Beware the flatterer

I recently received a flattering email asking me to consider a publishing deal.

Oh, sure.

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

beware the flatterer 2Case 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. 

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Thank you for this post!! The many self-publishing “publishers” now are so often downright predatory in their sales tactics, preying on people’s dreams. I am particularly disturbed whenever I see TV commercials for so-called “Christian” self-publishing companies as I’ve talked with people who believed very strongly that they were called by God to deliver a message and that their Lord would guide them to success. It’s so upsetting!

    1. Amen, Dagny! I haven’t seen those commercials, but I can imagine them — and the inflated price tag that goes along with those services. The people they rope in — those with a message to deliver — probably don’t do any research before giving their credit card number, either. It really does depress me.


  2. Very Helpful information Sandi. I’ll share it with my writers. Many of them have had experiences with publishing sharks. A few were bitten financially. I always advise clients to double check the publisher’s website, and ask for references and then check them out. Due diligence is the answer, particularly, as you have written, when the flattery runs deep and swift. This is why I always advise writers to search for an agent to help them avoid publisher pitfalls. Then, of course, they need to beware of fraudulent agents. Sheesh. As if it isn’t to traverse the writing curve!

    1. Thanks, Molly.

      I think those who are most susceptible to flattering scammers are those who won’t be in a position to secure a literary agent, unfortunately. An agent sells books to legit publishers. The sharks are vanity presses preying on those whose only option is self publishing.

      It’s buyer beware, right?


    1. Absolutely, Kathy! (And…HA!)

      The fact that so many people are so fooled by the flattery that they skip the research part really concerns me.


  3. Thank you for writing this post Sandy! It does amaze me how many times I hear stories of people who’ve been scammed out of thousands of dollars. This is true for book marketing also. I recently had someone referred to me because he had paid thousands of dollars to a company to have them set up his social media presence and website to help promote his newest book. It ended up they didn’t do what he wanted on the website and he did not even have access to any of his social media accounts. I did the tiniest bit of searching online and could immediately tell the company had scammed him. It’s a shame really!

    1. Thanks, Sue. I always hate hearing about people who have paid twice for a service. It’s so unfortunate.


  4. When a total stranger flatters you and asks for money, that’s always a red flag.

    I had registered a story I wrote in the copyright office, and someone from a self-publishing company found it and asked me if I would like it published with her company’s help.

    I asked her if she had read my story and she said no. A bigger red flag.

    I tole her I wasn’t interested. I never heard from them again.

    This company is Dorrance Publishing. If you google them you will find that people are suspicious that they’re a scam.

    Stay away.

    1. Thanks, Rosalind! I think that if a publishing company’s goal is to merely manufacture books w/out regard for quality or content, that approach will work just fine. You’ve written something, anything, and want to see it in print? They’ll take your money. But the way you were “discovered” is certainly, um, interesting.

      Thank you for sharing your story!


  5. I’ve had 3 such approaches now, each time by phone. First wanted to present my book, from Fjord to Floathouse at the Hamburg Book Fair, which made good sense to me to find an international audience. Turned out what they really wanted to do was republish it and have the rights themselves.
    Other two phoncalls out of the blue offered marketing as well as publishing of my self- published book(s). And each of those callers used deplorable English. One left no phone #.

    1. Myrtle, I don’t know about anyone else here, but I find the fact that they made an effort to find your phone number disturbing! Imagine what would have happened if you had provided your credit card information over the phone to book space at the book fair — or for anything else. There’s no paper trail….

      An author in the Build Book Buzz Facebook group also got a phone call. In her case, her book was still in manuscript stage on her computer, which meant that the creep probably found her in a Facebook group for writers.



  6. It happens with so-called media opportunities too. One company has a logo that looks very similar to a huge cable network, which is confusing. For 5K they offer to do a couple of videos and get you in front on millions via their platform. It’s a total scam. I would add in addition to being skeptical of flattery, be sure you have experts/associates in your networks who you can run these “opportunities” by for the real scoop.

    1. Thanks, Joanne. Great tip! I can only imagine how many people have been sucked into this and completely wasted their money.

      You’ve reminded me of one that targets me every now and again, both by telephone and email. It’s an online radio “network” contacting me with an interview opportunity because listeners have requested that I be a guest on the show, yada yada yada. Ha! It’s actually an opportunity to pay to be interviewed about the topic of my choice. Lucky me, eh? Um, no.

      Thank you for warning and advice — excellent!


  7. Excellent article, Sandra. A west coast publishing company calls and leaves me messages every few days. The message never varies. They won’t go away even though I haven’t taken one call. That and my web research tell me they are a scam. You do authors a great service by exposing these issues and reminding us how vulnerable we mustn’t be to flattery!

    1. Thank you, Sheila! I’m so glad it resonated with you — but so sorry that company keeps calling. That tactic alone tells you everything you need to know about the company, right? I feel terrible for the people who don’t know better and get sucked in by the flattery. I understand how easy it is to be tricked.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *