While on the hunt for publishers, it's important to know there are certain book publishers to avoid! Unfortunately, there are companies out there whose interest is more in making money than truly supporting authors.
Finding the right publisher can be like carefully choosing fruit. Some publishers can seem attractive on the outside but can be rotten on the inside.
If you’re eager to get your manuscript in the hands of a publisher who will accept your book and have your best interest in mind, then this article will show you how to find the right one.
But first, learn why you must be cautious of scam publishers!
Why authors need to be cautious about scam publishers
You're probably aware of credit card scammers and sleazy insurance salesmen. Unfortunately, this same type of deception exists in the publishing arena too.
According to fraud reports by the Federal Trade Commission in 2022, there were over 1,121 fraud reports in the magazine and book industry. These incidents resulted in over 1 million reported cases.
If that number doesn't make you nervous, here are some more reasons to avoid working with a scam publisher.
Loss of time and money
One of the biggest reasons you'll want to know which book publishers to avoid is to prevent you from losing money. One of the perks of being an author is profiting from book sales. You don’t want to foil those chances by paying unnecessary fees and expenses.
Additionally, some illegitimate publishers may promise a fast turnaround, and while your book may be published faster, it could likely be of poor quality. This could mean even more money lost.
And as a result of losing money, you will also lose time. Especially if you have to file a complaint or find a new publisher. Losing time, however, isn’t something you can recuperate.
Your book won’t get the attention it deserves
Yet what can be an even bigger loss than time is your book not being properly prepared for publication to get the visibility it deserves.
The reason you wrote your book was for your fans. You have a story worth sharing with the world and are ready for others to read it. Yet, your book may not reach your target audience if you work with a scam publisher that is not prioritizing the success of your book.
If you want to know which type of book publishers to avoid, you’ll have to pay attention to the warning signs.
Fortunately, this article will cover that and give you a list of quality publishers to consider.
Type of book publishers to avoid: 8 Telltale signs
You may think you know a scam publisher when you see one, yet many are skilled in the art of deception. Here's exactly what to look for when pursuing a publisher.
1. Fake advertising
You’ve spent countless hours writing your book, so you’re probably eager to get it to print. Thus when you come across an ad that says phrases such as “10,000 sold copies. Guaranteed.", or “ Surefire way to get on the bestsellers list,” you might be intrigued.
However, these fake advertisements are meant to play with your emotions. Publishers that promise a certain outcome try to use your ambition to hook you in like a fish on a line.
Publishers may mention that they sold over 10,000 copies of a certain book or that some of their published books have made it to the best sellers list. However, no publisher can guarantee the outcome of your book 100 percent.
2. Upfront requests for payments or fees
When you consider the number of fees you pay for various services, you might think that paying a publisher fee is normal.
However, no legitimate publisher will ask you to pay upfront costs. A rule of thumb that is true for both traditional and self-publishing. Numerous self-publishing platforms won’t cost you a dime.
In fact, many traditional publishers may even offer you an advance on royalties.
So when you see a publishing company offering “ free services,” but in the fine print they highlight fees and expenses the author must pay upfront, it’s a trap. Most likely, they are trying to lure you in by thinking you’re getting something for free but will charge you later.
Some common fees that a publisher should never charge are:
- Reading fees: Where a scam publisher charges you a fee to read a submitted manuscript.
- Book contest fees: Fees charged by a scam publisher to submit your book to a book contest.
- A requirement that you purchase your own book: Another fee charged by scam publishers requires that you buy a specific amount of copies of your own book from them.
Again, no traditional or self-publishing publisher should charge you a fee or require payment for any of the above.
3. Vanity publishers
Vanity publishers have a bad reputation. These types of publishers will publish your book, but you will have to cover most or all of the costs.
They typically use pushy, aggressive, and misleading tactics to persuade authors to work with them.
As a result, vanity publishers made the list of book publishers to avoid because of how they run their business.
When it comes to these types of publishers, they are looking to make a quick profit from authors and nothing more.
4. Costly additional self-publishing services
Some companies will offer services to assist you in self-publishing but their prices will be way above average.
Self-publishing can be a profitable and simple way to publish your book. And although most reputable self-publishing platforms are free, there are a number of self-publishing services that offer assistance with the process.
Many legitimate services can help with things such as editing, book promotions, and printing costs. However, the services you want to avoid are those that offer outrageously high costs.
That said, it's essential that you do your research to determine what the average self-publishing costs are so you are aware if you run into a scam.
5. ISBN charges
If you’ve been to a library or have read your fair share of books, you may be familiar with the ISBN number. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.
Essentially this number is assigned to help identify different book titles and their editions. It helps libraries, bookstores, and other retailers organize, categorize, and sell your book.
ISBN numbers are assigned to publishers from one of the 160 ISBN agencies worldwide. ISBN Agents will assign numbers to publishers in their designated countries. In the United States, Bowker is the only official ISBN Agency.
If you publish through a legitimate traditional publisher, they'll have an ISBN for you. If you self-publish, you can choose to purchase your own through an official agency such as Bowker.
It is also important to note that the ISBN number never expires.
6. Book copyright charges
Traditional publishers typically take care of the copyrighting process as part of their built-in expenses.
The process can cost you around $45 to 65 if you go the self-publishing route. So it's important to be mindful of scam publishers who want to charge in excess for this service.
7. A focus on selling to you and not to readers
Traditional publishers want to get your book out to the public. When your book is being sold in bookstores and other establishments, legitimate publishers profit from your book sales.
If you meet with a potential publisher that doesn’t seem to prioritize getting your book into the marketplace and is only focused on what you can pay them, they definitely are a book publisher to avoid.
8. "Guaranteed" fast turnaround services
The less glamorous side of traditional publishing is that it can take significant time. Sometimes, editing, revisions, and more can take several weeks or months before your book is printed.
Yes, that can sound exhausting but don’t let your guard down in front of these types of publishers that offer fast turnaround services. Even though you are eager to get your book out by a certain time, the process takes time for a reason.
Publishers are working with the best team of editors, copywriters, marketers, and other professionals to ensure that your book does its absolute best when it hits the bookshelves.
So when a publisher "guarantees" a fast turnaround time, walk away.
Tips for finding a reputable traditional publisher
Now that you know which book publishers to avoid, you may wonder how to find the good ones. Not to worry, here are some strategies to help you find the ideal and reputable publisher for you.
Before you hire a literary agent
Literary agents are professionals who represent authors or writers and help to present your written work to publishers. Very similar to a film agent for an actor.
According to publishing consultant Janey Burton, almost anyone can call themselves a literary agent because there aren’t any formal standards. However, if you connect with a legit agent, they can help connect you with your ideal publisher.
When considering working with a literary agent, Burton advises remembering to look for the following: background, compatibility, and genre.
Background and experience
Before choosing a literary agent, you’ll want to ask about their previous clientele and experience. They don’t need to have a long client list. However, you do want to see who they've worked with before and the success of their previous clients.
Your literary agent should share similar values with you. They should also support you on your book's long and short-term goals. Having a positive working relationship can help with the success of your book.
Consider your genre and your competition
Lastly, you’ll want to consider the genre of your book. If you’ve written a book in a competitive genre, you’ll want to work with an agent who is familiar with this category.
A professional agent will not only be familiar with your genre but be able to help your book stand out from the crowd.
Do in-depth research
Although having an agent is helpful, you can also connect with a reliable publisher by doing your research. You can start by looking at publishers from your favorite books and create a list from there.
From this list, do an internet search on each one to see, to narrow down which one is the right fit. And if you consider our previous advice on spotting scam publishers, you’ll know which ones to pursue.
Before trying new restaurants, you’ve read a handful of Yelp and Google reviews. In a similar fashion, reviews can be just as helpful with publishers.
Connecting with different authors and reading reviews online are useful ways of getting feedback.
Consider their reputation
A great reputation can go a long way. When you discover a publisher you’d want to work with, make sure you consider their reputation. Consider what certain publishers are known for.
To learn more about a publisher's reputation, you can consult with other writers and professionals within the industry.
Check your competition
Looking at who's published your competitors is another helpful place to find legitimate publishers. By following your competition, you can better understand what types of books a particular publisher tends to publish.
Attend writing conferences
If you’re looking to find publishers, agents, and other published authors all in one place, then writing conferences are the place to be. Because of the standard of conferences, you’ll be ensured that many, if not all, of the publishers attending, are legit.
An advantage of conferences is that you can talk with publishers and other published writers in the community to understand better who to submit your manuscript to.
List of reputable traditional and self-publishers
Now with this knowledge, you have a good idea of which direction to go in regard to which book publishers to avoid. To make things even easier for yourself, make sure you follow this list of reputable traditional and self-publishers.
Here are some well-known traditional publishers that you could work with. Remember that traditional publishers often require a cover letter and a manuscript before considering publishing your book.
Chronicle Books is an independent publisher located in San Fransisco. They believe in helping artists and writers create unique and magical stories.
You can send your submission to them without an agent in the categories of children’s books and adult non-fiction trade books.
Based in Manhattan, New York, this independent book publisher was founded in 1986. Known for publishing works in the genres of crime fiction and young adult fiction, Soho Press typically publishes 80 to 90 books a year.
They typically don't accept unsolicited or non-agent submissions however, their website posts information on when submissions will open up.
If you’re looking to publish a book or journal in the area of design, social science, art, technology, and science, then MIT Press could be your publisher.
MIT Press accepts book proposals that are very detailed and thorough. Their website explains in detail what you’ll need to send to have your book considered.
Atria is an inclusive publisher that focuses on publishing stories from people of color. They publish both fiction and non-fiction books. Many of the published authors have gone on to become award winners and bestsellers.
For submissions, you can contact their editorial team.
John Wiley And Sons
John Wiley And Sons commonly known as Wiley focuses on academia, educational resources, self-help, and personal development.
They are an international publisher, operating in over 22 countries, and have been around since 1807. They have a strong reputation and have published several award-winning books while supporting thousands of authors.
If you’re looking to self-publish, here are some of the best self-publishing companies to work with.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon Kindle Direct, or KDP, is one of the most well-known self-publishing services. They hold around 80 percent of the ebook market.
Their system is easy to follow, and you can publish your book quickly.
Apple Books for Authors
Apple is a notorious brand; thus, publishing with Apple Books can increase your exposure. Not only does Apple books publish on their platform, but they share books with iTunes users.
Compared to the bigger self-publishing companies, Kobo is a close runner-up with over 6 million ebooks on its platform and customers in over 190 countries.
Their uploading process can be done in 6 simple steps and is completely free.
Barnes and Noble Press
One of the United States' most known brick-and-mortar bookstores is also operating online. Barnes and Noble Press caters to millions of readers. In addition, their platform has tools such as a royalties calculator to assist you when uploading your book.
Reedsy is a great platform for those that are new to self-publishing. Their website hosts an interactive and easy-to-follow platform to help you design your book, market it, and promote it.
Related articles on publishing
Did you find this article helpful? For more information on publishing your book, check out these related articles.
- Writing A Book Proposal: A Great Book Proposal Template To Use
- What Does A Literary Agent Do? Plus How To Find A Literary Agent
- How To Write A Publisher Cover Letter
Leverage these tips on book publishers to avoid!
Unfortunately, scam publishers are out there, waiting for unsuspecting authors. However, you can outsmart them by looking for their telltale signs.
Remember, the book publishers to avoid may ask you to pay upfront costs, guarantee a super fast publishing time, or promise you a certain number of sales. If the publisher doesn't seem to have your best interest in mind, walk away.
You’ve likely put your heart and soul into your book, so make sure it falls into the right hands. Do your research, work with a literary agent, and follow legitimate publishing companies.
Doing so can ensure your book gets published and properly presented to the world.