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.