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Independent Self-Publishers Beware

Posted on: February 11th, 2014 by Publisher Services


According to a recent report by Bowker, the number of self-published titles was up 60% in 2012. In 2011 246,921 titles were self-published compared to 391,768 in 2012. Since 2007, there has been a 422% increase in the number of independently self-published books.

Now that self-publishing has officially arrived, the number of new companies offering services to independent authors has exploded. As with any “unregulated industry,” it is extremely important you thoroughly research companies before signing a contract or spending a dime. Although the internet is the primary research tool, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation and fraudulent companies preying on the new authors.

Before the digital book revolution, most of the industry’s complaints were directed towards “vanity presses.” There were countless horror stories of how authors paid money to a vanity press for book printing, warehousing, and distribution services and never received a dime in royalties. In many cases, these companies went out of business or did absolutely nothing to promote their clients’ books. Today, there are even more companies offering book publishing services and many who prey on self-publishers. Before engaging with a publishing service company, we recommend you do the following:

  • Directly contact the company by phone. Ask questions about how long they have been in business and if they can provide actual referral contacts (don’t depend solely on web posted testimonials.)
  • Check with the local Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • If you are researching a publishing company, ask to see multiple recent successful titles. A few companies might have hit it big with a single title and the remaining 99% of their clients only sold a handful of books.
  • Inquire about how royalties are paid and tax information is provided.  We just heard a story how BookBaby does not provide 1099misc tax forms for royalties paid.
  • Perform a Google search with the companies name and add the term complaint. This might bring up stories or posts by disgruntled customers.
  • Check the company’s Twitter and Facebook posts. Many unhappy clients use Twitter or Facebook feeds as a platform to air their grievances.

Lastly, if you are considering using a book publisher please visit Preditors & Editors. This is a research site which denotes companies which have received complaints.  Obviously, if you are asked to sign a contract, please read it very carefully and try to get legal assistance before you sign. Be vary wary of any contract which cannot be easily terminated or involves exclusivity.