Dear Authors: PLEASE don’t get ripped off!!!!!

So most of you probably don’t know this, but from 1999-2010ish I ran a website for authors called The Passionate Pen. The site contained articles for writers, links to agents and publishers and a lot of other info for authors looking to publish romance (mostly) fiction. When I got busier and felt interest had waned, I stopped updating it, though much of the info is still there and every once in a while I think about restarting it.

Recently, my husband has taken his duties as my own assistant and started a service for authors called Killer Book Marketing (which is awesome by the way, you should check him out) and with all his new work on the publishing/writer front he said to me the other day that he was seeing a lot of rip-off artists out there trying to take advantage of authors. It brought back a lot of memories from my time running a site for writers and my own frustration with how many people were trying to scam authors and how many authors were getting scammed, often in very avoidable schemes.

So I wanted to write my own little rant about this topic. So here it goes:

Authors, please don’t get ripped off. There are a LOT of ways that this happens so let me go over them:

1. Vanity Presses — This was the big way authors were getting ripped off ‘back in the day’ when I started writing. A vanity press takes money to publish books. Usually a significant amount of money to “publish” your book and offer you a number of copies to sell out of your car. This is not self-publishing. This is paying for your book to be published. And it’s not okay. The books are rarely available in any market where you can sell them except for your car. The quality is generally suspect. If you’re with a “publisher”, you should NEVER have to pay for publishing. Publisher make money from sales. They shouldn’t be making it off the backs of authors. DON’T PAY TO PUBLISH.

2. Bad Agents — Another of the main reasons people used to get ripped off in the ‘olden days’. There are so many great literary agents out there. My own included. I advocate strongly for getting a literary agent, especially if you’re going to be working with traditional publishers. But pretty much anyone can hang out a shingle and say, “I’m an agent.” And some percentage of authors will work with those people and likely get burned. Literary agents should NOT charge reading fees, submission fees or any fees to authors working with them. Again, you shouldn’t pay to play in publishing!! Agents make money from their commission of your sales. That drive is what keeps them working hard for you. Do some basic research on agents before you ever submit to them, you’ll find out which ones are seen as rip off people and which are not. You’ll also find from this basic research who those agents represent, what genres they are well-versed in and what kind of practices they run. PLEASE DO RESEARCH BEFORE YOU SUBMIT. I cannot stress this enough.

Okay, but now the rip-off artists have so much more to work with. With self-publishing growing and social media so important to writers, they’ve expanded, so here are some other things to be aware of:

1. Social Media scams – You’ve seen those messages from tweeters who say they can get you 10,000 followers in three days? Yeah, most of the time that is crap. They’ll get your 10,000 followers in exchange for money, but they’ll be almost 100% fake accounts. And they’ll also get you a ton of new SPAM to your account. Awesome. This will not help you sell books or gain new readers. Killer Book Marketing actually has some tips of getting REAL Twitter followers, so I’ll let you read his methods here. If something seems too good to be true… it is. Same thing with “gaining” Facebook followers. Fake accounts do nothing for you except cause headaches.

2. Self-publishing Scams – You should be able to do pretty much everything that has to do with self-publishing yourself, but I realize some people are not comfortable. So you need to hire an editor, a cover artist, someone to format, someone to upload the book itself. There are legitimate people doing all these things out there for reasonable costs. But there are also people we’ve found who are charging $2500, $5000, even $10000 for this ‘service’. No. No. No. Too much! You may never even make that much on a book, even if the book does okay! But this person will walk away with 100%+ of everything you make. It’s not okay. It will not help you.

Basically my advice to you is do your research on ANYTHING that costs you money in publishing.  Ask around, find the right person to perform services for you! Otherwise, you are just being taken by someone laughing all the way to the bank.

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