Gullible’s Travels: 10 Ways To Avoid Falling Prey To Vanity Publishing Scams

Don’t forget: the July Word Weaver WRITING CONTEST is about to start!

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and best of all

the first 20 entries will be critiqued BY ME


your humble host

Occasionally we turn the reins over to a friend of the blog so they can share their experience in writing – some good, some bad – for the benefit of others.

Juliet Nubel recently mentioned some of her awful experiences to me as she pursued traditional publishing for her book. I asked her to share some of what she learned from the process – and I’ll ask you to share your horror stories as well, so we can all learn what to avoid.

Here’s Juliet.


Recently, after writing a guest post for Dan on how I had cowardly abandoned my first and only book, I made a remarkable discovery.

That book, which I had imagined to be dead and buried six feet under, was in fact alive and kicking and living in the Amazon.

If I hadn’t come across it purely by chance I would never have known it was still out there, like Elvis, living a quiet and peaceful life away from all the white satin and sparkly sequins. But unlike the random people who allegedly spotted Elvis in cities all over the world, I had never spotted my dear deceased book anywhere out there until the day I wasn’t really looking for it.

author Juliet Nubel

Let me explain.

I was simply trying to find a reasonably clear picture of the cover to send to Dan to add to my initial guest blog. The only copy I own has spent so long under the hundred other books on my bedside table that it is looking rather the worse for wear – dusty, dirty and embarrassingly old and scruffy.

Maybe the publishing company which produced it in 2002 will still have a picture on their site, I wondered to myself…

Nope. I had disappeared from there, which was normal since I had had no contact with them for almost fifteen years.

Maybe there will be an old image of it on the internet somewhere, I pondered, since I had written a few articles for a slimming magazine following the book’s publication.

And lo and behold, there it was! But surprisingly not on the slimming magazine site, but on Amazon no less, staring out at me with a sly little grin on its ugly cover, as if to say in true soap opera style:

“Hah, you thought could get rid of me, did you? But look, I’m alive!”

What the….?

I had no idea it was still around.

No idea it was still for sale.

No idea that anyone, anywhere in the world, could click on a little button and buy it in the bat of an i-lid.

The publisher had never informed me of this nor given me any other details or royalties since the $2.10 cheque I had received way back when.

Then the brain cogs started whirring. Wait a minute! If my book was still available then maybe hundreds, or dozens, or a couple of people had actually bought it over the last fifteen years and I had just never known. Had never had any news from the company whom I will not name explicitly here for fear of having my throat cut by one of their staff as I sleep peacefully in my bed at night. I will give you a clue to their name below but just don’t say I told you.

Scam alarm bells started ringing. How could I have been so naive

and why had it taken me so long to realise that the dream-catcher ‘publishing’ company I had used in 2002 had pocketed over 800 dollars of my money, then taken me on a big long merry-go-round ride? Their very talented sales consultants had honestly made me believe they would do a great job of formatting, printing, publishing then distributing my baby book. They would take care of everything from A to Z, ensuring success and fame for this masterpiece (British sarcasm) which they deemed ‘truly deserving’ of star treatment. Hubby in fact splashed out the 800 dollars as a very generous Christmas gift. But I have read this week of writers spending over three thousand dollars today for a similar phoney publishing package.

WriterHome (get the fake name) in fact did an unbelievably crappy job. The formatting was shitty, the cover was even shittier, the retail price was way too high and the royalties non-existent.

The sheer sloppiness of the whole affair was in part the reason why I gave up on it so easily.

The other reason was a deeply ingrained belief that what I had written wasn’t worth better treatment

but that’s another story – see ‘Me, a Writer?’ on this very site.

I have tried to contact the company on several occasions over the last week to find out what has been going on for the last fifteen years because I now know for a fact that a few people did actually purchase my book. So far I have received no reply. What a surprise!


So what can we do to avoid falling prey to this type of novice-writer’s-money-gobbling shark?

1. Do our homework. Find out about these types of scam-houses from others on the internet. I didn’t do this all those years ago and deeply regret it. I have found hundreds of similar complaints to mine on the internet since last week. If others have been scammed you will be too. It’s as simple as that.

2. Believe in what we have written. I said in my first post that I had sent out at least fifteen copies of my first three chapters to ‘real’ publishers. In fact I have just found the six big brown envelopes which were returned to me. It certainly felt like fifteen but

I in fact gave up after only six tries

and took the easy way out by walking quickly down the vanity publishing road instead.

If I had had the guts and determination to persevere with the project in a more traditional way

who knows what might have happened?

Maybe nothing, but I’ll never know that for sure.

3. Get help from people in the know. It’s so easy now to be in touch with writers and bloggers who have done what we are looking to do. Many of them are very willing to help with queries on how best to publish a book (Dan is fabulous at answering questions!) Dare to ask for help.

4. Make sure our final manuscript is polished, edited, has a great cover and perfect format. Seeking professional help in these areas is where our money should be going. Not into the pockets of some scam merchant. I thought back then that investing money in these domains wasn’t really necessary and that is another error I greatly regret today.

5. Remember that, mathematically speaking,

the vanity publishers have in fact no real reason to ever promote or sell our books.

They make enough money simply by taking wads of cash off people like myself

who stupidly believe in their highly convincing sales pitch.

6. Make the distinction between real self-publishing where the writer is in control of the process from beginning to end without the intervention of a middle man, and vanity publishing where the writer hands over the reins and often the rights to their book, plus pays good money for the pleasure of doing this.

7. If in any doubt about the reliability of the publisher you are in touch with, study carefully all of the details and find out, way before signing any type of contract, exactly what is involved – how much the royalties will be, the retail pricing of the book and who will own the ISBN number. If the answers sound in any way fishy or unrealistic do not go down this path.

8. Memorise this phrase which I found on the very informative website:

“Paying for someone to be your publisher is like hiring someone to take a vacation for you so you can stay home and work.”

In other words, we as writers, are the ones who should be paid by the publisher. Not the other way around. Don’t let anyone else lie on our sun lounger on the beach. We are the only ones who deserve that vacation.

9. Stop being so gullible! If someone uses large doses of sweet talk (which vanity publishers do as soon as you click on their very enticing site) it’s usually for one reason only, to extract something from a gullible and often vulnerable victim. No matter what is being extracted, be it a big fat cheque or a tiny pair of lace panties, the aim is exactly the same. To take them off us without force, making us believe it was actually our own conscious decision. I’m guilty of this (the big fat cheque bit only). Don’t let it happen to you.

10. Finally I’m handing the tenth point over to you, gang. If anyone else has fallen into this type of vanity publishing trap please tell us one thing you have learnt from the experience. That way we will have loads to share with each other and we’ll be a lot more savvy 😉in the future. Thanks for your input.


Thanks Juliet!

Gang, here’s YOUR chance.

Been burned? Let us know in the comments section below.







What Do YOU Think?

I’m interested in getting your thoughts about stuff I see and hear, quotes I read, stuff that passes as knowledge – and starting an authorey conversation.

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THIS is what makes a story interesting. Try it. Your life will change because your stories CHANGE. Suddenly, what you write is a lot more interesting. It’s an imperative. Words to live by.


Lots of rocks.

Embracing this concept changed my writing forever. It’s more important than proofreading. And more fun, too.

What are YOUR thoughts on this idea?

New Weekly Feature: Ask Dan Anything!

your humble host
I’m not sure that exclamation mark in the title was necessary, but I’m VERY excited about this new segment.

Ask Dan Anything!

Yeah, the exclamation mark kinda works. For now, while it’s new. I may drop it after a few weeks.

Anyway, here’s the deal:

Each week we’ll take five, maybe ten, of YOUR writerly questions and set about answering them for you. When this post appears, get your questions in QUICKLY via the “comments” section below.

Simple enough, right?

Well, maybe.

See, a lot of you don’t know what you don’t know, and some of you know things others don’t; so the idea is for you – and I mean YOU – to just ASK the questions you have and let’s get the ball rolling. I’ll opine; maybe some others chime in with their thoughts, and hopefully YOU will get several good solutions to choose from.

Or something like that.

  • Wanna know how to create a “page turner” story?

  • Wanna know why you need to build an author platform?

  • Wanna know what dialogue tags are, and why you don’t want them in your story?

  • Wanna know how to get more Twitter followers?

And it doesn’t have to be directly writing related. Sometimes you need to get in the writing mood by NOT doing writer stuff. Maybe you wanna know about doing author events, but maybe you wanna know about public speaking, or… I don’t know; the London train system. (I had some trouble there, if you’ll recall.)

Or why so much of Europe requires you to pay to pee.


But I don’t want to suggest ideas TO you, I wanna know what’s on YOUR mind.

What are YOU struggling with?

So ask.

Ask me anything.

We have lots of smart people here; if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does. Or I’ll make something up.

Go ahead, you know you want to.


Post your questions in the comment section below. I’ll answer the first five, maybe the first ten – so don’t goof off. Post your question NOW!


danDan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” 

Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Also available in paperback and audio book.


Finished! First lady of the keys, a real-time review – conclusion


Well, I wasn’t sure how Lucy would wrap everything up in 10 pages, but she did!

And I am very happy about how it wrapped up, too.

I have to wonder… in the books final scenes, PorterGirl wears a halter top dress to the going away party of the college’s junior Bursar. I’m curious if it’s the one we have seen Lucy before…


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At any rate, not being one to read many mysteries and/or write them, I wasn’t sure if 10 pages would be enough to wrap up the story without messing it up.
It was.

Brilliant and exciting,

and I will not give it away with spoilers – but I would be happy to provide some of you with it if you should so inquire. For details on that, you’re going to have to read through The other posts I made reviewing this book.
But congratulations to Lucy,.

First Lady Of The Keys is a great read, a lot of fun and a thrilling adventure.

At this point I am tapping my toe waiting to start the next one!

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Well done, Lucy, on

First Lady Of The Keys.

5 stars!

First lady of the keys, a real time review – part 9 (I think)

When reading a book, I always skip to the last page of the story to see how long it is.


That doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it; I’m just analytical. 242 pages. Hmm. That should take me between four and six hours if I rush, longer if I am interrupted.

As I enjoy the story, I like to know how much I have left
It’s the same way with my own writing. I throw my word count into a spreadsheet at the end of every chapter, along with a rough outline with bullet points of what’s to come. Then I know if I am about 50% of the way done writing my story or 80%. That’s just me. (More accurately, it will show whether I am writing a 30,000 words to worry for a 120,000 word story. Usually the latter.)


So once I reached the halfway mark of this 242 page book, I began to estimate how many more hours of enjoyment were remaining. And since I got interrupted several times – Universal Studios for a Harry Potter day; mowing the lawn – it actually took several days to finish the book where I thought I might finish it all in one night when I first started.
But the other thing that happens – and I have to believe some of you do this too, so feel free to let me know – is

I wonder how the author is going to adequately wrap everything up in the time remaining?

At the halfway mark, I wasn’t too concerned because there were lots of pages in which to conclude everything, but Lucy kept adding mysteries at that point.
As we got to 75% and 85%, we were still adding stuff!
How is she going to get all this wrapped up in just 30 pages?
And then, how is she going to wrap it up in just 20 pages?
And now, how the hell is she going to wrap it up in 10 pages???

Well, that is on my mind.

But it in no way detracts from

my complete enjoyment of the story and almost inability to put it down.

I say almost because when you have to take your kid to Harry Potter in Orlando, it’s hard to hold a paperback in one hand and stare at I-4 with the other. Probably illegal, too.
But as we are hitting the home stretch I am very happy with the prior 232 pages and can’t wait to see how she wrapped it all up.

GET READY! The July Word Weaver WRITING CONTEST is about to start!

It’s just a few days away, but you’ll be busy at the start of July, what with Independence Day and all, so this is a friendly reminder to


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and best of all

the first 20 entries will be critiqued BY ME

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you could handle me giving your stuff a once-over, right?

Prior contestants have said my input was worth more than editors they’ve paid for!

One bestselling author refuses to publish a story without me critiquing it first.

YOU can benefit from THAT

PLUS, there are other new beneficial things we’ve added this time – but you’ll have to come back in July to find out what they are. This is just a heads up.

Get ready!

The Word Weaver Writing Contest will be here before you know it. Don’t miss out!

Details soon. Probably the 1st of July. Which is soon.


First lady of the keys, a real-time review – part eight


OK, so I’m 60% of the way through the PorterGirl novel First Lady of the Keys, and I am loving every bit of it. There is humor, there is mystery – little mysteries that seem to be rolling up into one big mystery – but at 60% of the way through I can’t really say for sure – there’s romance…
This book has something for everyone! Well done.

By the way, normally I would’ve finished this book over the weekend but we kind of snuck off to Universal Studios and Harry Potter land.

I think what I like most about this book is the way I started enjoying the character right off the bat. PorterGirl showed herself to be vulnerable and readers often find that endearing. But she was

portraying herself as small and unsure but determined to go forth and prove herself

– and that has been a bit of a recurring theme throughout the story, as she takes greater and greater strides in asserting herself. That’s fun to read whether it’s a male or female main character.
I will say again, I assumed the relationship between her and Head Porter was a friendly and cordial and humorous one; before I started reading the books, I had seen video clips and outtakes so I knew Lucy was friends with the actor who portrayed the Head Porter in the videos. (Being friends, they are of course friendly.) In the book, the characters are not – at least not thus far.
I also want to give a suggestion to my writer friends who are from the UK or Canada or Australia – anywhere they speak English but don’t speak American English.

When you write your story, be yourself.

Tell the story in the words you need to tell it in.
If your story takes place in New York, then you probably want to get rid of most of The non-American English words and spellings. However, if your story takes place somewhere else, or if a character is British and happens to be in New York, then don’t.
I have often said your unique (to me) spelling and way of speaking are part of what give me the flavor of that character – and by virtue of the character, the story. So choose wisely.
America is a big market, and I have read tomes that had Scottish dialects written out to where I could not understand what was even being communicated. (Although from what I understand, that’s fairly common to people who aren’t from Scotland and are dealing with a very thick brogue. Personally, I am 99% anti-writing out dialects. Use a bit here and there. A little goes a long way.)
At any rate, it is less and less important that I give you real-time updates on the story because too often now they will just be spoilers.

The story is moving smoothly and Lucy is a great storyteller.

Others may quibble with things I considered minor, but overall I really like the way she is telling the story, and I love the characters, and to be perfectly honest I doubt I will even take a break between finishing this one and starting the next one. It’s summer, why not?
Oh, because I’m supposed be doing editing Angel. 
Yeah, well…