Many people dream of becoming published authors some day. Unfortunately, just like in any other industry, there are unscrupulous businesses out there who will take advantage of that dream. Before you sign any contracts on the dotted line, be sure you're signing up with a reputable publishing house, rather than one that just wants to exploit you. Here are some tips on how to avoid common book publishing scams.
How to Avoid Book Publishing Scams
First, don't fall for the old line that you have to pay a publisher to print your book. Real publishers (places like Scholastic, Harlequin and Random House) write checks to their authors. That means they pay you, not the other way around. If you encounter a publisher who wants your hard-earned money in exchange for publishing your work, chances are good you're about to get scammed.
Have you ever heard of this publisher before? Have they published any books you've heard of? Do their books appear in bookstores? If the answers to all three of these questions are "yes", you may be safe. Be aware, though, that "available at bookstores" is not the same as "stocked on the shelf in bookstores." Your best bet is to call your local bookstore and ask if they have titles by that publisher in stock.
Watch out for publishers who expect you to buy and re-sell your own book. If your contract comes with a clause that asks you to purchase copies of your book to market to friends and family, it's a scam. Writers are supposed to spend their time writing. Real publishing houses have people who are in charge of marketing and sales, and it's their job to sell your book, through bookstores. If a publisher's idea of marketing is to sell books to authors, rather than the general public, you're about to get scammed.
Does the publisher want you to pay someone in their office (or someone external that they recommend) to edit the book? Real publishers have editors; their job is to edit a manuscript. They don't charge you extra for this, because it's part of the publishing process. They'll recoup their money when your book gets sold in bookstores.
Look at the publisher's website. Does it look professional, or is it littered with typos, bad grammar and cheesy-looking covers? Do they have a real office, or work out of a post office box in some little town you've never heard of? Do their submission guidelines indicate that they're selective about what they take (and that some people will ultimately be rejected) or will they publish any manuscript that comes down the pike? If there's no selection process in place, chances are good it's a scam publisher who's just after your money. Save your cash, and focus on pitching your project to real publishers instead.
Bear in mind that not all publishers who charge fees are scams. In some cases, self-publishing or hiring a vanity press might be the best route for you, especially if your book is on a topic that is of limited interest. Some examples would be your file of Grandma's recipes, or a book about your thermometer collection. If you do decide to use one of these services, make sure you comparison shop beforehand.
Patti Wigington has been writing for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared on a variety of websites and in a number of print publications, and she spent five years as a staff writer for a Columbus, Ohio, newspaper. She is the author of a children's book, a novel for middle grade readers, and two adult novels.