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June 20, 2019

How Predatory Companies Are Trying to Hijack Your Publisher Search, Part 2

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Last year, I published a post on the perils of searching for a publisher on the internet using general phrases like "how to get published" or "how to find a publisher".

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: ads from vanity publishers, fake consumer guides where dubious companies like Xlibris pay for advertising, and sites that purport to match authors with appropriate publishers, but are really ways of generating leads for assisted self-publishing companies.

Here's another tricky method that at least one vanity publisher is employing to hijack your publisher search: Google Ads.

Google Ads enable anyone to drive traffic to their website by paying for keywords or phrases. The ad headline can be accurate, or it can be a total lie: Google doesn't care. For instance: as of this writing, if you search on "Random House submissions" (with or without quotes), here's what you get:
See the URL for the top listing? It steers you not to Random House, as the headline suggests, but to vanity publisher Austin Macauley (you can see my blog post about Austin Macauley and its four-figure fees here).

Or how about a search for "Simon and Schuster submissions"?

The first listing, not surprisingly, is for the super-expensive Archway Publishing, which Simon & Schuster owns (but outsources to Author Solutions). The second listing, though...Austin Macauley. Again.

Austin Macauley is spreading a wide net. Here's another one:
And also this:
Austin Macauley periodically changes its ads and keywords, though not its strategy. In May, the top listings for searches on "submit to Random House," "submit to Simon and Schuster", and "submit to HarperCollins" were ads steering traffic to AM, with headlines only slightly less deceptive than the current crop:

And this, from back in February:
No doubt there are many more I've missed. How many unsuspecting writers, aspiring to submit to a major traditional publisher, have been diverted to Austin Macauley as a result of encountering these ads? True, the ads identify themselves as ads, but many people miss this, ignore it, or don't realize what it means.

There are plenty of sleazy internet strategies to entrap unwary authors, but this is definitely one of the most brazen and offensive I've encountered. I wonder if PRH, which seems to be the main focus of AM's efforts, might want to do something about it.
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