It seems like every year, more and more scams are making the rounds, especially in the self-publishing world. Indie authors are often targeted because of their vulnerability. That’s why it’s important to learn about the self-publishing industry before shelling out any money. This post by no means covers everything you need to avoid scammers, but it’ll at least equip you with a few tips on what to watch out for and how to arm yourself against being taken advantage of.
Know and understand the services you need.
Before hunting through services, know what you need. Take the time to understand what it takes to produce a professional book and what your publishing options are. The more you know about the publishing process and the different services that are available to you, the better.
Research the services you’re interested in.
Whether you’re looking up freelancers or companies, you should be able to read reviews/testimonials, view samples of their work, request a quote or easily find their fees, and peruse their social media and/or websites. As far as companies go, you should be able to find information about their formation on websites such as Bizapedia. When it comes to websites, you should also be able to learn when their domain (their web address) was registered, and each website should have a current copyright date at the bottom of the page. If you find their domain is relatively new (within a month or so), you should conduct further research before continuing. If information about them is hard to come by, that’s another red flag. Experienced freelancers and companies should want you to learn more about their services, so they’ll make that information available on their websites or social media. Even if they don’t have the best SEO yet, they should still appear in search engines if you research them specifically. You can put “scam,” “complaints,” or “ripoff” after a freelancer’s or company’s name in a search bar to see if they’ve been reported. TrustPilot and the Better Business Bureau are good resources for finding reviews and complaints about various companies.
Pay attention during correspondence.
If you’re speaking, emailing, or messaging directly with a person, take note of their grammar, spelling, and punctuation (if applicable). Legitimate services rarely make mistakes along those lines, and while it does happen, it may be a warning sign that the person you’re dealing with isn’t the real deal or that they at least aren’t the most experienced or professional. You should also be aware of what terminology they should be using. This is where tip #1 comes in. The best way to figure out if someone else knows what they’re talking about is to have knowledge of the subject yourself. You can ask them questions specific to their line of work to test their knowledge, and if their answers come up short or they begin to get flustered, you know you’re conversing with someone who may not be the best fit for the job . . . or who’s an outright scam. Also, even “established” companies may not have your best interests in mind. Only further investigation, including reading their terms and conditions, can determine if a company is a good fit for you.
Beware of hybrid publishers (aka vanity presses).
If you want to pay to publish your book, that’s entirely your decision. However, know what you’re giving up before signing that contract. Vanity presses are merely a middleman that will take a cut of your earnings simply for doing something you’re perfectly capable of doing yourself. Depending on the contract terms, they may even take over your rights. Never sign a contract before reading it. If you want handholding through the process of publishing and distributing your book, we at 1106 Design will do that without taking one cent of your royalties. We’re happy to work with you to produce a quality product without taking creative control or any rights from you. You don’t need to rely on sketchy, parasitic services to make your publishing dreams come true.
Be wary of contests, awards, and other submission calls.
There are legit contests, awards, and submission calls out there, but choose wisely and read the fine print. As we discussed in this previous post, there are red flags you should watch out for, including exorbitant and bogus fees. Take note of what rights you’re giving away, as well. Some magazines and journals, for instance, claim all rights to your work.
Don’t fall for ISBN scams.
ONLY Bowker is the official ISBN agency for the United States. Any other company claiming to sell ISBNs in the US is a scam, and you should only go through Bowker’s own website (https://www.bowker.com/) to purchase them. Along those same lines, your ISBNs should be in your name only. If you don’t open your Bowker account or make the purchase, you won’t be the registered publisher. To learn more about ISBNs and why they’re important, you can visit our previous post here.
Stay in the loop.
Last but not least, subscribe to industry newsletters such as Writer Beware, the Alliance of Independent Authors, Publishers Weekly (BookLife is their branch for indie authors), Kindlepreneur, and Jane Friedman to stay on top of tips, trends, and warnings. If you don’t want more emails in your inbox, you should periodically check out their blogs. We offer our own newsletter, as well. You can subscribe here.