Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

July 26, 2018

How Predatory Companies Are Trying to Hijack Your Publisher Search


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

If you've completed a book and are looking for a publisher, you might think it makes sense to turn to Google. You aren't alone. "How to get published," "how to find a publisher," and "how to get a book published for the first time" are all popular internet search phrases.

This is not a great idea.

While such searches turn up excellent resources (such as Jane Friedman's Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published), a lot of what you'll see on the first couple of pages (which is as far as most people look), is useless or worse.

For instance, ads from vanity publishers, like Dorrance and Austin Macauley, and predatory author services companies, like Bookwhip and Readers Magnet.


A good rule of thumb: real publishers don't buy Google ads.

Another trap: listings for faux consumer guides like TopConsumerReviews.com, where overpriced author services companies like Xlibris and Outskirts Press pay for advertising, and misleading "Top 10" lists like this one or this one, which are really just a bunch of pay-per-click affiliate links. (There's a reason why so many of these sites list the same companies.) Be skeptical in general of any resource that claims to list the Top Anything--at best, this will be subjective and incomplete--or that presents itself as a consumer resource (unless you can verify that it is, in fact, a consumer resource).

Most insidious are the websites that purport to match you with appropriate publishers in exchange for information about yourself and your book. To name just a few: SearchForPublishers.com ("Designed specifically for budding authors"), NeedPublishingHelp.com ("We work to connect authors with the right people"), DiscoverPublishers.com ("Have publishers compete for your new book!"), and FindPublishingHelp.com and its UK cousin ("A free service that delivers the best publishing matches to writers and prospective authors").

The true purpose of these sites isn't to provide helpful guidance to writers, but to generate leads for author services companies and vanity publishers, which either pay for listings or buy the information gathered through the forms writers fill out. (FindPublishingHelp.com discloses this fact, kind of, but none of the others do.) That's why they want your phone number and mailing address, and why many of them ask how much you're willing to pay for publication. If you go through the process of filling out the forms, you'll either be promised direct contact from "interested publishers" (read: relentless phone solicitations from author services companies), or given a list of "personalized" recommendations--all of which are pay-to-play.

For instance, here's what you get from DiscoverPublishers.com:


And here are some familiar names, courtesy of FindPublishingHelp.com:


Many of these sites neglect to say who sponsors them, and have anonymized domain registrations. Some can be traced back to lead generation or affiliate marketing companies, such as JAG Offers, but figuring out their provenance can be very difficult.

Unless they're owned by the granddaddy of author services companies, Author Solutions.

Author Solutions is by far the largest sponsor of fake publisher matching sites, all designed to steer writers into the clutches of AS's many "imprints". Here are the ones I've found (so far):
AS does identify itself in tiny print at the bottom of the sites, or in the sites' privacy policies. But these mild disclosures can easily be missed by eager writers, who in any case may not be familiar with AS's reputation for high prices, aggressive solicitation, poor customer service, and junk marketing. (And seriously, who reads privacy policies?)

The internet is an invaluable resource. But it's also a tsunami of misinformation and a shark pit of scammers and opportunists, and to avoid falling victim to schemes and scams, you need to pop already know something about what you're looking for. That's why, if you're completely new to the publishing world, I suggest that you start with an old-fashioned book, and hold off on internet searches until you have enough basic knowledge to filter what you find.

For more suggestions for getting safely started on the publication search, see my updated blog post, Learning the Ropes.

34 comments :

Pat Dilloway said...

Sometimes the old way is the best way.

Sue Bursztynski said...

This year, having been able to spend more time researching markets, I’ve come across a lot of these via market guides to which I subscribe. If the site says, “We want to read your book” or “authors wanted” or “we are passionate about new authors!” I steer clear. If it suggests that these days it’s important for authors to contribute money to see their work published, I go elsewhere. Publishers who actually pay don’t advertise for authors, unless there is an open call for an anthology or a new magazine and that’s usually small press and on their web sites, not in ads.

But if you’re new to this, you can be hooked in like a fish.

Meg Thornton said...

Does the old fashioned "Writer's Yearbook" have a website? I seem to remember that being a brilliant resource for potential sites for publication back when I was able to find it in print.

The Australian version is "The Australian Writer's Marketplace", which has a website at https://www.awmonline.com.au/ - very useful. Also produced by the Queensland Writer's Centre, so it's reasonably legit. Asks for a once-off subscription payment of about $25AU, which gets you access to the whole database - but that database provides comprehensive information about a wide range of outlets for publication.

Kathy Steinemann said...

Oh, Victoria, I don't agree with your remark that real publishers don't buy Google ads.

Just because a few blueberries in the basket are rotten doesn't mean you throw the whole lot into the compost. It's up to writers to determine who is reputable by following the other tips you mention in your article.

Aaron Vlek said...

I love the Jeff Herman Guide to Publishers and Agents because it's not just a glorified yellow pages but the publishers and agents actually contribute to their entries and in many cases offer lengthy commentary on what they personally do and no not want to look at.

Julie said...

Kathy, please provide examples of real publishers advertising for new authors. I've been writing for a long time. The only times I've been solicited by a publisher, they were predatory. Publishers might put out open calls, some have contests, but it's not a random Google ad.

Victoria Strauss said...

Kathy Steinemann,

I'm always prepared to eat my words if I turn out to be mistaken. Can you provide me with examples of reputable publishers that buy Google ads? Screenshots would be helpful. Please post here in the comments, or email me: beware [at] sfwa.org.

Kathy Steinemann said...

Victoria, I performed the following searches, and here is what I found. All are reputable.

online ebook publishing
kdp.amazon.com

create and publish your own book
lulu.com

publish book global distribution
ingramspark.com

Canambooks.com also came up in a search. I couldn't find any negative reviews about them. I'm sure there are many more.

All these sites use AdWords.

Kathy Steinemann said...

And another one:

legitimate publishing
https://www.archwaypublishing.com/ (Simon & Schuster)

Victoria Strauss said...

Hi, Kathy,

None of the companies you've listed are publishers.

KDP, Lulu, and IngramSpark are self-publishing platforms. CreateSpace, another reputable self-pub platform, advertises too.

CanamBooks is an author services company that provides publishing services for a fee. Based on the lack of prices on its website, I'm guessing that it's pretty costly.

Archway Publishing is Simon & Schuster's assisted self-publishing division. It's run for S&S by Author Solutions, which, as noted above, has a terrible reputation for quality and service. Archway is one of the most expensive of all the Author Solutions "imprints", and is the subject of complaints that can be found here on this blog and online.

Desertphile said...

I detest people who take advantage of ignorance, as ignorance is the default.

As for "... and why many of them ask how much you're willing to pay for publication," my answer is: THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS! I will not pay as much as one penny for publishing.

Unknown said...

While this is a worthwhile article, I thought it was weak in its substance. You mention Xlibris and Outskirts Press, but fail to mention that BOTH ARE PART OF the Author Solutions family. Writers should Google Author Solutions and FIND OUT who their 'affliates' are. And also know that Xlibris, Outskirtes Press, iUniverse, Balboa Press and other Author House companies have the EXACT STREET ADDRESS that Author House has. But then, some don't.

I just wrote a long diatribe in a writer's facebook group about iUniverse, another Author House sub. They tried a 'bait and switch' tactic on me, but it didn't work. I made a down pmt but didn't sign the contract before I read it. I never did sign it. iUniverse didn't have any choice about refunding ALL OF MY MONY, but had to get PERMISSION from AUTHOR HOUSE before they could do it. When I inquired about my REFUND, iUniverse referred me to Author House. They were going to keep 20% but then realized THERE WAS NO CONTRACT.

I was going to look into Austin Macaully and Dorrance, both of which you mentioned, but weren't specific. I'm still going to look into them, and then proceed with caution.

Authors interested in self ublishing should seek advice from ALLi---The Alliance Of Independent Authors. I have to admit there aren't many left when they eliminate Author House and all its subs, and a few others. Check their website by searching on the long name.

Victoria Strauss said...

Unknown 7/31,

Outskirts Press is not part of Author Solutions.

Both Austin Macauley and Dorrance charge four figures to publish. You can find out more about both by searching on them in the search box at the top of the right-hand column of this blog.

Unknown said...

Both Austin Macauley and Dorrance charge four figures to publish. . . .?

ALL publishers I talked to charged four figures. Some charged well into the five figures.

OBTW: Archway Publishing is located in the SAME building with Author Solutions-- Mailing Address
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403

Simon & Shuster are in a partnership with Author Solutions. All Author Solutions subs/partners use the exact same contract.

Even Writer's Digest is in a partnership with Author Solutions.

Anonymous said...


In the Philadelphia area radio market, there is a "publishing company" that runs adds on many of the popular local programs. They say that they will help if you have an "idea" for a book and will "potentially" help you get it published. I tried googling their site and they have a good looking web site, say they have their own radio show that profiles their authors. What you can't find on their site is information about the cost to the author - after doing a search, I found some of their authors said the investment was over $3000.
There used to be a site called Preditors and Editors that outed a lot of scams. I don't know if its still operational.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 8/01,

Unfortunately P&E is not operational at the moment (although I have hopes it will be revived). What's the name of the company you mentioned? Would it be Christian Faith Publishing by any chance? Even if not, I'm betting that I've gotten complaints about it.

life said...

I was contacted by New Reader author service. Does anyone know if the are reputable?

Victoria Strauss said...

Do you mean New Reader Magazine? If so, it is ridiculously overpriced ($5,500 for an array of junk marketing services, such as an email marketing campaign), and provides none of the information you'd expect from a reputable PR service--such as staff biographies or examples of successful promotional campaigns--to enable you to judge its competence and success. My advice is to steer clear.

life said...

I am looking for a company that does what they say. The problem is where to look. Can you point me in a direction to consider?

Victoria Strauss said...

life,

What kind of company are you looking for? A publisher? Self-publishing? Marketing?

life said...

I have self published last month a book about my multiple sclerosis going into total remission after having MS for fifteen years. The book is "Multiple Sclerosis Mission Remission" and has received good reviews. I need a marketer as I think the book would do well if advertised more.

Scorpio Man Love, Lust and Obsession said...

I got an email from bookwhip.com. They are telling me about their reselling program. I don't know anything, I just got my first book published. It is doing a good job considering the debut. However, I don't know what kind of people are bookwhip and whether they should be trusted or not. Also, what exactly is reselling? I'm an indie author. Createspace helped me to get published.

Victoria Strauss said...

Scorpio,

Bookwhip is a scam, one of a large number of predatory Author Solutions-style publishing and "marketing" companies run out of the Philippines (they all have US addresses and phone numbers, but that's just a cover). They specialize in soliciting authors who've self-published or are small press-published, offering "re-publishing" or "re-selling" and marketing services that are enormously overpriced and, once you hand over the money, may not ever be performed.

For more information on these companies, see my recent blog post about them: https://accrispin.blogspot.com/2018/01/army-of-clones-author-solutions-spawns.html. Bookwhip isn't one of the companies I mention in the post, but I'm planning a followup post that will list it and the many others I've discovered since putting the post online.

Anonymous said...

What if Bookwhip is a company striving to build a good reputation helping people to be published and you are wrong? They have reputable authors who must believe in their efforts. Would you strike them down before they have a chance to help their authors?

Victoria Strauss said...

I stand by my assessment. Bookwhip is not doing anything that could be described as helping authors.

Desertphile said...

"What if Bookwhip is a company striving to build a good reputation helping people to be published and you are wrong? "

There is zero evidence that your hypotheses is the case, and excellent evidence for the opposite. Just ponder their phrase "book agent" for 30 seconds and you will conclude the same.

Anonymous said...

Victoria Strauss:
What is your translation of helping authors? Concerning whether Bookwhip does or not, can you prove either way? Thank you. People are interested in this company.

Victoria Strauss said...

Anonymous 10/8 and 19/9:

You are probably a troll, but I'm responding for the benefit of others who may be reading. Please see the post I linked to above. It explains the scam, and lists a number of characteristics that identify it. Bookwhip checks all the boxes: solicitation, re-publishing offers, claims of experience that can't be verified, bad English, and an emphasis on junk marketing (press releases, video trailers, and the like).

These scams have been around for a couple of years, but they really started to proliferate in 2018. I'm starting to get complaints now from authors who paid large amounts of money and never heard from the scammers again. Writer Beware.

Desertphile said...

"What is your translation of helping authors?

Illiterate troll.

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Helen Spring said...

Re the Bookwhip information. I am an author of five novels, and have had some published by publishers, and some self-published. I have also re-published novels myself when their original contract had ended. I have not made a fortune, but a small amount each month which was regular and useful. last April I was contacted (by phone originally) by Bookwhip. After talking on the phone I asked them to put their proposal in writing, which they did. Basically, they told me my paperbacks were overpriced and they would re-publish a new edition with new cover and sell at a lower price for the mass market. Their main selling point was that they would include intensive marketing after publication, which was the main attraction for me. The marketing programme was listed, and included selling into mass chains, libraries etc. I agreed to try out 2 books and paid 1500 dollars. They DID produce the new editions and I was pleased with them, but there has been absolutely NO marketing whatsoever, I don't believe I have sold a single book, and it has hit the sales I previously had as I had to pull out of giving Amazon Kindle exclusive rights. My enquiries as to 'how is it going?' 'Why haven't I heard from the marketing exec as promised?' etc were at first answered by ...'It's early days, no news yet but it's all going ahead.' Over a week ago I asked a group of factual questions and have had no reply at all. Their silence speaks volumes. I have been defrauded, as my main concern was to experience some real marketing. Incidentally, my books have superb reviews, none of which was used to even promote on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Bookwhip are liars and cheats, and they have not even given me any info on how royalties will be paid...(although of course there aren't any.!) I consider myself reasonably able to spot a scam, (there are loads out there! and I agree with what has been said about Authorhouse etc.) but Bookwhip were very believable.
The whole publishing industry needs a complete clean up. Helen Spring

Unknown said...

Bookshop solicited me recently and made me an offer that sounded too good to be true. What scared me away was their proposal. In it, they talked about helping me achieve my goals for the book when there had not been any discussion about what my goals were. For a small fee of $4500 they offered to make my dreams come true.

Desertphile said...

"For a small fee of $4500 they offered to make my dreams come true."

Heh! Be sure to get that in writing, with a money-back guarantee. LOL. These people really are evil shits.

Victoria Strauss said...

Unknown 12/18,

Do you mean BookWhip? If so, your instinct is sound. BookWhip is a scam.

 
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