Saturday, June 9, 2018

Writers: Too Easy to Fleece

Writers, especially those desperate for publication and validation, are easy targets. There is a business model based on this! Two examples of this business model in action: hybrid publishing and writing contests.

Hybrid Publishing

It used to be called vanity publishing. The 21st century name for it is hybrid publishing. A friend of mine sent his manuscript out looking for an agent or publisher. So far, one has responded. They claim his book has been reviewed and chosen, but really they have chosen him to be a customer. For around $2,400 they will publish his book. The price itself is not outrageous. I've been through this process a number of times now and believe it's difficult to adequately self-publish a book for less that that. Even though the number sounds right, there is still more work to do before you sign up.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau website ( and search for the company. Check the Writer Beware® website ( I check both of these, in addition to a google search, to see if their offer is a scam or if there are lots of complaints about their service. 
  • Can the publisher execute? Look closely at their website. Is it well done? Do they do a good job promoting their own books on their own website? Look at their books on Amazon. How do the covers and the marketing descriptions look? Buy one of their books, or at least check out a few pages using the "Look Inside" feature, to see how well they edited the book. Just because it's a low price doesn't mean it's a good value.
  • Finally, pay close attention to the terms of the deal, the fine print. What rights are you giving up? For how long? What is your cut? How often will you be paid (Createspace pays monthly)? Is everything clearly defined? For example, my friend's deal stated he would receive 50% of the net profits. We could not find any definition of net profit. I would want to know. How much, if any, control will you have over the final edit and the cover?
My bottom line: If you are going to spend that much money self-publishing anyway, why not get all the profits and have all the control over the finished product? What value is there in going with a no-name publisher who is charging you for the privilege?


Poets & Writers magazine had an article in the May / June 2018 edition about writing contests. P&W studied 651 contests held in 2017. 514 charged a median entry fee of $20. The remaining 137 charged no fee at all. The 514 that charged a fee paid out $1,855,875 in prize money. The 137 that charged no fee paid out $5,154,660! The big difference: 77% of the sponsors of the no-fee contests were non-profits or universities. The majority of the fee-charging contests were sponsored by private companies seeking to profit. My bottom line: never, ever pay a fee to enter a writing contest. Just don't do it. Let's boycott the fee-charging contests and make them go away.

No comments: