For years now, I’ve been an aspiring writer. I’ve self-published multiple books, which I go out of my way to promote. I’ve also been published by a couple of small-time publishers, which I also go out of my way to promote.
I know it’s an uphill battle. I’m also aware that very few writers ever achieve mainstream success. For every George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, and Stephanie Meyer, there are thousands of writers toiling away, working on amazing manuscripts that’ll never see the light of day. Most of the time, writers on my level are content to get whatever exposure we can and whatever minor bit of money comes with it, which is usually very small.
It’s a sad fact of life for aspiring writers. Most will never get published by a mainstream publishing house and few will ever be able to make a comfortable living.
That’s not to discourage anyone from writing. Most people, like myself, genuinely enjoy writing novels, short stories, and anything else that comes to mind. It’s both a hobby and a passion. Even if we can’t ever turn it into a career, it’s something we love to do.
To those same people, as well as those who dream of that rare success so few achieve, I have an important message. It’s not meant to encourage or discourage you from pursuing that dream. You should totally keep working for it. That’s advice most aspiring writers don’t need.
This is different.
This is also important because it might cost you more than a manuscript you worked hard on.
And it boils down to this.
Do NOT fall for Vanity Press scams who claim they can help you sell your book. They’ll just take your money, your book, and whatever else they can get away with.
Now, I’m not just offering this advice on a whim. I promise there’s a good reason why I’m bringing this up in hopes that other aspiring writers will see it.
For the past couple years now, I’ve been getting a number of unsolicited calls from people claiming to work for real publishers. They’re not your typical robocall or phone scams. These are real flesh-and-blood people who usually don’t read from a script. They even leave voicemails that sounds like something a real human would leave.
But don’t be fooled by the human element. These people are working for the least scrupulous part of the publishing industry. They’re what’s called a Vanity Press scam. In short, it’s a type of grift that attempts to get an author to sign the rights over for a book they’ve written while also paying the vanity press for marking services.
On the surface, it sounds like a good deal. You give them your book and some money. They in turn market your book to a wider audience. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
There’s just one glaring problem.
They don’t really market your book. They just take your book, your money, and leave you with pretty much nothing. They rely on authors who don’t know much about the publishing industry and would prefer to have someone else market their book. It’s shady and exploitative as hell, but it sadly works way more often than it should.
I’ve been dealing with several of these scams for the past couple years now. They keep calling me, asking about one of my self-published books, usually “The Escort and the Gigolo” or “Skin Deep,” and claim they can help me market the book. They’ll even claim they came across the book and it met their criteria for a book with serious sales potential. All I have to do is give them money and publishing rights to realize it.
That’s a lie.
If a legitimate publisher really believes your book has major sales potential, they pay you in the form of an advance. To them, it’s an investment. But a vanity press scam is nothing of the sort. It’s just looking to get you to fork over money to do marketing that’ll never actually manifest. They may claim they have a robust marketing team. They’ll even claim they can get you into major bookstores. Some will go so far as to claim they can get your book noticed by Hollywood producers.
Again, that’s a lie.
It’s little more than excess flattery to convince you to give them your money. Don’t fall for it. They aren’t going to help you sell more books. You may even lose the rights to your own work if you sign one of their contracts. That might end up costing you more down the line and not just in terms of money.
Now, that’s not to say all vanity press publishing is a scam. There are legitimate vanity press publishing companies who essentially help writers self-publish their books in exchange for a fee. The key, though, is that you seek them out and not the other way around. Vanity Publishing is largely the domain of self-published authors who already have an audience or are unfamiliar with how to self-publish across multiple platforms.
There is a place for that kind of service in the publishing industry. But if someone from a publisher calls you and is asking for money in exchange for your book, chances are they’re not representing a real vanity press. They’re just scammers trying to get you to pay them money to make bold promises they have no intention of filling.
In the past two months, I’ve received voicemails from two “publishers.” A quick Google search is usually all it takes to find out that these people are not representing legitimate publishing companies. I usually don’t respond to them. But when I do, I make it a point to ask them if they’re going to charge me for marketing or promotional services. If they say yes or refuse to answer clearly, I hang up and you should too.
I hope this helps any other aspiring writers out there. I urge every one of you to keep writing and keep fighting to get your book out there. Just make sure to avoid vanity press scams. They don’t care about helping you succeed. They just want to take your money, your book, and all the work that went into it.