I recently received a flattering email asking me to consider a publishing deal.
I was suspicious for two reasons.
First, the flattery, while a nice tactic, couldn’t be genuine. I doubted very much that he had read any of my books.
Second, the email was coming from the publisher himself — or at least, that’s what the signature said. Publishers usually have people on staff to find new talent. They don’t send blind emails.
“Let’s discuss it”
Out of curiosity, I responded by asking if his company offered authors an advance against royalties.
“Sometimes,” the publisher replied. “Let’s discuss it by phone.”
So we did.
And he doesn’t.
So I wasn’t interested.
Seriously. Beware the flatterer
The truth is, though, that if I had less experience as a traditionally published author, I might have been fooled by the flattery. Someone who is newer to book publishing could get trapped in this web simply because they don’t know better.
What a shame that businesses and people take advantage of this.
I continue to hear from authors asking for advice about “amazing opportunities” to spend ridiculous amounts of money to publish their book or to get their book promoted to “thousands of readers!”
How a group saved an author hundreds of dollars
Case in point: An author posted in a Facebook group about a PHONE CALL (!) she received offering to display her book at Book Expo America for $1,500. “I am honored that they found me and my book,” she wrote, about to sign on the dotted line.
Group members pointed out that she could get the exact same opportunity for just $315 by working directly with the show organizers.
Why didn’t this author look into this herself?
Because the caller flattered her.
I know that some of these invitations come from legitimate businesses, but many — like the trade show exhibit dude — come from those that exist merely to rip you off.
Look for the clues
How can you tell the difference?
Look for the flattery.
If a stranger with an “opportunity” gushes over a book that has sold only a handful of copies, be suspicious. Books that aren’t selling well generally don’t cause people to vomit compliments.
It’s not always easy to spot the scammers, though. So how do you avoid getting caught by a sweet-talker?
Here are suggestions.
1. Take off those rose-colored glasses.
It’s harsh, I know, and it’s hard for some people to do. But you need to become more skeptical.
Some people are sincere when they offer praise, but chances are, those positive words come from those you have a relationship with already. You probably know whether or not you can trust them.
It’s usually the strangers — the first time contacts — you need to be wary of.
2. Do some research.
When I was contacted by the publisher, I checked out his website before responding. It didn’t have the information I was looking for, which was a red flag.
Google the company name plus the word “scam,” “ripoff,” or “complaints.” If that yields something, you’ve got a clue.
And, if you’re considering hiring someone to market your book, read my article, “How one author got ripped off and how you can avoid it,” first. It walks you through the process.
3. Learn as much as you can about the services offered.
A little knowledge goes a long way. It can help you determine what questions to ask.
4. Ask others about their experiences with specific vendors.
Smart authors do this all the time in online groups and with writer friends.
The fact that you don’t get reports back doesn’t mean the vendor can be trusted, but several bad reports should cause concern.
Bring your new-found skepticism to those negative reports, too. It’s possible that complainers had unrealistic expectations, for example.
If the feedback is overwhelming negative, though, you’ve identified a pattern.
Know what you’re buying
The best way to avoid getting tricked by the bad guys is to become better informed before spending your money
Do you walk into an auto dealership and buy the first vehicle you see? I’ll bet you do some research before making that purchase.
When you need a plumber, tutor, or dermatologist, what do you usually do? You ask others for recommendations.
Apply the caution you use in your personal life to your book business, too.
Learn as much as you can about what you need to purchase, then be a bit jaded when sifting through your options.
And remember. Flattery will get you nowhere.
Authors, what advice can you give others to protect them from being tricked or fooled? Please share your experience in a comment.
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