Self-publishing Scams to Avoid

Self-Publishing Scams You Should Be Aware Of Before You Take The Next Big Step

Self-Publishing Scams You Should Be Aware Of Before You Take The Next Big Step

Once you have finished writing your book, you need to start planning the publishing part. There are two options available to you – self-publish your book or look for a traditional publisher. Most authors go for self-publishing services as traditional publishing is a lengthy process. Even though self-publishing looks like an easy way to go, there are certain things you should know if you plan to self-publish.

Like in every other industry, the publishing industry also consists of a few scams that one can fall for. As a first-time author, you should be aware of those publishing scams and prepare yourself to avoid them. In this article, we will discuss self-publishing scams and how to avoid such publishing companies.

What is Vanity Press?

If you know this industry well, you would know that vanity press is not suitable for authors. But what is vanity press? A vanity press is a company that publishes your book if you pay them. They are not bothered about what you have written. There are also no creative or editorial standards. It is a printing company that prints book for everyone.

They target first-time authors who are desperate to publish their book and pay anything to get it done. You must be wondering where is the scam here? The problem with vanity press is that they promise you that you get a quality book, out-of-the-box cover design, and excellent marketing services once you pay them. These are promising before you make the payment. However, once they receive the payment from you, they publish your book as cheaply as possible and pocket all the profit.

You must understand the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing. Traditional publishing is where the publishing company holds the rights to your book. You don’t have to pay anything to the publishing company, and they also take care of everything related to the book publishing.

In self-publishing, you pay for services like editing and publishing, but all the book rights and royalty belong to you.

Vanity press is somewhere between the two – they charge you and profit from your royalties.

What is Hybrid Publishing?

A hybrid publisher is another type in the publishing school that falls somewhere between traditional publishers and vanity presses.  With hybrid publishers, indie authors have to pay everything upfront and get a greater cut of royalties after they sell books.

Most of them advertise exactly what the scenario is- a 50% split on both production and royalties after the book sales. It is a promising scenario for an independent author, provided the intention is to publish a professional book.

The issue occurs when the vanity press decides to disguise and ride like hybrid publishers. Writers beware of this business model by a publishing company since they ask you to pay a massive amount for the book deal, including design, editing, printing, and taking the profits. But, don’t care about the book project, that is, the book’s printing quality, distribution services, or even care afterward how the book sells.

Writer beware of such frauds by self-publishing school, and it is ideal to go through the criteria given by Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) for hybrid publishers.

How and why do authors fall for vanity publishing?

Self-Publishing Scams You Should Be Aware Of Before You Take The Next Big Step

There are so many stories of authors who have suffered because of self-publishing frauds. It makes one wonder how authors fall for vanity presses? Below are some of the ways they make it happen:

1. High-pressure sales –

Once a vanity publisher gets your email or phone number, they will flood you with messages and emails. They will send you hundreds of follow-up messages and lure you into getting in touch with them. They will showcase the success stories of authors and tell you how they have helped hundreds of authors to become best sellers. Sooner or later, authors fall into the trap and go ahead with publishing with them.

2. Provide emotional validation –

Vanity publishers will tell the author that they only publish the best manuscripts. They have an editorial board that goes through every manuscript they receive and only selects the best one. The truth is they don’t have any filtering process, and they will publish a book even if it is half completed.

Once you submit your book, they play the emotional card and tell you that it has been shortlisted and approved by the editorial board. Authors tend to feel good about the whole process and get into the trap.

3. Play with the author’s insecurities –

Once an author fails to find a traditional publisher, some insecurities get in them. These vanity publishers prey on the author’s insecurities. They make you believe that publishing a professional book is not easy, and you cannot do it without a full-service publishing package. They will tell you that the fee is your investment and the returns are certain in the future. You cannot take care of all services on your own if you don’t buy their package.

4. Authors don’t know the truth –

You may have watched some videos that made you believe that self-publishing is difficult and self-publishing is easy. You may have also seen some videos where a self-published author claimed to have made handsome money publishing their own book. Book publishers share the same script with you, and authors go ahead without further research.

Self-Publishing Scams You Should Be Aware Of Before You Take The Next Big Step

List of self-publishing scams

It is easy to spot a vanity press in a crowd of self-publishing companies. All you need to do is understand the basics of self-publishing. Below are some self-publishing scams:

  • They ask for publishing fees –

It is the first red alert to look for in the book publishers. Yes, with self-publishing services, you need to make the payment for different services. However, some companies will even take part in your royalty. They will never mention it directly, but it there somewhere in the fine print.

For example, they will come in bold mention that 100% royalty for authors. However, somewhere in the agreement, they will mention a 20% processing fee for every order. It is a clear case of a self-publishing scam as with self-publishing, the self-publishing companies do not take even a single penny from selling books.

  • Book publishing on Amazon –

A new author would not know probably but publishing a book on Kindle Direct Publishing is super easy. Even if you are doing it for the first time, it won’t take more than a few hours to list your book on Amazon. Such a self-publishing company will make it appear as a big task and make a claim that ‘we will take care of everything.’ They will also charge an additional amount (a large amount) for this activity.

A genuine self-publisher will tell you directly it is an easy job and provide real author solutions and help you with it at no additional cost.

  • Charging a reading fee –

Whether you are self-publishing or going with a traditional publishing house, it is undoubtedly a scam if you come across a reading fee, and you should stay away from such companies. Though most people know it is a scam by book publishers, a handful of authors still suffer from such scams.

  • Buy you an ISBN –

They will tell you that buying an ISBN is a complicated process and need expertise. They will charge you for even getting the ISBN, which is the easiest step in self-publishing.

  • The promise of putting a book in bookstores –

It is a dream of independent authors to get their books in the bookstores. However, it is not that easy and is also a costly affair. A predatory publisher will scam you by telling you that they will put your book in all popular bookstores. Once you have made the payment, they will ask for an additional fee for placing the books in the bookstore. These book publishers scam you to believe that the service was free, only to find out later after the payment.

Self-publishing companies to avoid

We have talked about self-publishing frauds above. To help the authors further, below are publishing scammers to avoid. If you find the publishing companies that match the below points, you should avoid them straight away.

  • They want both upfront money and royalties –

When a book publisher asks you to pay an upfront fee to self-publish your book and share royalties, they are saying – We don’t want to take any risk on your book (upfront fee). However, if your book does well, we will reap the benefits through profit share. It would help if you avoided any discussion with such companies. These are not standard practices in the publishing world.

  • They don’t have enough samples to show –

You may not want to go with self-publishing companies that do not have enough examples of their published book. You may want to see their publishing quality and final product. Some companies (Vanity press) outsource the work to the cheapest freelancer and save the maximum part on every service. Just don’t look at the examples they are showing – those may be the only good work they have done. Look for everything they have done and see if there is consistency in the quality of work.

  • Big promises –

Some self-publishers may promise that they will make your book the next bestseller in the book publishing industry. Or the script is so good that if you market it correctly (give them more money for marketing), it can be converted into a feature film or a web series. Avoid the self-publishing company making such claims.

  • You make money by selling the book –

A vanity press will tell you not to worry about the initial cost as you will recover the cost by selling the book. The truth is indie authors do not make money by selling the book. Some do, but then you have to sell thousands of copies of your book. If the self-publishing company is misleading you, it is obvious they will on other points as well. This is a red flag that puts the publisher in the list-publishing companies to avoid.

  • The ownership is unclear –

In either case, the ownership is unambiguous – traditional publishers, a publisher, and self-publishing, it is with the author. A vanity press keeps ownership status unclear. If you see any grey area over ownership status, you should not get your book published with the company.


We have shared everything that will help new authors from self-publishing hoaxes. As an author, you would probably be willing to do everything to fulfill your dream of publishing a book. However, you should never rush and start the publishing process without doing research.

The scams are actual, and you may think you are doing the right thing but may end up getting tricked. Independent authors need to take care of the above points and do a quick google search of the self-publishing company, and you will avoid scams and get the best book publishing services.

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