Beware of Publishing Scams

I receive a lot of questions on self-publishing and it’s a subject that seems to stimulate a lot of good and bad opinions. But worst of all, is when I hear of someone who has obviously been scammed.

One person I was asked to talk to was a lady who had been encouraged by her family to write a memoir. She agreed to do so, but unfortunately, she fell for the promise of a so-called ghost writer and publisher who suggested she invest in his £4,000 programme, which would cover reading her manuscript, a cover design and publication of her book. Anxious to see her book in print, she agreed to the offer.

The result was an unedited manuscript (including errors), a poor, uninspiring two-colour cover design, featuring a woman reading a book (probably downloaded from the internet), and ONE book!

Unsurprisingly, she was disappointed, but was wondering how she could promote and distribute the book. As kindly as I could, I said the book wasn’t ready. Either get the so-called publisher to finish the book properly and get more copies, or ask for a refund.

Guess what she said? She had tried, but the scammer – for that’s what they were – had disappeared, and was no longer contactable!

I’ve written about this before, but Stephen Spatz, president of one of the world’s leading self-publishing companies, has kindly allowed me to reproduce an extract here from one of his own articles on how to avoid the scammers.

He says:

‘There are companies that prey upon unsuspecting independent authors by disguising themselves as traditional publishing houses and using deceptive marketing tactics. They hound and harass authors with high-pressure tactics. They take advantage of new authors’ naivete, peddle false promises, sometimes even swindling them into signing away the rights to their manuscripts. Then, they leave the author with a fat bill.’

He mentions four ways to identify self-publishing scams:

  1. They manage several different imprints offering the same services.

If you were to do a quick Google search of ‘Publish my book’, you would likely see a handful of sites pop up that look the same and offer the same things. These sites could be imprints of the same company.

These companies do this to fool you. The thinking is that if you pass on a package offered by one brand, you might purchase a similar package from one of its other imprints.

But that’s where the scamming starts. After one of their multiple self-publishing websites obtains your contact information, they will call you and harass you with intense, high-pressure sales techniques. Even if you tell them you are not interested, they will simply hand on your name to the next imprint, and one of their reps will call.

  1. They make big sales guarantees.

Another hallmark of scamming companies is that they make promises they can’t keep. For example, these companies will often promise that if you pay for their expensive promotional packages, they will make your book a New York Times or Amazon best seller.

Reliable self-publishing service companies help you put out the best book possible. They don’t make sales guarantees or promises related to popularity because it’s impossible to guarantee success, and the scammers know it.

  1. They make outlandish discount offers.

Similar to making promises they can’t keep; scamming companies often make offers that sound too good to be true. That’s because they usually are.

If you come across a company offering you 50-75% discounts on their package of services, as opposed to a more reasonable 10-15%, you can be confident they are after your money. That discounted rate is still expensive when you don’t get anything meaningful in return.

Another tactic to watch out for: Some companies will host faux writing or book contests for big cash prizes or the chance of a lucrative publishing contract. These contests are usually a front for piracy or for trying to get their marketing hooks into you. Don’t buy into them.

  1. They offer packages that are not customizable.

When you go to buy a car and the salesperson on the other side of the empty-coffee-cup-and-sandwich-coloured desk is offering you things like a rust-proof undercoat or steering wheel polish, you can be certain he or she is simply trying to squeeze more money out of you.

Self-publishing scams try to do the same thing. They’ll pack on extra fees for things that you don’t really need.

My thanks to Stephen Spatz for the above extracts.

This article is a little longer than usual, but having seen a couple of people fall for such expensive scams, I wanted to warn anyone thinking of self-publishing to beware of the pitfalls in dealing with a scammer.

Instead, I would strongly recommend they check associations like The Alliance of Independent Authors who rate, review and compare self-publishing companies to help authors to identify which are scams and those that are reliable.

And anyone who would like to know more about Stephen Spatz and the company which publish my books, there is a wealth of FREE information at:

Or see Home Page for examples at:



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