Avoiding publishing scams

I’m looking to publish my work (after been told since I was 12 that I should) how do I spot the real deal from the others?

Firstly, make sure you read this post on what to do after you’ve finished your manuscript, and make sure you don’t skip a step!

If by “real deal” you mean publishers, my personal advice is that you don’t begin your search with publishers. Start with agents (which you can read about in the post I linked). Literary agents make connections to editors at publishing houses so that you don’t sit in the “slush pile”, hoping and waiting and waiting some more to be seen. The slush pile is manuscript purgatory and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever be seen.

A reputable agent will have a history of their recent sales available on a website or on publisher’s marketplace where you can easily access it. The same should apply to publishers (if you do decide to query them directly). Many agents/agencies and editors are connected through blogs and twitter. Make sure you do all your research before you submit to anyone.

Keep in mind a legitimate agent and publisher will NEVER ask for you to pay for anything before your book is sold (the case used to be a little bit different before the digital age, I’ve heard, but in all my experiences, I haven’t come across any agent ever asking for money before the book reaches the shelves). You might even find someone who reads your manuscript and tells you, “Hey, I think the big publishing houses will fall over themselves to get their hands on this, but first I need $1000 for this editing service to make it even better…” NO. This is a scam.

An agent’s goal is to make a commission off of your book when it sells (as is a publisher’s). Typically what I’ve seen of agent commissions ranges about 15%, to give you an idea of what to expect, and these terms will be plain in the contract. If anyone requests you pay before they provide you feedback, run. It might be tempting, because scam artists are really good at tempting you and they’ll know exactly what to say to hit you in the backs of your knees, but run.

Heck, the editing services may actually make your manuscript better. I’ve seen people claim this, and there are legitimate editing services that don’t operate under the guise of an agency, but the fact of the matter is that utilizing editing services (especially the predators who promise to give you the loot of a thousand publishing houses) doesn’t guarantee your manuscript will sell to anyone, and most people who buy into these scams end up $1000 poorer with (possibly) a revised manuscript that still won’t sell.

So, in short, here’s how you can typically discern the reputable from the repugnant:

  • Agents and editors won’t ask you for money until your book sells.
  • Agents and editors showcase their sales and clients where you can easily access.
  • Agents and editors will have positive feedback from such sites as Agent Query, Query Tracker, Absolute Write, and Literary Rambles
  • The great majority of agents and editors these days have websites, blogs, twitters, and/or other forms of social media.
  • Agents and editors do not advertise their services via google or facebook or the like — they don’t need to. Any time you see a “get your book published!” advertisement, avoid all eye contact with it.

To maximize your chances with interesting a literary agent, make sure you follow the steps of revision and critique partners I mention in the topmost link. Make sure your query is pristine. Make sure you do all your research. This could make all the difference.


Good luck!

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    These are some very important points! A friend of mine a couple years ago was really excited about getting an acceptance...
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