Self-Publishing Scams and How to Spot Them

Updated on May 26, 2020
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing expert and advocate. Author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Former trade newspaper editor.

Avoid scams!
Avoid scams! | Source

The Call

Have you ever received an email or phone call that goes something like this . . .

"We're very interested in working with you on your book. We think you have a lot of potential. We also may introduce you to Big Name Publisher. Contact us if you'd like to discuss."

Eager-to-be-published authors who receive these kinds of messages could get so excited, they'll barely get through reading or hearing the message before they're dialing the phone to reply.

If this describes you, put down the phone for a minute and read through this article. Please. It could save you some heartache, headache, and money if the message you received is a self-publishing scam.

But how can you know if it's legit?

Have you ever been contacted by, or did you contact, a self publishing scam?

See results

Competing for Author Dollars

In the not too distant past, print on demand (POD) technology was expensive and had limited availability. But as with any technology, as it becomes more readily available and affordable, we'll see more companies entering the self-publishing fray. So the number of companies from which an author can choose for book printing and publishing will likely expand. Not all of them will have the same level of experience and skill to assist authors.

As the number of competitors in this space increases, some of them may become more aggressive in their pursuit of selling POD services to authors. Don't automatically be sucked in when a company says they're interested in working with you. Of course they're interested in you . . . let's make that interested in your money. Know whose interests are being best served when researching your self-publishing options.

Tip: Research the companies you're considering to assist with self publishing your book so that you know what you're buying and what the company can do for you.

The Traditional Publishing Carrot

Authors often ask to pick my brain about publishing issues. So one day, an author asked me about a self-publishing program that said they would connect her with such-and-such Big Name Publisher about her self published book if she used their services. Hmm . . . legit?

Without knowing all the parameters of what this group was offering, I told her that she better seriously look at the terms of any contract she signs with them, preferably with the help of an attorney. Will they guarantee that introduction or the results of it? What fees are they charging for this added benefit? Will they be acting as her agent?

Let's be realistic. The possibility of a random self-published book being picked up by one of the big publishing houses is slim to almost none. These large organizations absolutely don't need to scour the self-publishing ranks for new material. They typically get more book proposals than they can handle.

Remember, every book project a traditional, or even indie, publishing house takes on is an investment for them. So it is highly unlikely that they will take on a project from a largely untested self-published author.

Tip: Always question any promises about introductions to various publishing houses.

Vanity Presses

Predatory publishing groups may pump up new authors with tales of how much potential they have. Sure, everyone has the potential to be a great author. Everyone has the potential to win the lottery, too. So these scammers aren't lying; they're just stretching the statistical reality.

They might also tell you you'll be successful since they can successfully help you get your manuscript produced into a print book. Again, they're not lying; they just have a different definition of "success" that has more to do with "printing" than "publishing." (You do understand the difference between those two terms, right?) Vanity presses of the past were of this variety.

Tip: If a self-publishing offer lauds your potential success as an author, call them out and ask how they determined that potential. Ask for numbers and research to prove it!

Copyright Cons

This is the saddest of the scams. I've heard stories of authors who have gotten sucked into self-publishing contracts that robbed them of their copyrights and/or their ability to publish their work elsewhere. Any exclusive arrangement is a huge red flag when it comes to self-publishing!

Self-publishing platforms are merely services that can help authors get their manuscripts into a printed or electronic form, distribute them into the marketplace, and facilitate sales. You're paying them for this service. So why should they have any rights to your work?

Tip: Carefully review ALL terms of service, agreements, and contracts for self-publishing programs to make sure you protect your rights and your work. Reviewing with an attorney is recommended.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    8 months ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Shiv! Actually, I started writing as a marketing copywriter for my job. That later led to becoming an editor and advertising director for a trade newspaper. Then I started the self publishing thing as a way to promote my promotional products business. Now I concentrate on writing to help other authors. A little bit of a detour, right? :)

    We all have such different paths for our writing efforts. The point is to always be trying new things and looking for opportunities.

    Good luck with your writing adventure!

  • Mightyshiv profile image


    8 months ago from Delhi, India

    Hey Heidi,

    Thanks for sharing this article. while reading I got a question in mind.

    How did you get started with writing for publications or self-publishing?

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Thanks, Lawrence, for adding that footnote to the discussion. Some of these programs may be worth participating in for promotional purposes only if (like Kindle select) there are some clear limitations to the concessions authors must make. Appreciate you adding that. Have a good one!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Lawrence, Createspace/KDP can be challenging at times, but definitely some of the more author-friendly platforms around. Glad you feel good about your experience and progress. Thanks so much for adding your experience to the conversation! Have a great day!

  • profile image

    Lawrence Hebb 

    4 years ago


    One thing forgot to mention is with Kindle if you want to get into their 'Kindle select' (their lending library where you get royalties when people loan your book out) you do sign an exclusive deal with them but it's only for 90 days with a clear cutoff date when you can re-sign if you want.

    Just thought people might want to know that.


  • profile image

    Lawrence Hebb 

    4 years ago


    I think what saved me from this path was the fact that people here had 'walked the path' I wanted to go and I was able to follow 'their lead'

    I put my book out through Amazon (CreateSpace) and Kindle which n itself is a challenge as it's all 'up to you'

    My attitude has been 'learning curve' with some things done right and others still needing to be fixed.

    Thanks for the information in this hub as it showed something I seem to have gotten right

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Teaches/Dianna! So, so true, if for nothing else but your own peace of mind. Thanks for stopping by and have a Happy July 4th!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    4 years ago

    Thank you for the tips on avoiding self-publishing scams. My take away is -- get a lawyer before your agree to anything. Good advice.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Thanks for the comments and stopping by, Larry! Have a great day!

  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 

    4 years ago from Oklahoma

    Good information.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Happy Monday to you, too, Billybuc! I figured you'd have the wits and wisdom to not fall prey to these traps. Summer is here in CHI, too (90-ish past few days)! Stay cool, buddy!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I've received them by email, by snail mail and by phone, and I've ignored them all. But thanks for the reminder and a valuable piece of warning for those not aware.

    Happy Monday, Heidi! Summer is here!!!!!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Yes indeed, FlourishAnyway! My heart just drops when an author tells me about the "deal" they're getting and I know it's a sketchy self publishing offer. I just hope that some of them will read this and at least question before they invest. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you're having a great summer so far (hot already here in CHI)!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Jodah! Glad you were savvy enough about these organizations to not get hooked by them. Thanks for adding your experience to the conversation! Have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    4 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Reynold! No kidding! I think beginners are the most vulnerable when it comes to these issues. Thanks for the kind comments and have a great day!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    4 years ago from USA

    Excellent advice. Too often people's egos and starry eyed dreams take the place of logic.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    4 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Good advice, Heidi. Thank you. I have been approached by a (so called) publisher by email about my work, but their prices were exorbitant. They tried to get my phone number to talk to me about it, but I refused to supply it. After two or three more emails they gave up.

  • Reynold Jay profile image

    Reynold Jay 

    4 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

    Hi Heidi, Lots of good things for beginners to be aware. Well done. Looking form more from you soon.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)