On The Write

As an aspiring author, the desire to be published often blinds the new writer as they navigate the pathway to publication. They find themselves impatient and willingly fall in with the first publisher who makes them an offer. Lacking knowledge of the publishing business, and not having investigated the many options available to them, they are often sucked into regrettable situations.

Thankfully, for the new writer, and old, there is a website www.preditorsandeditors.com which offers information regarding many publishers and gives the following list of rules for spotting a ‘Scam Publisher’.

“Some General Rules for Spotting a Scam Publisher

  • Openly advertises for writers in print or online publications or both.
  • The publisher claims that it’s seeking to publish first-time authors.
  • Openly claims that it’s not a vanity or subsidy publisher.
  • Claims that it has a new business model that will bring success, but never explains why successful publishers aren’t utilizing it.
  • Claims that the established publishers and published writers are trying to block new writers from being published…
  • The publisher gives no or very low advances for books it buys. When it claims to have given higher advances, it never reveals the names of the authors who received those higher advances so the publisher’s claim can be verified.
  • The publisher’s books are rarely in any bookstores, particularly the large chain stores that carry books from just about all reputable commercial publishers.
  • The publisher’s books have never been seen on a bestseller list published by a reputable source such as the New York Times, especially when said publisher claims to be large.
  • The publisher’s books rarely sell more than 5,000 books to readers in individual purchases and more often fail to reach that number with most of their books in the double-digits or low triple digits in sales.
  • The publisher refuses to release even approximate sales figures for its own bestsellers.
  • When confronted with very low or non-existent sales, the publisher refuses to release the book from contract.
  • Books it claims to have published were actually published by another publisher, now defunct, that used the same business name.
  • Its contracts contain provisions that prohibit complaints by its authors about its service and product.
  • Postings in online forums never seem to include anyone who was rejected.
  • Online forum criticism is frequently immediately responded to by a defender of that publisher.
  • Acceptances usually take place in less than a month. Even less than a week is not unusual.”
  • “Acceptance letters tend to be identical when compared with what other authors received.
  • Contract provisions are specific as to how termination can be invoked, but the publisher disdains using anything other than some other method of communication.
  • Communications from the publisher are frequently unsigned by any individual using a department address so that no one can be pinned down as responsible for any comments made to the author.
  • The publisher never gives a direct answer to any direct questions. Instead, the publisher points to others who are satisfied with policy, procedures, contract, or sales as proof that everything is fine.
  • The publisher has a no return policy on its products.
  • The publisher regularly offers special discounts to its authors so they can self-purchase their own books in bulk quantities to resell but fails to offer regular discounts to the buying public.
  • The publisher threatens to blacklist its authors within the industry should they mention leaving.
  • The publisher points out to authors that it’s a member of its local BBB. (The BBB is for consumers. Authors are considered businesses.)
  • The publisher doesn’t offer its own editing services.
  • The publisher states the author doesn’t have to buy books and sell them, but with their business model it’s more profitable for the author to do so.
  • The publisher places its writers’ books on self-publishing sites though the publisher claimed it offered a “traditional” contract.
  • The publisher claims to be a traditional publisher but your ISBN won’t be registered until you’ve sold some quantity of books.”

Some additional items to consider: If a publisher contacts you and says that they want to work on your manuscript, clarify that this is in fact an acceptance, and request to see a contract before beginning business with them. If they do not wish to let you see a contract, or if they say that they charge one fee and then switch upwards to another fee; you might want to stay away.

Make sure you understand exactly what they are offering to you: i.e. what are they going to do for you? Will they help and how will they help with marketing? Will they help and how will they help with distribution? Do they pay you for your manuscript? Who will hold the rights to your manuscript/artwork, etc. once the book goes into print? What period of time will they hold those rights?  Read, read, and read again your contract to make sure you understand the deal you are making.

Ask others who have dealt with them in the past. Did they have a good experience? If so, what did they like? And what did they dislike?

Ask the publisher what they expect from you. Get this information up front.

Make sure you understand their guidelines, manuscript format, book sizes available, cost to you, any special fonts, etc. that will occur. Not only is this often a problem for the new writer but it is unfair to enter into agreement with the publisher without acknowledging and accepting their requirements.

If they go outside the boundaries of the contract by asking you to take an action that is not in your contract, or if they refer you to someone with whom they are affiliated, that does not work directly for them, beware…they could be getting a kick back. Be alert, if they refer you to some specific outside person and they are not paying. It is up to you to verify the qualifications of the person you are being referred to since it is your money, not theirs, that is being spent.

As a new writer, be excited, submit, submit, submit, your work, but be willing to take time in making decisions about it. You are your own best representative. In this time of ‘writer beware’, seek answers, seek clarification, and most of all seek the best opportunity for yourself so that you might not regret a poor decision made.


  • I found this blog interesting and thorough. As a writer, I understand how difficult it can be learning to navigate the waters. We need all the help we can get.

  • Thank you for your reply. You are absolutely right. There are many new aspiring authors out there. We are as plentiful as fish in a barrel; many of us are ready to bite on any bait we see. It is imperative for the eager author to protect themself and their work. Make sure the publisher is a good fit for you and you are a good fit for them. This goes two ways. It is up to the author to check out the product and the producer of the product. It is up to the publisher to check out the author and the manuscript they have offered. Better to have an honest publisher who turns you down than to have someone who complements your work and allows you to put out a shoddy product.
    So, in answer to your comment, it is definitely a job to put aside your desires and look at publishing your piece logically. I would suggest to anyone who is thinking of publishing and looking for a publisher that they take the time to check out Predatorsandeditors.com and other websites, and then ask friends who have been published about their experience. Doing this can help the author in gaining perspective on who they choose to partner with in the publication of their manuscript. This should make the navigation a bit easier.
    Thank you again for your comment.

  • Well said Janice! I am so glad we do not fit in to any of what you warned about. Look forward to talking soon. God Bless!

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