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  • Writer's pictureluisaraegan

8 Red Flags You Are About To Sign With A Vanity (scammer) Publisher.

“A publisher is interested in my book,” is a common post I see in the writing community, and I can't help but burst with pride hearing this exciting news from my fellow writing peers. However, my excitement sometimes turns to heartbreak when I realize they have signed with a vanity or 'hybrid' publisher, aka, scamming publishers.

Sadly, I have seen a great deal of posts like this in recent weeks, so with advice from my trusted mentor author Joe Powers, I have written this guide to help fellow authors distinguish between a true publishing company versus a vanity 'hybrid' publisher in the hopes it will spare both emotional and financial strain.

Scammers get away with their scams because they are good at manipulating their victims. They promise the world and while it may seem like a good deal it is not.

Just like how elderly people are duped into paying money when they have “won a cruise” these scammers do the same thing to authors. They take advantage of their dream to be a published writer, promising the world, and by the end, the author is left the fool.

You should never have to pay a cent to publish your novel, and even if they say they are going to do all the marketing for you and get it on bookstore shelves, they won’t. Same goes for travel contests. You never have to pay a cent when you win a contest, and winning a publishing deal is no different. In the end you’ll have no beautiful cruise to take and you’ll have paid for it.

Google search anyone or any "publishing" company that approaches you. Doing a simple google search can go a long way to protecting you, and revealing the truth about these so called "publishers".

Many of these hybrid publishers have horrific reputations and those who have been victims are not shy to express their experience. If you see any such comments or articles on the publisher you’re looking to sign with, run away.

Once your contract is signed, sealed, delivered, your book from edit to on the shelf will take at minimum a year for small presses and up to two years with the big five presses. If you sign with a “publisher” that states your book will be out in mere months, that’s a huge red flag that they have no intention of properly marketing or selling your book.

“With vanity publishers, there's no need for downtime because they aren't doing anything to the book", horror author Joe Powers attests.

“You can pay for your own editor and cover artist to self publish and be further ahead” then signing with a vanity press.

“There's no way you’ll make a fraction of what you paid back. The "publisher" isn't going to promote your book, because they already made an insane amount of money from you.”

  • For more tips and tricks, sign up for Joe's Class "Crafting the Short Story", which includes an in depth segment on this very topic.

"Traditional publishers typically only hold you on contract for two years or so, unless you’ve signed on to do a series with them."

“Vanity publishing contracts tend to be excessively long, so you can't just wait it out and go elsewhere. They will let you out of your contract, for a fee, of course. Some vanity press I’ve seen demand 7-10 years. Too long either way. You can do a lot of damage in 7 years.”

"Never give away your copyright. Anyone who asks for that is a scammer. Remember, you're not actually selling your book. You're licensing the right to publish it for a period of time. Whenever that period ends, you still own your book”

"Be wary of contract clauses that say state something like" if your book doesn't hit expected sales targets, you will have to buy back all the stock your book we printed.This is a huge red flag".

"We live in a print on demand world. There are no warehouses full of cases of unsold books anywhere”

“Most legit publishers are willing to haggle on terms, or at least offer a good reason why they can't or won't. I've asked for revisions to contracts and gotten them. Just have to remember they're in business and want to make money. So they're flexible, but only to a point.”

“Many vanity pubs don't actually write their own contract. They pick and pluck pieces from other contracts they find online, stuff that sounds interesting to them. You'll see different language, and sometimes, if they're really lazy, even different fonts within a contract.”

Most small presses will give a quarterly sales report and the big five would probably give even more frequent sales reports.

"If your publisher refuses to send you a sales report they have something to hide. If they're slow on payment and either give excuses or don't respond to you, there's a chance you're getting the runaround."

Don’t fall for these scammers no matter how glorious it seems. Google search, ask your writing friends or the writing community on social media before you sign away your livelihood and dreams of being a successful published author. It will only crush your spirit.

We writers yearn for one thing - to get our books on the shelves and have success, and although it is a long tough road these days in the publishing world, don’t go to these means to have your book published.

Be patient, take your time and if you put in the time and work, you will be rewarded. Whether it’s though self publishing or traditional publishing. Don’t ever let anyone take advantage of you.

For more insight into crafting stories and advice about the publishing world, sign up for Joe Power's online classes offered through the University f New Brunswick (links below).

A big thanks to my friend and mentor Joe Powers for his insight and advice!

Please checkout Joe's website!

About Joe:

Joe Powers is a Canadian horror writer and long-time fan of all things scary. From his introduction to the genre on a stormy Saturday night at the age of six - his first viewing of Bride of Frankenstein - he's been hooked. Among his many inspirations he lists Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Michael Crichton, Rod Serling and Richard Matheson.

Joe enjoys introducing the reader to flawed, believable characters and leading them on dark journeys with an unexpected twist. His work has appeared in various anthologies and collections, both at home and abroad. He’s published two novels, Seventeen Skulls, a paranormal crime thriller, and western/horror crossover Terror in High Water. In his spare time he's an avid hockey fan and creative writing instructor. He lives in New Brunswick with his wife, Sheryl, and an assortment of furry creatures. Follow Joe at

Online Workshops By Joe:

Crafting the Short Story

Writing Horror: The Dark Side

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