5 Ways to Easily Spot a Fake Publisher or Literary Agency

Updated on January 7, 2018
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Poppy is a proofreader and a video game enthusiast. She lives in Tokyo and has two hamsters named Zelda and Hemingway.

With the rise of the internet and electronic books, the book publishing industry has transformed over the past twenty years. It has never been easier, or more difficult, for writers to get published.

Self-publishing is a possibility for unknown writers to get their work on Amazon and other online bookstores. There are many very successful self-published writers such as Christopher Paolini (Eragon) and E. L. James (Fifty Shades of Grey).

However, self-publishing means that the author has to put a lot of effort and money into advertising, and most writers don't have the time, knowledge, or funds to be able to effectively promote their own work. Getting traditionally published, then, is the dream of most writers.


Like most topics, the easiest and fastest way to get a list of publishers and literary agents (who help you find a publisher) is via the internet. Unfortunately, there are people out there who know how badly writers want to get published. They use this to their advantage and those who are initially excited to hear they're getting published sometimes end up ripped off and heartbroken.

When I was seventeen, excited and hopeful for the future, I came across an agency online who promised to become my agent. However, I found out that they were fake before it was too late. I also have met authors who have been burned; one told me she paid $300 for "professional feedback" only to get a page from someone who clearly hadn't read it.

To ensure something like this doesn't happen to you, here are some tips to spot a fake publisher or agency from a real one.

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1. They Ask for Money

This is a big one. No real publisher or agency will ever ask you for money. These fakers will nearly always ask you to pay for some "expenses" yourself, such as the following:

  • The editor's fee: they'll say they're happy to publish your work but you have to pay for editing.
  • The feedback fee: some agencies will say they don't want to publish your book, but ask you to send money for them to give you "detailed feedback."
  • Printing costs: no real publisher will ever ask the writer to pay for printing.

The whole point of a publisher is to cover the costs of editing, proofreading, printing, shipping, and advertising. That's why they get most of the profits. If they ask for money, they're frauds.


2. They Can't Provide a List of Authors They Represent

If you've found someone willing to represent your work, they should have no problem providing a list of authors they are already working with. Most of the time you shouldn't even have to ask, as they'd usually have a list on their website.

When I was dealing with the fake agency, I asked them to send me a list of authors who they were working with and they stopped replying.

This is so effective because it's so easy to check it. If they give you names, you can easily find the names on the internet, check out their work, and match the name of their publisher to the name you're dealing with. Genuine companies will have no problems sending you this data.

3. Clues on Their Website

The easiest way for scammers to work is by creating a website, coming up with a genuine-sounding name for an agent or publisher, and sticking an email address in the "Contact Us" section with which they can communicate with hopeful writers. However, a fake website has a lot of clues. Check their page for these dead giveaways:

  • "WRITERS WANTED." Real publishers and agents are swamped with manuscripts every single day. They rarely advertise for more.
  • No list of authors. As mentioned before, a successful company should already have authors and books they're representing.
  • Fake testimonials. For example, you might see a list of feedback that says something along the lines of "'Great agency, I got published right away!' - Sally." With no surname, you can't check out the writer's name. Genuine publishers don't need testimonials because again, they're always having manuscripts sent to them and don't need to advertise.
  • No book advertisements. Though this isn't as black-and-white as the others, most real publishing houses and agencies will have at least one of their books displayed as a form of advertising.

The website may also look shoddy and unprofessional, with a basic layout, possibly grammatical or spelling mistakes, and nothing on the website except details on how to submit your work and get rich rich rich.


4. They Aren't Mentioned in Other Sources

Do a quick search of the company's name in Google and see what other sites say about them. If they've scammed people before, you may find information about them on review sites. If there's no information about them at all, you know they're no good.

5. They Don't Tell You Their Names

If a company is genuinely interested in working with you, you're going to be introduced to at least one or two human names during your communications. A fake obviously doesn't want to be found out, so their emails will nearly always end with the agency name, or perhaps just a first name.

A real company will have, at the end of a business email, a full name, website, and address. If you don't see these, it's another sign you might be talking to a scammer.

A way for British writers to find a real publisher is with the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. It is updated annually and only contains genuine companies. It's very easy to use and displays the genres and types of manuscripts they are looking for. It's highly recommended if you're living in the UK and you're serious about getting published.

Scammers are constantly getting more cunning and all they are interested in is getting their hands on your money. With these four tips, you will be able to easily spot a fake publisher or literary agency, giving you more time to send proposals to real companies.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Poppy


    Submit a Comment

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 2 weeks ago from Ireland

      There's always opportunists out there who will find new ways to take advantage of people. This is good advice for anyone thinking of using this method.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 8 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you, Lauren :)

    • Lauren Flauding profile image

      Lauren Flauding 8 weeks ago from Sahuarita, AZ

      It's a shame that so many are trying to profit off of the dreams of aspiring writers. I published my first book through a vanity publisher, but now I just self publish. Great advice in here!

    • Mamerto profile image

      JR Mamerto 2 months ago from Cabuyao

      And thanks too! This hub could really help our newbie authors.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 2 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Excellent choice. No doubt they were trying to scam you. Why would they bother advertising and selling your book if the author already gave them money? Thank you for commenting, Mamerto.

    • Mamerto profile image

      JR Mamerto 2 months ago from Cabuyao

      Yup, this all fits. Years ago a publisher approached me, offering me to publish my works, but I have to pay several hundreds of dollars first. After that I basically ignored their email and moved on.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 2 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you :) hopefully people can benefit from it.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      This is an excellent piece of advice. It’s unfortunate that people would have to be a detective to avoid fraud, but it’s necessary these days. Offering your personal experience was beneficial too.