Going indie? Watch out for predators
Written by
Maria Murnane
January 2013
Written by
Maria Murnane
January 2013

While I'm no longer self-published, I began my career that way and am a big fan of indie publishing because it gives anyone the opportunity to fulfill his or her dream of becoming an author. However, authors must watch out for the unscrupulous types who prey on unsuspecting writers who are so eager to see their work in print that they get, for lack of a more gentle term, ripped off.

Here are three types of predatory behavior to watch out for when selecting vendors. Run for the hills if you encounter any of the following:

1. Promises of success: Any self-publishing company that guarantees it will make your book a best seller is lying. Would you work with a bookie who guaranteed a horse was going to win a race? Or a stock broker who guaranteed a certain stock was going to skyrocket? I certainly hope not. No one can predict the future.

2. Purchase requirements: Many indie authors end up working with self-publishing companies that require them to buy thousands of copies of their own work. The vast majority of the books end up collecting dust in a garage, and the duped author is out thousands of dollars. In today's print-on-demand world, buying large quantities of your book upfront shouldn't be a requirement.

3. Exclusivity: Before choosing a company to help you publish your book, make sure that if someone were to call you tomorrow and offer you another publishing opportunity, you have the option to accept it and walk away cleanly. If you don't sign away your rights, you'll be in the position to weigh your options carefully and make the decision that's best for you and your book.

Quick tip: before committing to a vendor, type the company name into a search engine and see what others around the web are saying. When reaching out to vendors for more information, be sure to ask about each of the above points so you have a clear understanding of their business practices, which ultimately will help you make a more educated decision on a publishing partner.


Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2013 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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  • Polly Letofsky

    Fabulous advice. In fact, the only thing wrong with this article is that I didn't read it three years ago when I made all those mistakes!

  • Lacey Louwagie

    I'd add one more: the publishing house presents itself like a traditional publisher.

    The most scammy self-publishing operations will often send the writer an "acceptance" letter, praise the writer's talent, etc., until the writer's ego is so invested in the idea of being published that they'll fork over the fees when they come up. There is NOTHING wrong with self-publishing or companies that make money providing that service to authors -- as long as they're upfront about who and what they really are.

  • Susan Miller

    Thank you for this invaluable information Maria. I have these jotted down just in case. Cheers! Susan

  • Pamela Olson

    Amen! Also be very careful that any editors, cover designers, and publicity services are reputable before laying down any cash. I had a 380 page book through CreateSpace, and I could buy my own book from them for less than $6, and when I sold it for $15, I made $9 profit. When Amazon sold it for $15, I got $3.50 "royalty."  If you're getting any less than this, definitely think twice!

    And don't settle for less than 70% "royalties" for eBooks if you're self-publishing. (I put "royalties" in quotation marks because it's different from how published book royalties are set up, but it's still basically the cash you take home.)

  • Geena Bean

    Great article.  I self-published a children's book with Createspace and am quite happy with how everything finally turned out.  The one thing I will say about Createspace is that they don't try to con you into any gimmicks or purchasing services that you really don't need.  I agree; before deciding to sign onto a self-publishing company, do your research.  You will be amazed at of the incredible amount of information out there, and all of the fluff most self-publishing companies try to sell you!

  • Maureen E. Doallas

    The blog Writer Beware is one to follow to keep up with the scams.

  • M. Kinnel

    Great points. Thanks!

  • Mercy B. Taylor

    Thanks for the post.