How to Avoid Publishing Scams and Unscrupulous Literary Agents

Everything new authors need to know about avoiding costly and devious predators in publishing

You’ve written a piece you are proud of and now you’re ready to publish and promote. Congratulations! Unfortunately, there are a number of scams that will be out to get you now that you have pages to introduce to the world. All too often, novice writers will fall victim to wasting valuable time and money on fraudulent services in hopes of improving their chances of success.

Here, we’ll explore three common publishing scams and how to avoid them.

Scam #1: Vanity Publishers

The scam: A vanity publisher demands money from you up front. They usually promise you editorial and marketing services, and tell you that you’ll earn back the money you invest in no time. In a best case scenario, you walk away breaking even. In the worst case scenario, they just take money and your work never even gets published.

How to avoid it: A reputable publisher gives you options or will not charge to publish your work. Be sure to do extensive research on any publisher that approaches you, or that you approach. A good test of a publisher’s integrity is to do a Google search typing in the name of the publisher followed by the words, scam and/or legal. Follow sage-old advice: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Scam #2: Fake agents

The scam: You find someone (or someone finds you) who offers their services as a literary agent. They charge you manuscript evaluation and/or editing fees upfront, and may even offer you editorial advice that can be harmful to your manuscript.

How to avoid it:  Real agents will never charge you fees for manuscript evaluation or editing, or even offer editorial services to begin with. A legitimate agent will expect payment after the books have been sold–not upfront. Keep in mind that anyone can be a literary agent. You read that correctly. Literary agents don’t require special licenses or qualifications. So, do your research. Look for reviews on Google, their LinkedIn, and review their website before moving forward.

Scam #3: Fake Contests

The scam: Vanity publishers and fake agents are often behind this scam–they post “contests” and promise that winners will receive publications and editorial services in exchange for a steep entry fee. These “contests” are easy to win, and add little to your reputation. Another type of fake contest scam is the “contest mill” scam. Contest mills will incessantly post contests and charge a large reading fee.

How to avoid it: While legitimate contests do often charge reading fees, they are appropriately priced– anywhere between $5 and $25 to enter. Be wary of any contest asking for an entrance fee above $40 or of contests that are posted too often. In addition, research the reputation of contests before submitting your work.

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