Thursday, July 01, 2010

Beware of Book Publishing Spam

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Lately, my inbox has been plagued with a rash of emails with subject lines like "Help with your writing," "Book Publishing," "Publish your book with reliable services," "Publish your manuscript," "Learn how to publish," and "Do you have a story to tell?" It's spam, of course--advertising for pay-to-publish companies, which pay email marketing companies (a.k.a. spammers) to contact lists of harvested email addresses, in hopes of luring writers sign up with them. Those who are Internet or publishing-savvy are probably wise to this. But inexperienced new authors may not be.

Clicking the links in some of these spams (spammers keep track of clickthroughs, so the more you click, the more you'll be spammed) whisks you to faux price comparison/buyer guide websites (actually link farms) like this one or this one, where vanity publishers like Dorrance Publishing and publishing services like iUniverse and CreateSpace pay for advertising. You'd think that most people would know better than to trust such sites, but I regularly hear from writers who've purchased services (often to their regret) as a result of one of these links.

Links in other spams I've been receiving lead directly to Xlibris, a print-on-demand publishing service owned by Author Solutions Inc., which also owns AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and Trafford. Why only Xlibris, out of all the ASI brands, should be paying for spammage, I have no idea.

More insidious, and most numerous, are the spams that direct writers to websites such as ChooseYourPublisher.com ("Your book is your passion. It's important to select a publisher you can trust...Choose Your Publisher will help you find the publisher that best suits your personal publishing goals") and SearchForPublishers.com ("Designed specifically for budding authors, Search for Publishers gives you free access to an impressive array of options for anyone who wishes to publish a book"). Ostensibly, these websites are intended to match authors with appropriate publishers--but if you fill in the information forms, one of the first questions you encounter is how much money you're willing to "invest" in publication ("zero" is not an option), and the publishers with which you'll be "matched" are all POD publishing services.

Neither ChooseYourPublisher nor SearchForPublishers names an owner or sponsor.  SearchforPublishers has an anonymized domain registration, but a bit of websearching reveals that it's owned by PlattForm Advertising, which maintains a number of lead generation websites (a.k.a. tarted-up link farms). ChooseYourPublisher is registered to Author Solutions. This explains why ASI brands are the only ones on the website--but Writer Beware finds the lack of disclosure just a tad deceptive.

ASI owns another website, FindYourPublisher.com ("You've poured your heart and soul into writing your book; and you’ve long dreamt of the day when you will finally see your words in print"), which also "matches" writers with ASI brands. ASI does reveal that it owns FindYourPublisher and the companies it recommends; even so, many newbie writers may not be familiar with the ASI name, and will likely pay more attention to the references to "indie book publishing" that are plastered all over the site.

Spam isn't the only place you may encounter these faux comparison sites. Type "find a publisher" or "publish my book" or "book publisher" or "how do I get published" into a search engine, and they'll be the subject of sponsored links on the first page of your search (along with other pay-to-publish services). This is just one of several reasons why you shouldn't start your publisher search on the Internet.

Though you may be tempted by an email that promises to save you time and effort by matching you with just the right publisher, remember the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Or this one: There are no shortcuts.

15 comments:

M. C. Evers said...

Regarding Xlibris--this is one I have been wondering about. Why is a published author connected to it? Hearing something like what you mention in your post, and knowing that said connection exists has me a little confused and uneasy. Perhaps the author in question doesn't realize that's happening?

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

This goes to show, once again, that no matter how tempting the subject line may seem, any unsolicited commercial e-mail (i.e., spam) that comes into your in-box should be sent immediately, unopened, to that great bitbucket in the sky. Spam is spam, whatever disguise it is wearing.

fiona glass said...

The spammers are getting cleverer by the day, perhaps because they realise that word is finally getting round about unsolicited emails. I've seen several paid-for small-ads in respected journals, both writing (Mslexia) and otherwise (Private Eye) from POD publishers, vanity publishers, and publisher-author matching services.

Yet another trap for the unwary. :(

John Doggett said...

Xlibris, Authorhouse, iUniverse - they are all dreadful companies. I found Author Solutions new Palabrio, spanish company, another evil scam. I don't think these companies whould be congratulated as a "juggernaut" they are owned by thugs, run by thugs, with a libel suit against them that shows what nasty corrupt pieces of excrement they really are.

LivelyClamor said...

And then there are all those ads on the right hand column of one's Facebook feed. Facebook does not have the option of xing them out without an annoying popup box with a limited menu of why you don't like the ad, (not that they care) and then it'll just replace it with another annoying and deceptive ad. I don't even bother to click on them. I just wish they would all go away.

Shawn James said...

Anyone who sends spam to solicit customers isn't a good business to deal with. Shows how desperate Author Solutions is to get business from authors who want to self-publish.

Xlibris, Authorhouse, iUniverse create poor quality books with text crammed together, poorly designed covers, and next to no support for twice the price. Plus they charge more than a market rate for their titles; who's going to pay $18.95-$21.95 for a paperback at retail?

The self-publishing market has changed in this age of broadband internet. No one really needs these POD publishing companines anymore to create a book. With a little research, authors can find some more affordable options like Lightning Source that will allow them to print their titles for under $5-6 a copy.

Andrea Coleman said...

I created a new account for the specific purpose of querying agents. I sent one, count it, one query before I started getting spammed all over the place.

Steve said...

I'm surprised that you include CreateSpace in your discussion of questionable publishing services. I have not had occasion to deal with them, but I've never heard anything that suggests they use deception in marketing their services.

They are owned by Amazon, and although I don't hold up Amazon as my personal ideal of an ethical company, I do believe they are too concerned with their reputation in the industry to associate themselves with an openly disreputable publishing service.

-Steve

Victoria Strauss said...

Steve, I don't consider CreateSpace questionable. But it is a fee-based service, and the subject lines and text of these spams encourages writers to believe it's a real publisher. So it's the advertising that's questionable, rather than the service.

Suzanne H. Patton said...

This is an excellent blog post on what to watch out for :) I thought it so helpful, I went ahead and made it a staff pick at the writing forum I help with: www.youngwritersociety.com I'm sure our members will appreciate it!

Michael LaRocca said...

I fell for quite a few scams about 20 or 30 years ago. To see some (most) of them still going makes me sick. Especially since that means aspiring authors are still falling for it.

Keep on blogging!

Robert Connor said...

I've seen a lot of similar spams.

Chetan said...

So where do you think we should start our publishers search from? Because for the country I live in, you hardly get any publishers, so it is important to know that.

Linda Fraker said...

Regarding Holy Fire Publishing, I just got a book published through them and also signed up for the marketing of it. Was very dissatisfied with their efforts to marketing it and "Note" when they do a color iterior of a book they do not offer hard back. This was a big let down to me as after I signed up with them, I found this out. So, Writer Beware!

Anonymous said...

What if you went on the website chooseyourpublisher.com and didn't put your real name but the rest is true? What should you do?