getting your books into a few regional stores. If they do not have their own distribution network they are not worth your time.
6. They Do Not Use Contracts
If you published on a hand shake, I’m sorry, but you’re screwed. A legit publisher will explicitly state what rights they are buying and for how long. If the publisher says you retain all copyright, but that is it, walk away. Unless you are ghostwriting, the author always retains copyright. You need to know if the are buying First World English, Exclusive North American, Digital or Audio, before your manuscript hits the printers. Without explicitly stating what they can and cannot do, it leaves you vulnerable to being exploited.
Thanks for Reading
I know this has been a bit of a charged post, but I always hate seeing these businesses. If you enjoyed the read, I would really appreciate if you signed up for my monthly newsletter. If not, I completely understand. I wouldn’t want to listen to me either. I hope you are having a great day, and I am looking forward to talking in the comments.