Scammers. They’re everywhere. They find something normal and work to exploit those who don’t pay attention to the fine print. Scammers especially exist in the publishing world and I’d like to share a few examples here without specifically calling anyone out.
I get it. You want to get your story out there as quickly as possible. I used to think that way too until I started reading the fine print on both publisher’s web pages and the ones for literary agents. I began noticing a few trends of things that I questioned immediately. Just the other night I was laying on my bed, flat on my stomach with my feet dangling over the end tapping to my music, and my head just did that “tilt sideways” thing when you go, “Huh? Really?”
Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m no expert. Heck I’m not even published yet. But I’m learning so many things whether it’s just by straight up asking other people or questioning it myself. If you’re a writer you’ll understand things just take time in general. Even finding potential representation. Research that representative or publishing house before inquiring. If they stand for something you don’t agree with, move along home. You aren’t obligated to submit something to them just because you read their web pages backwards and forwards.
There I go with my digressing again. Let’s get back on track, shall we? Listed below are three scams I’ve come across in my agent/publisher search that just don’t look right.
- Authors sharing the financial risk (as well as the rewards).
Sure, I understand paying for an independent editor to take a look at my manuscript before submitting it for publication consideration. I understand, if I’m self-publishing, spending $300+ for a professional book cover design or ebook formatting. Those make sense to me, especially if you’re not skilled enough to do so yourself. But sharing the financial risk? Does that mean you’re going to make my bank account go in the negative if something doesn’t go right? Later on in their same description they also write, “There is a lower risk than […].” Why should I be this concerned about risk? It sounds like they’re trying to scare potential authors away from the full traditional side of the business. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought authors didn’t pay agents upfront unless the book is published and there’s an agreement with royalties and all that jazz? Let me know in the comments below if that’s truly the case…
- Paying them to print (or reprint) your book.
Recently I blocked an account from my Instagram. I don’t generally do that unless you’re creepy or are clearly a “buy instafollowers” account, but when I took a look at their website the red flags were ALL OVER the place. The first thing that caught my eye: the fact that they “accepted all major credit cards” as payment. Their long laundry list of things they’ll do for you was impressive, but I’d also consider looking up a complaint history for them. Yelp, BBB, even just a general Google search. There all there for you to use and come to your own conclusions. If their list of complaints is longer than what they can do for you, run. If they want to reprint (apparently that’s a thing) your already published book, run. You get the picture!
- Companies that solicit you to publish your work.
Red flag, red flag, red flag! Cold calling is annoying as a whole, but when it’s something that’s actually relevant to your dream of being an author it’s even more annoying. Normally, traditional publishing houses dive into manuscripts you send in for consideration (or through your agent), accepting or denying those manuscripts, and contacting you with their decision. It shouldn’t be the other way around.Another red flag I’ve found is sloppy work on their own websites. I mean, really now, look at the screen shot from this one site:
I was the one who highlighted that section, but they don’t even seem to care enough to update this part or at least delete it. Now it could just be an innocent misstep and they forgot to do something about it, but it does make one wonder how often they look at things after setting the site up. Sloppy work doesn’t instill much confidence. Not at all.
The biggest takeaway is this: do your research. When I worked in retail I always told my customers that if something looks too good to be true, it usually is. If someone solicits you, do your research. If someone follows you on social media and they seem like an interesting contact, do your research. If someone…well, I think you get my drift. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, whether if it’s a mentor of yours or the other person directly. If they never answer or skirt around, giving you alternatives or avoid you in general, scam.
The worst part, I think, is that if communication begins fabulously – they’re eager to answer anything, consistently reply and you come to an agreement about something, there is always the chance they may actually fall off the face of the Earth once they have your work. That’s always the risk. In this tech-centered world it’s like online dating. You could talk for months, think you know them, only to find out you’re being cat fished.
Or they can be legitimate, kind and a perfect match for you. I hope you find your perfect matches in the literary world. Someone who believes in your work, in you as a person, and will fight for you as much as you do them. It’ll take some time. I know I’ve talked a lot about running from things in this particular post but scams aren’t always clean, clear, cut and dry entities. Sometimes they look and act completely legitimate until you sign that agreement. I’m just starting my search. So happy hunting, and don’t get cat fished!
Don’t get agenished either.
See what I did there?