Beware of Exploitative “Publishers”

If you Google “getting published”, you’ll likely see a whole lot of ads that appear to be from publishing houses seeking submissions from aspiring writers. But how do you distinguish the reputable publishing houses, or providers of publishing services, from the more unscrupulous operators who set out to take advantage of writers, often charging large fees and giving little in return?

The first and most important rule is to make sure you get proper independent advice before you sign a contract, particularly if the publisher is asking you to make a financial contribution. Arts Law or the Australian Society of Authors will provide contract advice for a modest fee.

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is another reputable organisation offering advice to independent authors seeking to get their work published. The ALLi Watchdog Desk rates independent publishers based on their trustworthiness and warns of anything you should be cautious about. The full list of their publisher ratings is available here.

Other things you can do to protect yourself include:

  • Check to see if the publisher has a variety of books for sale in your local bookshop or at an online retailer like Booktopia. If they don’t, chances are they won’t help to get your book into the hands of readers either.
  • Google the name of the publisher + “customer reviews”. A large number of negative reviews is a huge warning sign. Be aware that you will always see some positive reviews as businesses may post these themselves.
  • Don’t click on Google or social media ads from “publishers” saying they are accepting submissions or looking for new authors. Reputable publishers don’t pay to advertise for submissions online as they already receive more than they can cope with.
  • Be very cautious if you receive an enthusiastic response within a few days of submitting your manuscript. Although that can occasionally happen with a reputable agent or publisher, it is extremely rare to receive a positive response so quickly. In most cases, this will be a standard reply from somebody who hasn’t even read your manuscript and is simply seeking to charge you for publishing it.
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