The best publishing scam advice is to remember the
writer's golden rule:
Money flows to the writer! The publisher pays the writer.
The agent takes 10-15% commission, and passes the rest to the writer. The
writer should never have to pay anyone to publish their work, unless they
The majority of publishers will only look at work
submitted by agents, and because there is no licensing of agents, the market
has many people calling themselves agents who are not legitimate agents.
They just need to print a business card, and they are
good to go!
A legitimate agent makes their income from commissions
from sale of books and not from any fees charged to the writer.
The scam agents make their money by charging the writer
for various fees. These can include:
Reading and critique fees. This fee is for reading and
reviewing manuscripts, however in the majority of cases the manuscript
is never read, or there is no progress past the first chapter. As
rejection is very common, the writer is unaware that their manuscript
has never been read. There is usually no intention to pass the
manuscript onto a publisher either. There may be a few legitimate agents
who charge a lower fee [less than $100], but because it is so hard to
determine who is legitimate, it is safer to go with an agent who isn't
going to charge any fees.
Monthly retainer for 'representation'. This fee is for
representing your work to publishers, but provides no incentive for the
agent to get the work published, as it is easy money for doing little or
nothing for several months.
Book doctor or editing service. The agent may say the
manuscript needs some work and refers the writer to an editing service
or book doctor which may cost several thousand dollars. The end result
is the agent still doesn't like the work but has earned a commission
from the editing service or book doctor. A spin is sometimes added that
a publisher won't look at any work unless it has been professionally
edited - this is untrue and is said to earn more money from the
inexperienced writer. If you plan on using a legitimate and professional
free-lance editor, the rate is about $3 a page.
Expenses. Some agents charge for expenses such as
calls, photocopying, postage etc and may want some paid up front. Most
legitimate agents don't charge for these expenses. Some publishers also
charge for submitting to publishers, such as $200 to submit to 10
publishers or $300 to 20 publishers, with the writer paying for the
postage. Professional agents wouldn't send out that many mailings as it
is unlikely that many publishers would be interested in the style of
book - it is more likely to be 4 or 5 publishers.
One of the most popular publisher scams is to offer
publication for a fee. They will often advertise for manuscripts which is
your first clue of a scam as legitimate publishers never have to advertise
as they always have an outstanding pile of manuscripts to review.
The alternative is to advertise for authors! Remember no
legitimate publishers has to ever advertise for authors as they will have
far more manuscripts than they can cope with. If you see adverts for authors
or manuscripts, it is usually a vanity press.
Almost everyone who submits a manuscript is accepted and
offered a contract with the writer being charged a reading fee [another clue
it is a scam] or charged thousands of dollars to subsidize the cost of
production [they are known as subsidy publishers if they do this].
The fee is usually higher than the production cost, but
the writer may feel it is worth it in return for the promised marketing and
distribution. These publishers never have a legitimate distribution or
marketing system as very few bookstores deal with subsidy publishers.
As few bookstores ever order from subsidy publishers, the
books [if any are ever printed] just sit in the warehouse. An alternative is
for the publisher requiring the writer to purchase thousands of copies of
the book and a high price and store them themselves. This means they can
gather dust in the writer's premises!
The web have also provided opportunities for scams who
offer electronic publication for a setup fee and monthly maintenance fees.
The problems can arise when they don't take the book down
from the web when requested and keep charging the credit card despite
requests to take the publication down.
When publishers state they can get the book distributed
to major bookstore websites, again it should be a red flag as major
bookstores don't display the contents of an entire book. Once the book has
been displayed on the web in its entirety, it is unlikely any bookstore will
want it as it is likely to be copied and widely read first.
If you see any claims in magazines or adverts that the
publishers know the secrets to success, it is a red flag as there are no
secrets to overnight success. Real publishers don't make those sort of
claims as they know the reality of the publishing business.
Our publishing scam advice is:
Join a writer's group such as the
Romance Writers of America
[who have 140 chapters] as it provides the opportunity to ask about any
agents or publishers you are considering.
Evaluate and research any agents first by using a site
such as Agent Research that
provides information on agents reputations. Their list of recommended
agents don't charge any type of upfront reading fee, evaluation fee,
marketing fee or any other fee.
Also check out
Preditors and Editors
who provide extensive lists of agents, editors and publishers with
information on which ones are reputable and which ones are not, as well
as scam warnings and advice, and
Writer Beware [on
the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website] who give good
information on what to look for and also what to avoid, and a list of
current scam alerts.
Don't trust magazine adverts or market guides as claims
can be hard to verify. Request references from major publishing
companies, and then ring the editor at that company and check. If there
are any claims of membership of reputable associations, always ring the
organisations and confirm the membership claim is legitimate.
When you finally have a contract, take your time and seek expert
advice. No reputable publisher or agent would object to this.
If you want to self-publish, you can create your own small
publishing company, choose a good printing service, buy the ISBN number
and file for copyright. You have a better chance of getting a
distributor to carry your books if you use your own imprint as most
distributors don't deal with Vanity Publishers [their name on your book]