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

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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.







Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 50+ titles published in more than 120 countries and over a dozen languages.

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