Writers Need to Research Publishers First

It completely amazes me the number of newly published writers who will brag about being “published” through vanity presses! I fail to understand the joy they feel when they have to pay sometimes thousands of dollars. Even worse is the fact they use companies without conducting proper research. I belong to several groups on LinkedIn, and the topic has come up on numerous occasions–some writers will have enough insight to ask before using a publisher. Two such examples are iUniverse and Author House. In spite of the insight of some to question the integrity of these vanity presses, a week or two later someone else will post they actually have a contract with them! Why do they belong to writing groups if they are not going to take the time to read posts, especially those that relate to a topic of such importance?

The Importance of Researching First

One of the big problems with vanity houses is they exploit unpublished writers, even to the point of telling them traditional publishers will see their book in bookstores and offer them a contract. They are so excited about the offer that they don’t take the time to weigh the facts.

  • Bookstores do not stock self-published books unless the authors contact them directly.
  • Vanity presses will publish any book when the author is willing to pay the price. It doesn’t matter if the book is any good or not–they are only looking for the money it will bring from the author.
  • Authors usually only get a few copies of their books for the price they pay–any others they must pay for although they might get a discount.
  • Vanity presses charge for every service they offer: printing, promotion, proofreading, editing, etc.

Learn to Follow the Advice of Others

While I am still working on my book, I have learned enough to know how to choose a publisher, and that includes conducting research. Whenever someone mentions I name with which I am not familiar the first thing I do is go to Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware. In the case of both iUniverse and Author House you will discover they are listed by P&E as “not recommended.” I know they have been on the list of publishers to avoid since at least the turn of the 21st century yet novice authors get in such a hurry that they don’t take the time to research first.

In addition to checking out Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware, Angela Hoy has a newsletter she publishes that includes a section called “Whispers and Warnings.” She includes various publishers who have attempted (or succeeded) in scamming writers. While these are often publications, you can gain a great deal of insight.

Speak to other published writers to see what kind of experiences they had with their publishers or agents–yes, you should check out agents first as well, another feature Preditors and Editors includes. You can learn much more from other writers than you can from just online research. It can certainly take time, but you can save yourself a great deal of frustration and avoid making a costly mistake.

Do Not Pay Someone to Publish Your Book

This is one of the most expensive lessons authors need to learn because any company that wants up front fees is a vanity press. I have had self-published writers try to tell me the term is obsolete, that they wish to be called Indie publishers, but the problem is that can also refer to a small independent traditional publisher.

If you are insistent upon self-publishing choose an online source such as Create Space or Smash Words–other authors have indicated they take a percentage of the sales rather than charging an up front fee. Of course, the perfect solution is to work hard to find a traditional publisher–print or e-book–but the bottom line is avoid any company that has a bad reputation and is listed as “not recommended” on Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CW64
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 21:49:57

    I agree with you, but my guess is that your words will be falling on deaf ears, as usual. These people are so persistent in their desire to become published that they will believe what they want and have an answer to every point you make.

    Sorry if that sounds negative. My support goes with you. 🙂


  2. Brenda Coxe
    Jan 19, 2011 @ 22:02:39

    I am sure you are right, but with the post I am hoping maybe a few people will take the time to think before they make a decision.


  3. Cecly Ann Mitchell
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 14:50:42

    While your message is indeed a creditable one, the irony of this post and all other thinkers of like manner is this-: Those early works from which we quote and bow to, as great, paid to have their works published.
    The publishing world has advanced dramatically since those days of poor listing of Author House and like company. Amazon’s Create Space is certainly the preferred choice for those wishing to publish their own works. However the problem does not lie in the ‘publisher’ but in the author.
    As a writer you need to surround yourself with persons who encourage you to give the best of your creativity. Therefore a team of editors, proof readers, cover designers, marketing and pr people should be included in your support group as you journey towards full filling your dream of seeing your work in print.
    Paying to have your work published does not however negate the fact that you are published, so your comment at the opening of this post seems to me very narrow minded.
    If the ‘established’ imprint houses have created an elite caste of writers, editors and marketers to voice the opinion that unless you are published through them you are not published; then the economics of the real world demands that anyone who can make a buck off of you will make a buck off of you.It is greed that separates the one from the other and Shylocks from those who truly want to work at this craft.
    Established publishing houses seldom take risk, the author always does.
    In the Caribbean where I live we don’t have ‘established’ publishers. Most of us who publish use a UK imprint to do so, but we do have two Nobel Prize Laureates for Literature who were BOTH self published before they were picked up by established publishers in the UK.
    I also have a friend who published three years ago with an established American imprint, and kept grumbling every time her royalty cheques arrived, because the tallies did not match.
    They all have said whether you are working with an established house or self published industry, the author has to do considerable work to get their novel published.
    I’ve read some really AWFUL novels put out by ESTABLISHED publishers and some excellent work done by self pubs.
    The bottom line is, if you as an author are focused on your development as a writer you will ensure that the work you put out there is value for the money you are asking your reader to spend.


    • Brenda Coxe
      Jan 29, 2011 @ 12:53:53

      You missed the entire point of the blog post. I was referring specifically to those who choose a publisher or publishing service company without conducting research. In several of the LinkedIn groups there have been numerous comments concerning Author House, and the person questioning the company was provided the information and referred to both Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware; the next day or two you find another person but this time one that has published through AH without doing the research and finding out later that AH has had a bad reputation with P&E for some years.

      The post was not written to glorify or condemn one method over the other though I myself do not advocate self publishing but only for the reason you mentioned: many novice authors are not taking the time to make sure their work is in perfect shape before they publish it, a problem that has succeeded in giving the SP industry a bad name. Some in the industry–magazine editors and publishers as well as others who hire freelance writers–indicate they will not contract with those whose only writing credits are self-published work. Those who will hire SP writers will only do so at a rate lower than they pay those who have traditional publishing credits.

      I do a great deal of reading–2-4 books a month on average–and while I have seen traditionally publishing work of poor quality, it is not as frequently as others would like you to believe. I have yet to read a self-published book, at least in fiction, that even comes close. I receive a great many review copies, and those I have received from SP authors make me cringe in the first few pages and not from grammar and typographical errors but from weak plots, extended narratives, changes in tense, and the worst telling instead of showing. On the other hand, the non-fiction SP books I have read are at least equal to the traditionally published ones.

      It doesn’t matter how you publish your work, you still have to work very hard, that is true. The problem is many novice writers are too anxious to get their work out there and as a result do not take the time necessary. In addition, when they use the vanity houses such as Author House, iUniverse and others they seem to have the misconception that editing is included with their package. They also fail to understand that places that charge for their services don’t care whether your work is any good as long as you are willing to pay the price. This is another avenue that goes a long way toward giving SP a bad name. It will never change until authors take the time to perfect their work regardless of which publishing route they choose. The industry will not remove the stigma of SP until writers who choose SP take the time to hire professional editors and learn how to write a book that is free of grammar and spelling errors in addition to one that is easy to read and shows rather than tells a story.


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