Why “Free” Publishing Services Can Quickly Go Belly Up, and How They Can Keep Screwing Authors Years Later

Why “Free” Publishing Services Can Quickly Go Belly Up, and How They Can Keep Screwing Authors Years Later

Disclaimer: We own Abuzz Press, which does not charge authors any up-front fees. We offer this as a public service to some authors (no more than 10 each year). If that was our only business, we’d be out of business so we know what we’re talking about with regards to the article below. Our fee-based publishing service, BookLocker.com, is very successful, and has been for more than 20 years. Why? Because we have an outstanding reputation, and offer excellent services at an affordable price. At BookLocker, we break even on setup fees, and earn our profits on book sales. 

We learned of yet another “free” book publishing service last week. While these may seem tempting to some authors, those firms typically go belly-up pretty quickly. And, some end up ripping off their authors for years after the firm’s demise.

These “free” publishers are not traditional publishers. They don’t have professional editors, marketing departments, salespeople traveling to physical bookstores, etc. They’re simply offering formatting and design work, and distribution. They then collect royalties, and claim to share the authors’ portions with them…until they start to flounder. Then, the authors’ checks stop arriving.

The largest such firm to fail was PublishAmerica / America Star Books. You can read more about their downfall, and the huge mess they left, at the link above.

Of course, numerous fee-based publishing services have gone out of business as well and their numbers increase every year. You should only do business with a firm that has been in business for a LONG time (a decade or more), and that has an excellent reputation.

Why do “free” publishing services fail so quickly?

1. Offering something for nothing is a really dumb business model. How many services do you know that are thriving by offering something for nothing? Yeah… None.

2. They don’t know what they’re doing. While starting a publishing company from the ground up may seem like a respectable endeavor, just because you know how to build a website doesn’t mean you know how the publishing industry works. It’s not easy, and it takes years of knowledge, and a large financial investment, to make it work. Since any Tom, Dick, or Harry can build a website, there have been many people who assumed they could create a publishing company and succeed. They were wrong.

I recall a conversation I had with a wealthy individual several years ago. He told me that, a few years prior, he’d needed to dump some money for tax reasons. So, he paid somebody to build a website and he had his wife run it. Guess what she was doing? Yep! Running an online book publishing company. He admitted that she had no publishing experience when he “built that website for her.” He just needed to “keep her busy.” The business didn’t last more than a year. But, he made sure he got his tax write-off! And, of course, all of the authors his wife published were screwed over in the end.

3. They have grandiose assumptions about “all of the royalties they’re going to earn some day.” If they can just get a few books on the market, they can start raking in thousands in royalties each month, right? WRONG.

It takes a long time (years!) to build a catalog large enough to bring in respectable amounts in royalties. Any moron who thinks they can offer free services for a year, and then survive off the future royalties, is living a fantasy. Once they discover how ridiculous their idea was, they go out of business. And, their authors are left high and dry – with no books on the market, and no royalties coming in.

Here’s what you may not realize. Many of those firms keep the old books on the market even after they supposedly go out of business. They can shut down their website but they can, at the same time, keep their account with the distributor active. They can then spend years collecting money on book sales, but be unreachable by authors who want their books taken down so they can republish elsewhere. Of course, those companies are NOT sending the authors their share of the royalties.

4. Authors who don’t pay to have their books published typically don’t promote those books. Think about it. They have zero financial incentive to try to earn back their investment…because they didn’t make a financial investment in the first place.

We ran a test several years ago, privately offering our BookLocker services for free to a few dozen authors over a period of two years. These were authors who appeared, from the outset, to be very professional and driven. What we learned is that authors who don’t pay for publishing services are typically the ones who will quickly abandon their marketing activities – usually within just a couple or a few weeks.

In other words, authors who don’t financially invest in their own books are the first ones to abandon those books if they have a slow sales week. They also seem to have a lower perceived value of their own work. They don’t promote their book and then they think, “If nobody is buying my book, it must not be good so I’m just not going to promote it anymore.”

Many authors assume that they’ll start making money just because their book is on Amazon. Nothing could be further from the truth. Amazon has multi-millions of books for sale. The chance of someone stumbling upon your book is extremely remote. If you build it, they will NOT come unless you are actively promoting your book.

New “publishers” don’t know this, of course. Their assumption that they’re going to take a portion of each sale, and be able to survive on that, is dead wrong. And, these publishers aren’t doing any promotion for the books. If authors aren’t promoting their books, and if the publisher isn’t, either, book sales just aren’t going to happen.

5. Guilty by association. This type of business model involves pushing as many (often crappy) books on the market as quickly as possible. Publishers who do this are later shunned by libraries and booksellers. Of course, customer complaints will start piling up online as well. This hurts all of that firm’s authors in the end – even the serious authors who are actively promoting their own books. Imagine being embarrassed to tell anyone the name of your publisher. Yes, it happens. Don’t crawl into bed with a firm that publishes anything and everything.

6. Investors will only invest for so long. There really are some dumb investors out there who will look at a business model like the one described above, and, not knowing anything about the publishing industry themselves, will pour a few hundred thousand or more into the endeavor. (Some of these are also looking at the risk as a tax write-off.) Once the business model proves to be a failure, the investor is going to pack up, and move on. The publisher will still have payroll, rent, taxes, office supplies, utility expenses, etc. – all of the monthly costs required to run a business. But, with no more investment money coming in, no money from authors for the services, and very little in royalties, they’ll soon go out of business.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You get what you pay for. Do NOT use a “free” publisher.


Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.

About The Author


Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, 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).

Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises.

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.

Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)

See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.

ANGELA ON TWITTER https://twitter.com/AngelaHoy

BOOKLOCKER ON FACEBOOK - Provides links to free excerpts!



Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!

Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE

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2 Responses to "Why “Free” Publishing Services Can Quickly Go Belly Up, and How They Can Keep Screwing Authors Years Later"

  1. Donna Deines  June 24, 2021 at 1:39 am

    It is hard to find an honest publishing service. I was lucky to find Booklocker to republish my books. They know how I feel about Tate Publishing and Enterprise. Thank you for these outstanding articles to the public.

  2. Pamela Allegretto  June 19, 2021 at 2:05 pm

    Excellent article. Thank you!