How to Avoid Self-Publishing Scams

17 06 2019
June 14, 2019
by Alex Palmer

Being able to identify when a particular service is overcharging—or just overpromising what they are actually able to deliver—is an important skill for any author to master.

The booming growth of self-publishing has been great news for authors as well as providers of all variety of self-publishing services, including editing, designing, a d consulting. But as services have proliferated, promising all variety of benefits and recipes for boosting sales, it’s more important than ever for indie authors to have a discerning eye when seeking out assistance. Being able to identify when a particular service is overcharging—or just overpromising what they are actually able to deliver—is an important skill for any author to master.

Know Who You’re Dealing With

The first step any author should take when determining whether a particular service or consultant is worth tapping for their publishing efforts is to get a clear sense of their background.

“[I]f you’re not dealing with a specific individual whose resume you can study, figure out who’s behind the service,” says Jane Friedman, a publishing expert and consultant who has worked in the industry for more than 15 years. “Do you trust who’s behind it? Are there specific names attached? There should be! Do these people have experience that applies to what you’re trying to accomplish? How many years of experience?”

To help fill in this background, an author should determine how long the company or individual has been in business, and if they have testimonials from other authors who have used their service, or what Friedman calls a “track record and history of achievement.” Many services and individuals will have these endorsements right on their websites, but if that’s not readily available, make a direct request for examples of customers they have worked with. A reputable company will usually provide this. (Of course, it may be easier to work in the opposite direction and begin by asking other authors for service providers they would recommend and going from there.)

“It’s likely that, if the company produces low-quality work or is unreliable, the Internet will be chock full of horror stories and warnings,” says Hellen Barbara, founder and president of Pubslush, a platform that connects editors, publishers, and authors. “My biggest piece of advice is to never sign a contract with a company before doing your due diligence and knowing exactly what you’re signing.”

She adds that an author should also avoid going for the first company that seems to provide the service they need—instead, “compare and contrast several different companies before making a decision.” This includes getting a sense of the average cost of services, the staff’s speed of response, and the quality of the company’s work.

In addition to its track record, an author can spot a questionable service by understanding its business model—what services they provide, the terms, the payments and fees involved, and exactly what is delivered.

“By uncovering the business model, you have some insight into what actions that business wants you to take,” explains Friedman. “Are they upfront about what they do, what do they have a stake in, and how do they make money? Are they upfront about how the work gets done? I favor the ones who have nothing to hide, as well as those with a point-of-view and distinctive personality.”

Spotting the Danger Signs

As an author researches her options, a red flag should go up for any service that is not transparent about these points, or willing to provide speedy answers to questions about them. A slow response, even from a totally trustworthy service provider, should still be seen as a concern for an author.

“A lack of responsiveness or attention could mean if something were to go wrong—a mistake, poor quality work, a billing issue, etc.—there might not be someone available to assist you with your problem, which undoubtedly can be aggravating and unfair,” says Barbara.

They should clearly lay out exactly how much the project will cost—whether in hourly terms or for the whole project—and when you will be expected to pay. A significant upfront charge should raise red flags.

If everything seems above board, but there is extensive paperwork or a contract involved, an author may also consider getting a legal expert involved to review the document and make sure it’s a fair deal. Either way, an author should get the terms clearly in writing.

But often, the best protection from shady service providers comes from a different type of expert: fellow indie authors.

“Take advice from companies you trust, as well as other authors,” says Barbara. “There are more people willing to help than you might realize, so never feel like you’re in the publishing process alone.”


Alex Palmer is a freelance journalist and the author of Weird-o-Pedia.



14 08 2016

I posted this article several years ago, it was updated in April 2016.  Read it and BEWARE!



21 03 2012


(I am currently in the process of helping a customer trying to obtain her release from iUniverse, so far it is ridiculous, they are charging her for the release of her files and they will only give her her original Word files back, she paid them to do the layout of the text, so if she paid for the work, shouldn’t it belong to her?  To date, they are still giving her the run around)

–Rick Frishman – Publisher- Morgan James Publishing
Subsidy or Pay–to–Publish Publishers
Also known as pay-to-publish, there are several companies that take upfront
money to publish your book. Subsidy publishers throw into the
package, interior and cover design (don’t expect miracles—most will use
their formula templates). The author then gets to buy the book at a preset
cost for resale. Most subsidy type of publishing uses a POD format—
print-on-demand—for book ordering. You can buy one copy for resale or
hundreds. The entry fee is usually less than $1,000 to enter into a
contract … but, and it’s a big but, the cost can be quite extensive per book unit;
author/publisher discounting deals are pro-publisher, always; and getting out of a
contract if things are not going well, can be difficult, if not impossible.

BEWARE and Compare POD (Online) Publishers

17 08 2011

COMPARE POD PUBLISHERS! More details about each firm below appear HERE:


BookLocker: I haven’t heard much about them one way or another.

LuLu: AVOID, I have spent more time cleaning up messes after them for customers than I can count. It is impossible to get through to a live person but you can communicate on FB with an imaginary employee they have, hmmmmmm?

CreateSpace: I’ve recently been hearing more complaints about them, BEWARE.

In my opinion, these companies are in the business of selling over priced services to people that don’t know any better, they will over-charge you to purchase “your own” books from them and they are not going to do much to help you sell books. The only reason they call themselves publishers is because they hold the ISBN and when you’re sick of them it is not an easy process to get your book rights back from them!

BookLocker: $517 (Deduct $200 if submitting your own cover)  Rated “Outstanding” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of  The Fine Print of Self-Publishing. **

iUniverse: $999.00 (includes 5 “free” copies)  Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and  author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

CreateSpace: $1022.00 (Deduct $299 if submitting your own cover)  Rated “Just OK” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of  The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

Lulu: $1131.00 (Deduct $450 if submitting your own cover)  Rated “Pretty Good” by Mark Levine, attorney and author of  The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

Trafford: $1324.00  Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and > author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

AuthorHouse: $1517.00  Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and  author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

Xlibris: $1972.00 – (includes 5 “free” copies)  Rated “Publisher to Avoid” by Mark Levine, attorney and  author of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.

***Prices above based on least expensive package offered by  each publisher on similar offers targeting U.S. authors. Fees  include interior formatting (based on a 200-page book), original cover design with up to 5 images, print proof, ebook creation, up to 25 interior photos/graphics, an ISBN,  barcode, a listing on the publisher’s website and  distribution by Ingram, all within 6 weeks.  NOTE: All publishers above currently offer distribution  through Ingram (the largest book distributor), as well as  inclusion of their titles in the major online (,, etc.) and physical bookstore systems.  NOTE: Many companies offer perks that others don’t, some try  to upsell authors on extraneous services, and a few even  claim ownership of files the author has paid them to create.  Study each publisher and contract carefully before making  your choice.