When an author, especially a first-time author, finishes a book, they are excited to get it out into the world and on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble and the Amazon website. In their excitement, many authors fall prey to predatory publishers and unethical self-publishers.
There are two ways to avoid being a victim of these scams.
- Knowing if you want to have your book submitted to a traditional publisher or a self-publisher. Having a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each method of publication is essential when making this decision.
- Doing careful research on the publishing business you work with. It doesn’t matter if it is a self-publishing company or a traditional publisher, read contracts carefully, research what others have said about the business. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Predatory publishing and self-publishing companies try to collect fees for unnecessary services upfront.
For example, a reputable traditional publisher or self-publishing company would never charge an author a mandatory reading fee. This is not the business model that a traditional self-publisher follows. Reading author manuscripts is just a cost of doing business for these companies.
Self-publishers leave it up to you to submit high-quality work. They will not reject a book based on the quality of its content.
Some publishers inform you that you are a finalist in a writing contest and ask you to submit a fee (usually a large one) to submit your book to the finals or purchase a minimum number of copies of this book compilation to be considered for the prize.
Contests for book-length works are rare, and even when they are legitimate, the entry fee is modest. Entry fees of more than $50 should be scrutinized very carefully. You should research any contest you enter thoroughly. Is it a reputable contest? What do the online reviews say about it?
Required Purchases of Your Own Book
A traditional publisher would never demand that you purchase a minimum number of copies of your book before publishing it. These publishers pay for their printing costs and other overhead by buying good book manuscripts and selling them to satisfied readers.
A self-publishing company doesn’t demand that you purchase a minimum number of book copies before publishing your book, but they may offer you reduced pricing based on the number of books you buy at one time.
Other Services and Fees
Neither traditional publishers nor self-publishing companies will require you to get editing services or to get a paid consult from a “book doctor” before publishing your book. A traditional publisher might recommend that you work with an editor or book doctor, but that is never a condition for publication.
Self-publishing companies occasionally will offer editing or proofreading services as an extra, but the prices should be reasonable and comparable to those you can get from an independent editor.
Also, beware of companies that nickel and dime you to death with charges for every little thing. Charging you a low rate for publishing the book, but then adding on fees for things such as
- Typesetting and layout
- Filing for ISBNs
- Copyright registration
- Marketing and promotion costs
Of these services and fees, probably the most insidious are the marketing and promotion fees. These fees overcharge the author for simple tasks such as listing your book on Amazon (which is easy to do, even if you are not that computer savvy). With marketing and promotion, it is difficult to calculate your ROI. And any company that makes vague promises about marketing should be avoided.
Again the keyword here is “required.” Traditional publishers never charge the author for any of these services. Reputable self-publishing book companies either work these into the cost of printing the book or provide these as optional, reasonably priced add-ons if you’d like them to do it for you.
These fall under the category if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Reputable book publishers, whether they are traditional or self-publishers, cannot make any of the following guarantees:
- Your book will be a bestseller or sell a specific number of copies.
- Your book will be on the shelves of your local bookstores and national chains such as Barnes & Noble.
- Excessive flattery or unrealistic promises surrounding the success of your book
- Guarantee a book contract if you work with their book doctors, agents, or editors at your cost.
Minimum Sales Guarantees
Always read publisher contracts, terms, and agreements carefully to avoid getting trapped by unfavorable terms and conditions.
Disreputable publishers might require the author to sell a specific number of books within a particular time. These sales totals are unrealistic and not achievable. When you fail to deliver the number of sales described in the contract, they bill you the difference to pay for “production costs.”
Poor Royalty Rates
Royalty rates for traditional publishers vary somewhat depending on the format of the book sold. Publishers provide royalty rates anywhere between 10 and 25% depending on if the book is a hardback, trade paperback, or mass market paperback. The rates usually increase if the book sells well. Ebooks tend to get higher royalties, typically between 25 and 50%.
Self-publishers set a flat printing charge per book based on the number of books printed. The more copies you print, the lower the price per book gets. You set the book’s price and collect the difference between your cost for the book and the price the customer pays. It is not unusual for a self-published book to pay out “royalties” of 50% to 75% and maybe even as high as 90% in rare instances. But keep in mind that these rates do not consider distribution or marketing costs subtracted from your cut of the royalties.
Some publishers provide contracts to authors that have them sign away the rights to their books and limit the options for the author to get out of the relationship with the publisher. You should never hand over all of your publishing rights to the publisher. If you land a traditional publishing deal, it is a good idea to hire an agent (if you don’t already have one) and let them negotiate the publishing rights for the book on your behalf.
For self-publishing companies, they should not have any publishing rights to your work at all. Once they deliver a printed book to you, they cannot earn additional income from book sales or anything else (unless they sell the book on their website). You can also break off the publishing arrangement with them at any time for any reason.
Final Advice About Avoiding Publishing Scams
If you work with a traditional publisher, you will probably need representation by a literary agent from a reputable agency. The process will take a long time, and you will encounter many hurdles along the way. The benefit of this is that you do not pay anything to get your book published. They pay you. And any publisher that claims to be a traditional publisher that makes the author pay for any services should be considered suspicious.
For self-publishing companies, you need to evaluate what you get for the money you spend. You need to self-publish with the mindset that you will have to do everything to make the book sell. You will handle all costs for producing the book, editing and typesetting services, book cover design, arranging sales terms with bookstores, and more.
Please note that it is challenging to get your books placed in a national book store chain without the following:
- Networking and marketing with corporate book buyers
- A consistent track record of excellent sales
- Significant discounts on your sales price for the store
- An agreement that you will “take back” unsold books
Self-publishing a book can be expensive. So shop around, compare prices, read reviews, ask other writers what self-publishing company they used and if they were happy with the work. Reputable self-publishing companies don’t hide the prices of their goods and services; they provide the self-publishing costs upfront with all fees listed.
InstantPublisher Provides High-Quality Self-Publishing Services at a Reasonable Price
InstantPublisher provides a full array of book printing options and publishing support services such as book cover designs, illustration services, and much more. We are a full-service book printing and binding company that has served self-published authors since 2004. We are an affordable option for self-published authors everywhere. To learn more, contact us at 1-800-259-2592, fill out our online contact form, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information about our book publishing services.