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Caveat Auctor

A warning to fellow (aspiring) authors and writers.

It’s an unfortunate fact that scammers, scoundrels, and other greedy people exist. More unfortunately for us, some of them specialise in targeting authors, both emerging and published.

Vanity Presses

These have existed for donkey’s years, long before the digital era. If you were unable to land a publishing deal, and had more money than sense, you could pay basically a printer to print your book with the smaller print run being reflected in a (much) higher print run cost. You’d then have your home full of books you couldn’t sell, but at least you could say “I’ve got a book ‘published'”.

Now in the modern era of viable print-on-demand, e.g. Amazon’s KDP (formally Createspace) and Ingram Spark amongst others, this makes less sense than it ever did. Can’t get a traditional publishing contract? No problem, simply DIY, with no outlay (excluding editing, cover design etc.).

Vanity Presses Redux

The modern incarnations of Vanity Presses are more insidious. They will cold-call you. They will flatter you. They will pretend to be offering you a publishing deal when in reality it’s a scam where you pay thousands of dollars/pounds/Euros for books that will never be sold.

The most infamous is Author Solutions and there are many clones, mostly based in the Philippines. As soon as they’ve hooked their victim, they will begin very aggressively selling ‘extras’ such as worthless marketing for vastly inflated prices.

Simple rule: Do not pay to be published. A real publisher with a real publishing deal will be paying you for your manuscript with an (ever dwindling) advance.

Worthless Marketing Services

Some places are selling marketing services to authors which have a very dubious value and an inflated price tag. Examples include Book Fair exhibitions and book review services.

Tip: Save your money for Amazon/Bookbub/Facebook ads.

Courses for Horses

Whilst writing courses are generally legit rather than scams, perform diligence before parting with your hard-earned cash. Is the course really worth what’s being charged? Is the person running the course a successful author in the genre you write in? Or are they a best-selling meta-author: someone who’s only sold books about writing books to people who want to write a book?

I’d point out there’s lots of good writing advice (and some bad) available for free on the internet. You won’t find it all in one place, but with a bit of work you can piece it together.

Universities and colleges also often offer writing courses for a more modest fee. The Open University has a free Creative Writing course for example.

Useful Resources

Writer Beware – The Blog. – Provides information on the latest publishing scams.

Self-Publishing Watchdog – Provided by the Alliance of Independent Authors. Also has a directory of vetted service providers.

Reedsy – Has a directory of bona fide publishing professionals.

Published inWriting
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