Publishers Who Prey, Part Two: How to Spot Predators

Although this list of red flags isn’t exhaustive, if you spot any of them during your search for a publisher, watch out!

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Red Flags

  • Predators charge exorbitant fees. As indicated in last week’s post, authors should not have to pay fees to publishers or agents, except for necessary things such as postage. Authors who fall victim to these predators pay thousands of dollars for their book’s publication. On the other hand, legitimate publishers and agents earn their money by taking a cut of an author’s royalties. This is explained in their contracts.
  • Predators promise to edit and proofread an author’s manuscript. Well, their editing is often shoddy, as is the proofreading, and this can embarrass authors once their book is in print.
  • Predators promise high royalties (such as 70%) and say they’ll put your book in bookstores. They’ll put it on their website’s online bookstore and on other online bookstores, but no brick-and-mortar store will carry their books. Why? Because nine times out of ten, the writing is poor. These predators accept practically every manuscript that crosses their desks. It’s how they make money—from authors, not from the reading public. They can promise high royalties because few readers will buy their books.
  • Predators promise to make an author’s book a bestseller. How many wannabes have fallen for this line? I shudder to think of a number. The fact is, no one can make this promise, not even a traditional publisher. Lots of factors must fall into place for it to become a bestseller. If a publisher promises this— beware!
  • “Publisher looking for authors.” Wow, this sort of predatory advertising is a dead giveaway—predators hunting for victims. Actually, it’s authors who look for publishers, not the other way around.
  • Predators promise to get your work registered with the copyright office. This isn’t a false promise. I’m sure they do this. Hey! I’ve registered my work with the copyright office too. It’s super-easy to do, yet it sounds complicated to inexperienced writers.

Some Legit Self-Publishers

There are legitimate self-publishing companies out there. Below, I’ve listed a few, but once again, it’s not exhaustive. I’ve only listed those I’ve had experience with and/or those I know something about.

  • Book Baby:  Book Baby does charge authors, but its prices are not exorbitant. It has a very good reputation in the self-publishing industry.
  • Amazon KDP: Amazon doesn’t charge authors to publish its books. I’ve used it for all of my self-published works.
  • Barnes & Noble Press: This press is relatively new. An earlier version of this was Barnes & Noble Nook, which was similar to Amazon Kindle.
  • Kobo:  It publishes ebooks.
  • IngramSpark: Although this company is primarily a book distributor, authors also use it to publish books. A cost is involved but again, it’s not exorbitant. The owner of a  local independent bookstore in my hometown told me she orders all of her books from IngramSpark. It’s great to use if you want your book in a brick-and-mortar store.
  • Draft2digital: This company will format and update an author’s manuscript for free. It makes its money in a manner similar to traditional publishers, that is, when a book sells it takes 10 % of the book’s retail price.

Be sure to research a company before spending your hard-earned money.

A Tip for Finding a Literary Agent

Be sure the agent is a member of AALA (American Association of Literary Agents), which used to be called AAR (Agents and Authors Representatives). The AALA is like the Better Business Bureau of literary agents in that it requires them to abide by certain ethical standards. For more information, here’s a good link:

Next Week: Self-publishing: How I Do It

10 thoughts on “Publishers Who Prey, Part Two: How to Spot Predators

  1. Great information Jack. No one wants to fall prey to something like this after putting so much time and effort into writing a book. Thanks for helping us recognize the pitfalls of self publishing.


  2. Good info, Jack! I appreciate this series you’re doing!!! 🙂 I’ve never heard of Book Baby so will check them out if and when. THANK YOU!! 🙂


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