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  • Writer's pictureArchuleta A. Chisolm

Vanity Publishing Nightmare

I receive many emails from aspiring authors about the publishing process. It can be overwhelming your first time around and there is a lot of information to take in.

These days, you can do a Google search and various publishers will come up. Some of them – known as vanity publishers - will promise to do everything for you but won’t divulge many details about price or promotion.

Unfortunately, I have been duped by one of these vanity publishers. My hope is to share my story so that you won’t make the mistake.

In 2012, it had been six years since my first book Heaven Knows Your Existence was released. I had worked with a traditional publishing company but they weren’t showing any interest in picking up my second project.

Several author friends encouraged me to self-publish but I was nervous and thought it would be too much work. So, I researched publishers and came across one in particular that offered various packages claiming to do everything for you from editing to printing.

My first mistake was not checking them out through the Better Business Bureau. If I had, I would have seen several complaints from authors about not getting what they paid for.

What I did was reach out to a few of the authors listed on their website and Facebook. The two that responded to me detailed their experiences extensively and were pleased with the publisher.

After speaking with a representative on the phone, I decided to work with them in June 2012; paid a $350 deposit for them to begin.

Initially, everything was great – consistent emails and phone calls. My assigned marketing representative kept me abreast of each stage of the process and I even received a publication date.

July 23, 2012, their contact with me began to slow down and I did not see certain things that were promised. I sent emails and left messages.

July 30, 2012, I received the following response:

“Thank you for following up with us. Unfortunately, considerable unforeseen internal issues within our organization have begun to affect our operations; as such, we've encountered certain challenges regarding the availability of our titles in bookstores and libraries. I can assure you that we are working very hard, though, to address the aforementioned issues, and we anticipate resolving them soon.”

July 31, 2012, the phone numbers were disconnected; website was not working and social media was blocked.

You can’t imagine the dead feeling I had inside, coupled with anger, disappointment and embarrassment. I was lured in by this attractive offer to do everything for me. But, I ended up paying more than $350.

I was lost and didn’t know what to do. So, I took advantage of all the best-selling authors I was followed on social media and asked for guidance. Marc Lacy, Reshonda Tate Billingsley, Ella Curry and more dusted me off and walked me through some steps to take.

Ultimately, I did the work of learning how to self-publish my book and in November 2012, Joy Comes in the Morning was released – under my own name.

These days, it is easy to learn how to self-publish (YouTube, Google, webinars, books, workshops). Yes, there are costs involved in obtaining a copyright and ISBN, editing, proofreading, book cover design, printing, and more. The work is all on your to obtain each of these things. It is SO worth it all. More importantly, you retain all the rights to your book, as well as all the sales.

There are four telltale signs of a vanity press publisher that might give you reasons for concern:

  • It only talks about publishing your book and says nothing at all about how you or they plan to sell your book. There is rarely a mention of historical sales, readers or book buyers.

  • It offers lots of expertise and experts in publishing your book but there are no names, bios or qualifications.

  • It offers you an absolutely free publishing guide as a way to get not only your email address but most importantly, your telephone number. This a classic vanity press ploy.

  • If there are pricing packages, they seem too good to be true. Trust, they are.

Do your research! After working so hard to get your manuscript done, the last thing you want is for a scam to take advantage of your dream.

There are many publishers to avoid or be leery about. Check this list of Thumbs Down Publishers for more information.

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