Thursday, May 14, 2015

Publishing Scams and Dishonest Contracts --- Be a NINJA with Author Self Defense Skills

Okay authors, something serious here.

I'm going to expose a few publishing scams, but there are so many ways to scam an author that I can't list them all.

You need to have author self defense and self control.

My number one advice is this: HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
2. A publisher isn't going to make your dreams come true - even if having a publisher is your dream.
3. Publishers aren't God, they are business people.
4. Come up with a business plan BEFORE you get an agent or publisher. Then your agent or publisher should be your partner in business, not your boss.
5. Contradicting tip #4, YOU, that's right, YOU, are the boss! Make sure you have a contract that allows you to fire your agent or publisher if they are not doing their job.
6. RESEARCH every agent and publisher before submitting.
7. If an agent or publisher contacts you first, then stay on guard.
8. Talk with other authors that work with the publisher or agent. What was their experience?
9. Not all publishers are honest, not even all LDS or other Christian Publishers.
10. Know the industry as well as you know your book BEFORE you publish anything.

Following these tip will help you avoid most scams and traps that authors get caught up in. I know that these ten things are going to require a huge mind-shift for many authors.

So you get an offer from a publisher.
Most authors will SQUEE, make an announcement on social media, jump up and down, have a party with their friends, take their spouse out to a celebration dinner, max out credit cards (because soon they will be rich) etc.

That is about as wise as being asked on a date then you go home and make wedding plans.

Here are few scams to look out for:

Quick and Easy: (copyright theft)

You get an offer from a publisher SQUEEEE!
But in order to make this book more "marketable" they want to stick a name on the cover that is easier to pronounce. OR a name on the cover that is a man because books by women don't sell well (that is a lie BTW.)
The publisher comes up with a pseudonym or pen name for you.

So the book is published and you never get a pay check or the publisher disappears.
Turns out that that pen name was actually a real person and the so called publisher registered the book with the "false author" as the copyright holder through the Library of Congress.

Are you squeeeing now?

Now you have to get a lawyer and work with the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is very slow.

Quick and Easy #2: 

You get an offer from a publisher SQUEEEE!

They are a small publisher and can only do a small run (about 250 books.)
They have you sign and number each book. Kind of like how artist will number their paintings.

You find out that the publisher is not actually a publisher, but a collectible company. They get rare and hard to find books and sell them for lots of money.

They take your book and post it on ebay as "Rare, First Edition, Signed and Numbered by the author."

That's it. Your book is supposed to be rare and hard to find.

Quick & Easy #3:

The author is dead. They re-print the book, get a new cover, and put their name on the cover and make all the royalties.

Quick and Easy #4:

They borrowed someone else's money to print your books. Since they couldn't sell all your books, then they try to make you think you owe the lender money. They claim they don't owe you any royalties for anything they sold.

Quick and Easy #5: ( Sorry this is repetitive. Quick and Easy from Orem, UT. had lots of scams.)

I'm going to pay you all your royalties in company stock. Never mind its stock I printed off at home with a bad color cartridge. Its going to be worth a dollar a share someday and I just gave you a million shares.

Next Company:

New York Literary Agency and Writers Agency and many other names (all ran by Robert Fletcher)

Here is the Official Press Release:

Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced that his office filed a lawsuit against a Boca Raton company that allegedly preyed on aspiring authors. According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Writer’s Literary Agency and owner Robert Fletcher used more than 20 websites and related companies to collect funds from potential authors, but misled victims about fees, costs, and promised results.

The Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division received more than 175 complaints from around the world claiming Fletcher and his associates, who claimed to act as literary agents and publishers, allegedly collected money from victims anxious to see their work published. Potential writers paid anywhere from $89 for an initial critique to over $600 for various services including editing and marketing of a manuscript to publishers. Allegedly, Fletcher also told potential writers that fees were paid from book sales when in fact all costs of publishing were paid by the authors. According to the lawsuit, few books were ever sold as a result of the efforts of Fletcher’s companies.

Investigators determined Fletcher expanded into the field of publishing within the past year. Fletcher admitted to having no background as a literary agent and to using at least 10 aliases in his businesses.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief against Robert Fletcher and his associates, as well as his many businesses, prohibiting further business activities in the field of literary agencies or publishers. The Attorney General is also seeking full restitution on behalf of all victimized consumers, civil penalties of $10,000 for each violation of the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and reimbursement for fees and costs related to the investigation.

The lesson here is DON'T GIVE AN AGENT MONEY. Don't give a publisher money unless they are a partner publisher or vanity press. Even then, know what you're doing.

Poetry Book Scam

You've entered a contest. You didn't win, but someone wants to publish your poetry in a book. SQUEEEE!

All you have to do is pay $75 and they will send you a hard back copy of your book.

So you get a hard back in the mail and it turns out that 6,000 other poets paid $75 to be in the book too.

Even with the cost of printing, someone just made a ton of money.

This is an excerpt from:

" is making between 50-60 of these books per year with about 6,000 poems in each. Given that the book costs about $75, they are making over $22,000,000 per year on book sales alone! They give away one annual prize of $10,000 per year or about 0.0004% of their annual book sales. These guys are disgustingly cruel."


Unless this is for a fundraiser by an organization you trust, just don't do it.


Every author should send out books to beta readers and reviewers.
Sending e-books are great because it doesn't cost the author anything, unless you have a dishonest beta reader.

This happened to Rachel Ann Nunes.

This is her story here:

You can help fund her lawsuit here:

Unauthorized Sharing:

When you send out your manuscript before publication, make sure you mark them in some way.
What I do is make some small change to each manuscript to make it unique to each beta readers.

That way if it gets copied or spread I know who did it.

Let your readers know this copy is unique for them. That might help them avoid temptation to copy or share.
I always put their name in the heading.

This happened to Stephanie Meyer with her book Midnight Sun.

Here is an excerpt from her website:

"As some of you may have heard, my partial draft of Midnight Sun was illegally posted on the Internet and has since been virally distributed without my knowledge or permission or the knowledge or permission of my publisher.
I have a good idea of how the leak happened as there were very few copies of Midnight Sun that left my possession and each was unique. Due to little changes I made to the manuscript at different times, I can tell when each left my possession and to whom it was given. The manuscript that was illegally distributed on the Internet was given to trusted individuals for a good purpose."

We Want Your Money, Not Your Book 

Most often these guys are bad Vanity Presses vs. the Good Vanity Presses (Post coming soon about Good vs. Bad Vanity Presses)

They have no interest in your success and will accept just about anything.
They want to sell you services at a high price.

Unless you decide to go Subsidy or Partner Publishing, then don't give anyone money for anything.

We Pay Higher Royalties


Well, not really. This Print on Demand publisher wants you to pay for everything upfront, that's why they pay higher royalties. Most authors sell fewer than 100 copies.

Shady Contracts that Fine the Author

An author friend of mine called me up and was really upset because she wanted out of her publishing contract.

Apparently, they wanted to publish her and she squeed and sign a really large contract for a dozen books and book ideas for the future.

The publisher was horrible and after not even publishing one book she wanted out.
The publisher said, sure you can go, but we will fine you $200 per book title if you leave us.

Shady Contracts, First Right of Refusal

No one likes this, but so many publishers do it.

Fight to have this removed from your contract.

This is basically committing to them forever. Some publishers won't let you write anything again unless they can get a cut of profit.

For example: One LDS author with an LDS publisher wrote an article for a church magazine.
Because she didn't have "permission" and didn't let the publisher have first right to the article she was disciplined.

Regular Employer Contracts.

When hired, some employer contracts say that they own all intellectual property you create while employed with them. Some places say that if you do anything on company time, even brainstorming, it belongs to them.

Just watch this.

These are just a few scams. Scammers are creative and will be thinking of new ways to steal from you.

Remember to follow 1- 10 of the author self defense tips.

The most successful scams will appeal to your emotions or your "Author SQUEEE!"

Remember the survival saying: "Stay calm, stay alert, stay alive."

Please leave a comment. Let everyone know if you've heard of any other scams out there.
There are so many and we need to look out for each other.


  1. Great information Deirdra! Thank you.

  2. I squee'd. I'd signed a contract and was over the moon. Then I got all kinds of bad press for the company I was with. That poked a huge hole in my balloon. So the next book I gave them (first refusal thing) was one I didn't care as much about. I got a contract but didn't sign it yet, waiting to see how they'd treat me. Actually I'm pretty happy with them so far. They aren't timely and I do all the work, but I do have a book to show for it. I'm keeping much better records than I otherwise would have. We'll see.


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