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How to Protect Yourself From Publishing Scams!

By Patricia Fry

Earlier this month, a SPAWN member contacted us with a complaint about a large book fulfillment and distribution company. He said that, while he made only a few sales through this company, his bill, at the time he decided to close his account, was quite large. Before getting involved, he did his research, he saw no red flags, so he signed and lost.

When I found out that this member will have to end up paying around $3,000 for the sale of roughly SIX books, I became enraged and motivated to see what we, here at SPAWN, could do to help him out.

First, I looked at the contract and it seemed pretty straightforward. Then I did a search to see if there were any warnings anywhere on the Internet implicating this company. I found only a few.

What happened to this member seems grossly unfair and unethical. But, I guess the only recourse he has is to eat it and maybe take the next contract to an attorney. In looking at this contract, it is obvious to me that the only way this member could have made any money on this deal is to have sold hundreds of books, but this is true of any fulfillment company. It is up to the author or publisher to make the sales, because all a fulfillment company does is warehouse your books and the distributing arm simply makes them available to customers—all at a pretty hefty price, I might add.

In talking to the member further, I learned that he read the contract and understood it perfectly. Where he went wrong was in believing the claims of the salespeople. He said they gave him reason to believe that they would personally sell hundreds of copies of his book. They actually named a company that they said they were affiliated with and through which they would sell numerous copies of his books. According to our member, they made many promises, which they did not keep. He says, “They strong-armed me.”

In fact, when the author could see that little was happening with regard to the sale of his book, he contacted the company they had mentioned and the representative there said they had never heard of or from the distributor.

I’d like to use this space to remind authors, freelance writers, artists and anyone else involved in the world of publishing to do a thorough search before hiring or signing up with any individual or company. Generally, a Google search using key words, “company name + complaint,” (or “warning,” “bad experience,” “scam,” or “avoid,” etc.) will trigger links to blogs, forums or articles carrying any bad tidings about this company or individual.

You can also visit Preditors and Editors at or (this site posts more than just scams related to poetry). Whispers and Warnings at And “Freelance Writers Report” runs Storm Warnings in their print newsletters listing publishers and companies to avoid.

Protect your business, your reputation and your bank account. If you don’t know who you’re doing business with or you don’t understand the wording in a contract or the company makes promises that are not covered in the contract, get help. Be proactive. Check credentials and references. Watch for and adhere to red flags. Believe what the salespeople tell you ONLY if it is also written in the contract. And make your decisions from an informed position.

– Patricia Fry is the president of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 28 books.

Read her hallmark book The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book, revised 2nd edition. and her NEW Author’s Workbook

If you are struggling to promote a book, order Patricia’s newest ebook, The Author’s Repair Kit.

Visit her informative publishing blog often at



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