The Perils of Self-publishing

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I spent a year writing the four Self- publishing Guides books.  I wrote them because I was angry and decided to do something to prevent newbie authors from getting ripped off. 

Here’s why I did it.

I belong to a number of writing groups, both local and online.  I kept encountering complaints from writers trying to self- publish a book.  The complaints ranged from confusion about the process to getting ripped off by scammers.  I’ve talked to a number of writers who have lost money to vanity press publishers and to “publicity” and “marketing” offers.

I decided to use my experience to write a series of guides to demystify the self-publishing and book marketing processes.

self publishingMy motivation is the belief that the more authors understand the publishing and book marketing processes, the less likely they will be to fall prey to scammers.

Here are a few questionable “offers” I’ve come across.

How about a book contest in which the judges don’t read all the entries?  So you spend close to a hundred dollars to enter the contest and there is good chance no one will read the book.  I discovered this goodie by reading the fine print in the FAQS page for the contest website.

Another book contest warning.  Looking at the list of previous winners in one contest site, I noticed that every book category had winners published by a vanity press with a shady and notorious reputation.  So many vanity press winners screamed “collusion.”

One promotion offer I saw promised to build a Facebook page for your book and get hundreds of likes for the page.  All this for only a couple of hundred dollars.  Well, you can make a Facebook page in a matter of minutes even if you aren’t very computer literate.  It’s in Facebook interest to make it easy and to offer many help screens.  As to the likes, they will be from people who have no interest in you or your book.  These “likes” are not from potential customers.  As such, the “likes” are completely useless.

There are a number of indie publishers who will go to great lengths to disguise the fact that they are vanity press houses.  One sure tip-off is advertising.  If the publishing house is putting ads on web pages, it is an almost certainly a vanity press.  One publisher I checked out looked quite good (no fees, quick turnaround, free cover and editing etc.) until I go to the bottom of the page.  There was a short notice that authors were expected to buy 1500 copies of the book at book cost plus two dollars.  That’s three grand you were expected to cough up to the company with a total bill of over ten thousand dollars if the book costs five bucks to produce. And take a guess how much room all those books will take up.  At fifty books to a case, you will have to store thirty heavy cases of books.  You’d have to put an extension on the house or move the car out of the garage.

The point I’m making is that self-publishing authors are the target for these scammers and they are making a good living from ripping off unsuspecting authors.  If I can save an author or two from wasting money on the scammers by reading my books, then the effort was worth the effort.

One last piece of advice: Read ALL of the fine print on ALL the web site pages before you commit money.

Self-publishing Guides are available at all major eBook sellers.  For a list of links go to Strange Worlds Online.

2 Comments
  1. Carla Rosselini says

    Good advice, Hank.
    Yes, I’ve seen many colleagues fall prey to scammers, losing time and money while accomplishing nothing..
    I for one, will keep following your column (I know, I should buy your book too), and will recommend it further to my friends.
    Carletta

  2. Hank Quense says

    I too have seen the pain, lost money and lost time. However, all the blame can’t go to the scammers. The “clients” have a responsibility to check on these service providers. Spending money w/o doing a bit of research is plain dumb and the scammers will love you for it. Also not thinking about whether the service offered is worth the money isn’t too smart. Writers and authors have to think inn order to protect themselves.

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