Slick sales talk and false praise will always draw in a certain percentage of the gullible population.
For vanity publisher salespeople, it can be difficult to find folks who are in the process of writing a book, or who are considering writing a book. But, after someone has published their book, it’s very easy to find those books and, subsequently, those authors online. I’m not going to tell you the simple method these folks use to find these authors because I don’t want to give other scammers any ideas. I can tell you, however, that it’s very easy, and only takes a few seconds. Unfortunately, new authors are frequently the target of spammers and scammers. Many authors report receiving spam from a variety of firms shortly after their books were released.
And, it happened again this week. One of our authors asked about terminating their contract. They said they were contacted by a “reputable publisher.” I first assured them our contract at BookLocker.com is non-exclusive, and can be canceled at any time. But, I’ve seen this type of victimization of authors before so I, of course, searched for that firm’s name on Google. I wanted to save this particular author from the heartache others have endured. What I found didn’t surprise me.
Not only was this firm not a “traditional publisher,” but they were also FAR from reputable. In fact, they have created quite a nasty reputation for themselves, based on comments under a warning article posted about them from none other than industry watchdog Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware. One person in particular reported spending THOUSANDS, and then only earning a couple hundred in royalties.
I’m not naming this particular firm because authors need to be wary of ANY firm that contacts you after your book has been published, lavishing you with false praise and empty promises, while attempting to separate you from the publisher to whom you have already paid hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of dollars.
This nasty “publisher” (and I do use that term lightly) convinces authors to first terminate their existing contract. They force authors to purchase far more books up front than they’ll ever be able to sell. They also promise a variety of services (that some accuse them of never performing). Of course, all of this occurs after the author has lost their previous contract, and thrown away their initial investment…so they’re screwed.
So, fellow authors, if your book is already in print, and if someone contacts you with a deal that appears too good to be true, it probably is. Unless you’re being offered a contract from a large traditional publisher (one a literary agent will need to negotiate for you!), you’re very likely about to be ripped off.
One way to weed out these jerks is to call their bluff. Ask them to send you all their terms and a copy of their contract in writing, up front, so your “literary agent” and “attorney” can both review them. No question and answer by email. No chit chat. No false praise. Don’t even let them get started with that! Just email this in response to their spam: “Send me your contract and all your terms in writing now so I can forward them to my literary agent and attorney.”
Some will ignore you, and will continue to try to chat you up, become your friend, etc. That’s what professional salespeople do! Friend first = sale later. Most of them will either stop responding, or will withdraw their offer. Others will tell you that you don’t need an agent or an attorney (that’s a huge red flag so RUN!), and/or will try to continue to negotiate with you, not providing you with their contract in writing, while only offering vague promise after vague promise…but, again, nothing in contract form. Don’t fall for the continued sales jargon. Don’t even listen to it. These bottom feeders are professionals at reeling authors in, and emptying their pockets.
When our authors have fallen for this scam in the past, they were able to return to BookLocker by just paying a $99 reactivation fee. We simply reactive the title at Ingram and at the printer, rebuild the online listing on our website, reactivate the ebook listings at the ebook retailers, and start selling the book again. It’s easy. Some authors can’t return, however, because the contract they signed with the bottom feeder was exclusive, and encompassed several years.
Unfortunately, even when I explain these types of scams to authors, some of them refuse to believe they’re being victimized, and proceed with the bad deal. You’ve probably read about those people who think they’ve won a lottery. They send a check in order to pay a processing fee to get their winnings, and then the scammers tell them to send another check, and another one. The victim keeps thinking if they send in just one more check, they’ll get their winnings. Of course, there never were any winnings in the first place.
Likewise, when some folks are “promised” a great deal, and told they’re going to be a star (false praise!), they refuse to believe anyone other than the salesperson (scammer) because they want so badly to believe that their book will be on bookstore shelves across the country, and will even be a “bestseller.”
Playing on someone’s vanity is a powerful tool when tricking people into forgetting common sense, and ignoring numerous complaints posted online about a firm. They think they’re the ONE author who the firm is going to be honest with, and will treat fairly. They think they’re the one author who isn’t going to be ripped off.
It’s sad but many folks can’t believe they’ll ever be a victim. Since so many authors are seniors who are desperate for literary success in their golden years, or who are lonely and just want someone to talk to them (even a slick salesperson), or who may simply not realize how easy the Internet has made it for scammers, the scam easily continues.
When these authors don’t heed our gentle warnings, we usually hear back from them months later with their tale of woe – how they spent thousands of dollars to a second “publisher,” but found they were right back where they started – with a Print on Demand book listed on most of the same sites, like Amazon, and selling about the same as the previous version (which they usually paid far less to publish.) Except now they have a garage full of books gathering dust. Of course, any sales are usually coming from the author’s efforts, not from the new publisher’s. The bottom feeder got their money already by forcing the author to purchase far too many copies up front. Once they’ve drained that author’s wallet, they move on to the next victim.
Some of these firms don’t force an author to purchase copies up front, but instead request an “investment” (pre-payment!) of several thousand dollars, claiming they will match the investment with their own money (a “partnership,” “co-op publishing,” or any other of a variety of confusing terms they use for these types of marketing ploys). Don’t be fooled. Publishing a book is VERY inexpensive now. If you pay a firm $5,000, that’s far more than they need to get your book on the market, and even to do some promotion. They don’t need to match your funds at all and are, in fact, likely pocketing what’s left over of your money. Good luck getting an honest accounting of their expenditures if you get suspicious of their “matching investment.” You’ll likely never be able to prove you were scammed in that manner.
Some take the author’s money, and never deliver any book at all. Those are the worst of the worst. Those authors end up with empty pockets, and no book on the market.
So, if your book is already on the market, and somebody spams you with praise and too-good-to-be-true promises, be very, very wary. You are likely one of hundreds of authors they are spamming that day. Follow the advice above, and DON’T become their next victim!
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela.
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See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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