In the last two weeks I’ve seen an email about a publisher that isn’t paying its authors, and I received a phone call from an woman wanting to know if she should sign a contract with a publisher for her cook book.
In the case of the woman with the cook book, as soon as she mentioned the publisher, I knew she was dealing with a vanity publishing house. At least that’s what we used to call them. Now, I guess, they’re POD (Print on Demand) publishers.
There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing and using a POD publisher as long as the writer knows what is actually being offered, and as long as the publisher actually follows through with those promises. But that’s the problem, way too many writers, especially new writers, have no idea how to find out if a publisher is trustworthy.
Every writer should be familiar with two web sites: Writers’ Beware and Editors and Preditors.
Writers’ Beware: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/
Editors and Preditors: As of 2018, this site is no longer active.
Check and see if there is any information about an agent or publishing house. These sites list ones that are recommended as well as warnings about those they don’t recommend. Whether a writer decides to take heed of the warnings is up to the writer.
There are always unscrupulous people willing to prey on the dreams of writers. Agents who promise book contracts if the writer simply hires the book doctor or editing service they recommend to spruce up the writing. Agents who charge reading fees or contract fees. Publishers who require the writer to sell or buy a certain number of the books.
I recommend writers join writing groups. The best groups are those that focus on the same genre as the writer’s work. There are many organizations that accept unpublished as well as published writers, and it’s through these organizations that the writer hears about publishers and/or agents who aren’t paying their authors or are having other problems. Through these groups, writers can hear about lines that are opening, and lines that are closing. Who’s looking for stories, or if the publisher has stopped accepting proposals.
As a member of a group, a writer can ask if a contest/agent/publisher sounds good. That’s what the woman with the cook book manuscript asked me. And it was through an on-line writers group that I heard about the publisher having financial problems. Opportunities for writers to be published have opened up in the last decade, but all writers need to be cautious.
Just remember, if it sounds too good to be true . . . Beware.