Book publishing – scams are alive and well and living in the USA, part 1

by James A Rose

Please welcome James Rose from, based near Memphis, Tennessee. In this two part series he walks us through the publishing choices available for authors in the USA – and the book publishing scams you need to be wary of. Are they as rampant over there as they are here in the UK? James says:

“Unfortunately there exists an army of unscrupulous players in the publishing industry just waiting to pounce on the inexperience of new authors. Just like with any other industry, these publishing vampires feed off the confusion and perhaps vanity of the uninitiated.”

Book publishing scams are alive and well and living in the USA

Want to publish a book in the USA? Like anywhere else, you need to watch for scammers.

“The scammers will either try to charge you a seemingly reasonable fee and deliver nothing in return or charge an exorbitant fee based on a well-known name and still deliver lackluster results. We will cover how this happens and how it can be avoided. The good news is that the situation is getting better. Authors are becoming more aware and proactive against these schemes.”

Now, James’s view of traditional publishers and literary agents…

Publishing Company Types

Let’s start by reviewing the insane myriad of ambiguous terms used to describe the various entities that comprise the publishing industry.

  • Self-Publishing Company
  • Author Service Company
  • Assisted Self-Publishing Company
  • Vanity Press
  • Royalty Press
  • Subsidy Publisher
  • Traditional Publisher
  • Book Coach
  • DIY (True Self-Publishing)

Holy cow, did I miss anything? No wonder novices are confused. Next we will go into more detail about what each of these terms mean.

Traditional publisher – royalty press

These companies are obviously the well-known publishers that are responsible for most of the books on shelves at major book store chains. Not all are large corporations. Some are smaller companies that may be more willing to take a chance on a new author.

Most unsavory deals that occur in this segment of the industry are not outright scams but rather the publisher trying to retain excessive control on the art and/or pay the author peanuts.

This is probably why I have heard of authors who swear that even if they could get a traditional publishing contract, they would still rather self-publish. They cite such reasons as loss of control, extended time to release and low profit.

I guess it would depend on the specifics of the contract but all things being equal, I think I would jump at the chance to be traditionally published. The odds are slim but just like an actor or musician, get an agent, don’t quit the day job and keep trying.

Agent scams do exist, too

The first revolves around reading fees.

These are fees the agent charges the author to read their manuscript. While these fees used to be legit, the agent industry collectively decided to do away with them, so if you encounter an agent that charges reading fees, don’t hire him/her.

Book publishing scams are alive and well and living in the USA

No honest literary agent will ask you to pay to get them to read your work.

The next agent scam is alive and well. This involves the agent first inflating the author’s ego by telling him that his book is awesome but just needs a little editing first.

The agent will inform the author that they have a preferred editor on staff so just pay the agent about a grand or more and the agent will see to it that the book is well edited. Of course, the editor is in on the scam and does a poor job or no editing at all.

The agent contacts the author a month later stating that due to market fluctuations, the agent will not be able to pitch the book to publishers. The agent assures the author, however, that his book was well edited, so should he decide to submit to another agent in the future, the editing process will be out of the way.

This, of course, is not true and the author was scammed out of a lot of money.

Here are two resources to find reviewed agents: and

Next week: James outlines the various different forms of self-publishing available in the USA, and what in his view works – and what doesn’t. Watch out for it!

In the meantime, what experience do you have of publishing scams?

Please share your views.




  1. Gordon Williams says

    A lot of scam publishers are only pretending to live in the USA by renting post office boxes and listing US toll-free numbers. Their actual locales range from the Philippines, to Nigeria and the Ukraine. Here is a useful tip: If you are approached by a “publisher,” ignore the name and address on the communication and just look at the writing itself. If the language, punctuation, grammar, etc. seem a bit off, it’s often because the writer is not a native English speaker. This will be a huge warning flag that you are dealing with people who are not what they say they are.