Have you ever been conned into something-even though you're an intelligent being and could probably quote Oscar Wilde or give a dissertation on the genetic structure of an Asian gnat and how it compares to the modernization of world economics? P.T. Barnum said it best, "There's a sucker born every minute" and in the writing game, it's no different. There are predator editors/publishers out there to take your hard earned work and do some serious damage to your wallet. It is hard to know, I'll grant you that dear reader, it is hard to know who is legit and who isn't.
I know when I spent months upon months on my first novel, like everyone else I dreamed about how well it would be received and seeing my book on a shelf at book stores (Yes, Virginia, book stores exist) and doing book signings. Like so many, I've witnessed the instant success of authors like J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, Dan Brown, and countless others. It is not impossible-but like the lottery, know that it may not happen as quickly to you as it did them. Be ready for rejections. Most well known authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Stephen King, Robin Cook, and even Dr. Seuss, went through countless rejections before getting their first books published. For all us Indie writers, it is a long road. Be ready to be in it for the long haul on barefoot. These predator editors/publishers are called Vanity Presses. I'll say it again, V-A-N-I-TY PRESSES. Why are they called vanity presses? The answer is simple: they only care about themselves not YOU.
Vanity Presses will present this carefully crafted offer that sounds too good to be true. They usually have a great looking website and showcase authors who have had hoards of success. Publish America-the one I was taken advantage of, even claimed that one of their authors had their book made into a movie. Twenty-four hours after I sent my manuscript, they had accepted it and sent me a contract. READ ANY AND EVERY CONTRACT CAREFULLY-READ IT MANY TIMES OVER-IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND IT OR THERE IS JUST TOO MUCH SMALL PRINT-THEN THIS IS YOUR FIRST RED FLAG. Usually Vanity Press contracts will be vague, wordy, offer commission on only a certain amount of books-but will not reveal the conditions to which they will pay for. Publish America will not mail you a check until you've gotten at least $500 in sales-but only on books YOU don't buy or books that have been returned or books they deem as "for advertisement purposes only". They will not go over price points. I wrote a book that was under 500 words, paper back, and Publish America sells it for anywhere between $39.95 to 29.99. Contracts through these presses are extensively long. My contract with Publish America is for 7 years. If I want out of my contract I have to pay almost $300 dollars. These presses do not want you to buy out your contract even if your book is not selling or has not sold one copy. I asked for a complete statement of exactly how many copies I had sold and they told me that they do not have such records. They only send statements per quarter. To this date, I have only seen two statements and I signed with them in 2010. A legit publisher will only want to contract a few years at a time for a book. A legit publisher will have a contract that is clear, concise, and to the point. Legit publishing companies no matter how big or small WANT you to make money and sell books because that is the only way THEY make money or recoup on their investment in publishing your book. Know your publisher!
Another trick these so called publishers use is that they will send you endless promotions on how to better get your book out there if you buy so many copies of your own book or pay some sort of charge. A legit publisher when you submit your manuscript and they accept it will go through it with a fine toothed comb before even publishing it. They will then format it for either E-Book or book format with a cover that has been approved by yourself and the publisher. Most vanity presses will charge or want to charge for E-Book formats, translations, and to "put your book out in the book market". Go to any book store and look on the back or in the front cover and see how many of these Vanity Presses actually have books listed with a store's merchandise. Chances are you will never find a book published by Publish America, Children's Literacy Agency, The Abacus Literacy Agency, The New York Literacy Agency, and countless others. Their business model is NOT to get you out into the mass markets but to simply get the money from you-the author. They feed you more and more promises, packages, and "opportunities" for X amount of dollars. How can they do it and it not be illegal? That is the question, isn't it. Most of these scam publishers find loop holes in the law and squeak through or they simply change names. Talk about a pyramid scheme, right? Again, while promotion is not the ultimate responsibility of the publisher-they are going to get your book anywhere and everywhere they possibly can and they're not going to ask you for a dime.
When I signed with Publish America, the first offer I got was if I paid $199, my book would be showcased at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. I almost sent that money-I was dying to do anything to get my book out there, yet there was a nagging inner voice that told me to do some homework. I was glad that I did because after much online research AND six international calls to Germany (which I took only three years of basic French-and not all Germans understand English) I found that Publish America was not even listed as a sponsor nor did they even have a booth. This was only the first of "offers" to different book events. What I found that they do-they simply have someone to stand out and identify themselves as Publish America and they are considered as being "part of the event". It's kind of like when you go to sporting events and you have people that stand outside selling tickets or something with a team's logo-it doesn't make them part of the team or even an employee of the event but it notes that their presence was there. Now there are some that buy into these offers and show up. They get a small little space and probably sell a few books. Keep in mind these books are bought by the author and very seldom do these authors recoup their investment. Many times they don't even break even. Publishers like Publish America are NOT going to send books to these events UNLESS the author(s) have not bought them at full or at a small discount including shipping first and none of these books are going to be considered "royalty eligible".
I could go on and on about these blights on writers and the publishing world but I think you get the picture. At least, I hope you are getting the picture. Being a victim of one of these vanity press predators is no fun and it can gut you as an author, but don't lose hope or faith. DO NOT LOSE YOUR PASSION FOR WRITING! Keep on writing because all it takes is for one legit publisher to publish your book to get your foot in the door. Make sure you edit your manuscript and when you submit to publishing companies, FOLLOW THEIR SUBMISSION GUIDELINES TO THE LETTER! Publishers will not even give you a second thought or even put you in their slush pile if you have not went by their guidelines. Those guidelines are there for a reason. It's often been said, "Less is more" and in the publishing game, that is true. Don't make the mistake of sending more than what those guidelines ask for. Most legit publishers do not need for you to write them your life's story or for you to send them more of your manuscript than they ask for. In truth, most publishers only will read just a few sentences to the first few pages. If you can't hook them in that amount-they're not going to keep reading. Remember, most legit publishers are getting submissions by the hundreds every day of writers just like you who want to get that golden ticket. Remember, it took Thomas Edison over 10,000 tries before he got the light bulb right and he said, "I have not failed. I found 10,000 ways that won't work." So while you make go through countless rejections-do not give up. Keep writing, keep dreaming, and keep working hard.
VANITY PRESS PREDATORS/SCAM PUBLISHERS TO WATCH OUT FOR AND SPREAD THE WORD ON
American Book Publishing, ABP
Desert Rose Literacy Agency
The Novel Literacy Agency
Publish America LLC
Oak Tree Press
Poetry.com/International Library of Poetry
The Robins Agency
University Press of the South
The Writers Literacy Agency aka The Children's Literacy Agency aka WL Poetry Agency
Global Book Agency
Publish On Demand