Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Unfortunately there are sharks circulating in the waters of the publishing industry. They thrive in the online world and their websites look legitimate to unsuspecting writers. This is not a recent phenomenon as so-termed ‘vanity publishers’ have been around for ages. However, the Internet is the ideal environment for these pretend traditional publishers to scoop up more ‘fish’ in their nets.
How to spot the online publishing sharks? They give a glossy impression with well-designed websites making them look as professional and credible as a traditional publisher. They usually feature long lists of their authors and the books they have published.
While they look like a traditional publisher, to find out the differences we must discuss how they make their profits. In the case of traditional publishers, their objective is to publish best-selling books because selling lots of books is how they recoup their investment and make a profit. The pretend traditional publishers are not dependent on selling lots of books because they make their profits out of their authors, upfront and guaranteed. Behind the gloss and spin, these look-alike publishers are not what they appear to be.
Three ways to check whether you are dealing with a traditional (i.e. commercial) publisher or the pretend type are:
Do a Google search on the name of the publisher, such as ‘reviews of XYZ company’ and see what ‘stuff’ comes up. Another useful generic search is ‘publishers to avoid.’
Is the invitation to submit your work over-the-top enthusiastic and encouraging? If so, they are not a traditional publisher because they infrequently accept unsolicited manuscripts and prospective authors are required to go through the intermediary of a literary agent.
Should you go as far as submitting your manuscript to one of these companies and subsequently receive a letter of offer wherein the company requires you to pay them a large amount of money UPFRONT ($4,000 to $10,000 or more) to publish your book, you know to drop them immediately.
A traditional publisher will never ask an author for money, whether upfront or at any time throughout the process. If they decide to publish your work, they will take a business risk and invest their capital into the editing, design, production, printing, marketing and distribution of your book.
In addition, there are often other significant drawbacks with some of these 'hybrid' publishers which can include poor to mediocre quality in the design, editing and formatting processes, lack of communication and long delays in the production of the book (months that stretch into years.) Literally the company does not care how long it takes to publish your book because they have already made their money out of you, the author.
In my view, the one and only reason a writer would even think about signing with one of these "pay-us-upfront" publishers is if he/she is very well-off financially and money is no object.
In summary, if a publisher asks you for a large sum of money upfront as a condition of publishing your book, walk away and do not engage with them further.
Obviously in this blog article I cannot name the publishers to which I am referring (and some are more egregious than others). If you would like more information, I am happy to share what I know. You can reach me - Lynne Lloyd - via the contact form on this website or via phone or text on 0421 998749.