Is Stratton Press a publishing predator? Here’s everything you need to know

I got a call from Stratton Press. Here's what happened and how you can protect yourself from the many publishing predators stalking you now.

I received an interesting voicemail message earlier this month.

“Hi Sandra, this is Ann and I’m calling from Stratton Direct. We want you to send us copies of your book, Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans. And we are interested to display your book in our physical bookstore in Manhattan. And this is at no cost to you. Just send us the copies and give me a call as soon as you get this so we can provide you more details. My number is….”

Stratton Direct is the marketing arm of Stratton Press, an author services company.

Here are four reasons I was surprised by the call:

  1. Adams Media published Streetwise Complete Publicity Plans in 2003.
  2. Considering I wrote it 20 years ago, it is woefully out of date.
  3. It has been out of print for years.
  4. Unlike many other authors, I haven’t been inundated with unsolicited calls or emails from companies like this. I thought it was because my print-format books are traditionally published. I was wrong.

So of course, I called her back. And took notes.

Why did Ann call?

Ann wanted to offer me shelf space in a brick-and-mortar store for this out-of-print, out-of-date book.

She could accept up to 10 copies. They would keep 10 to 25% of the retail price; I would keep the rest.

She said she was looking at the book on its Amazon sales page, yet, she asked questions that were answered on that screen. “Who published the book?” “What’s the ISBN number?”

But “How is it selling?” Come on, Ann. It’s a how-to book that’s 20 years old. How do you think it’s selling?

The old “You’re an important author” trick

I asked what put me on her radar. “You’re an important author!” she said.


I could hear my Dad saying, “Don’t kid a kidder.”

I still don’t know how or why I was targeted, or why anyone else is. If you do, please explain it in the comments.

But, wait! There’s more!

Ann asked about my marketing strategy. Have I gotten it into local bookstores, she wondered. She didn’t seem to understand that a book that’s part of a series from a major publisher has more than local distribution. It’s in stores nationwide.

Or in my case, was.

After asking me about my goal for the book, I gave her the answer she wanted: To sell as many books as possible. That was the goal 20 years ago, anyway. (Did she not notice that detail?)

That’s the answer that unlocked the full pitch.

Why, they have a “complete book selling system” that I can take advantage of! It includes placement in their “exclusive online store.” And I can keep 100% of sales from that store.

“Every sale you make goes into your bank account,” she assured me.


All I need to do is send her my book’s manuscript so Stratton Press can republish it under its name.

My book will get its own sales page in their online store. They’ll market it aggressively on social media.

The new book, personal sales page, and “aggressive” promotion will cost me $3,000. That fee includes warehouse storage for what would be a print-on-demand book, too…even though no storage is required for books that are printed and shipped only after people order them.

Here’s why the Stratton Press pitch is stupid

Stratton Press  is charging a fee for services. But those services have no value.

You have a book already. Why do you need to re-publish it with an operation that’s trawling the internet for authors to flatter? (I refer back to that “important author” statement above.)

Plus, readers don’t buy books from unknown sites like this. They want to buy books from trusted retailers – Amazon, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, etc. (If you’re trying to sell your book from your own website, you understand this.)

What’s more, the Stratton Direct/Stratton Press website clearly targets authors, not readers. That’s a huge clue that the company’s goal is to fleece authors, not readers.

PREDATOR ALERT: Readers don’t buy books from unknown sites. They want to buy books from trusted retailersClick to tweet

Don’t fall for it

There are NO reasons for you to buy a Stratton Direct/Stratton Press package. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

That physical bookstore in Manhattan? It’s “coming this 2023.” (But that’s more hopeful than “next 2023,” right?) Will it ever open? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure readers won’t be shopping there.

Stratton Press imaginary bookstore

What can this unknown bricks-and-mortar store (that doesn’t exist yet) offer that a favorite indie store can’t? More outdated, out-of-print books like mine.

I think this “coming soon” store was thrown into the mix to tempt authors who desperately want bookstore distribution, but can’t get it, don’t you?

6 signs you’ve heard from a predator

I returned Ann’s phone call because I knew it was from some type of author services company preying on authors who are vulnerable to flattery or other trickery.

I can see why the package offered to me would be attractive to those who are less informed and less cynical than I am. The sample book pages on the Stratton Press site that Ann sent me links to are lovely.

But that’s just smoke and mirrors.

Here are six signs to watch for so you don’t become the victim of a publishing predator.

1. They call 

Legitimate publishers aren’t calling authors with published books. They just aren’t. And they certainly aren’t calling authors who aren’t already selling a lot of books.

Their goal is to convince you that they can sell lots and lots of books for you.

They can’t.

PREDATOR ALERT: Legitimate publishers aren’t calling authors with published books.Click to tweet

2. They send email messages

See above – the good guys aren’t sending emails to unknown authors, either. Delete.

3. They flatter you

I understand how anyone might be susceptible to a pitch from someone who says they represent a book publisher. We all want to think our books are so special that they attract strangers who will take those books to the next level.

Push past that temptation to think that maybe, just maybe, they are legit. If enough of us hang up the phone, flattery will get them nowhere.

4. They use bait and switch tactics

My conversation went from “We’ll stock your book for free in our physical bookstore” to “and for $3,000, we’ll do these other things of no value to you” pretty quickly.

5. Googling the company name plus “complaints,” “scam,” or “predator” generates results

This is the first thing I do when someone in the Build Book Buzz Book Marketing Group on Facebook asks about a publisher.

6. The company is on the ALLi Self-Publishing Services naughty list

The Alliance of Independent Authors – ALLi – maintains a helpful list of author services companies along with ratings:

  • Excellent
  • Recommended
  • Mixed
  • Caution
  • Watchdog Advisory

Stratton Press, on page 17 of the list, is in the next-to-the-worst category, “Caution.” Those are “Services that do not currently align with ALLi’s Code of Standards.”

Don’t take the bait

Here are three ways to avoid paying for services you don’t need and that won’t help:

  • Stifle your ego. These people aren’t calling because your book is special. They’re calling because they hope you’re a sucker.
  • Don’t return a call from anyone who says they’re an agent, publisher, or marketer. Honest, successful people in these categories don’t cold-call unknown authors.
  • Keep your credit card in your wallet. Before spending money with “service providers” soliciting your business, Google them using the tip above. Check the ALLi watchdog listAsk authors in online groups what they know about the companies.

Spread the word

That last point about sharing predator information with other authors is important. One of the best ways to minimize the damage caused by companies that prey on us is to choke off their supply of unsuspecting writers.

The more we talk about and share information about these companies, the more we can help our author peers. You can help immediately by sharing this article in author groups.

I’m glad this happened to me. It offered a firsthand look at how these goobers operate. I hope that sharing my experience here has helped you, too.

I probably haven’t identified all of the signs of a predator. What would you add to this list? Please tell us 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. I’m not a big name at all. I have two novels that I self-published. I get calls and emails like this about once a week. A recent one said that I should send them the screenplay for my book because they can’t find it anywhere and they don’t know who the author of the screenplay is. Those leaving voicemails on my phone rarely get my name or the names of my books right (“Bead of Sand” is called “Bed of Sand” or “Bed of Sin,” and “The Sturgeon’s Dance” has been called “The Surgeon’s Dance,” “The Storch’s Dance,” and “The Stork’s Dance.” (I don’t know what a storch is.) But of course they’ve all read my books and loved them and think they are prime material for international markets and film.

    Trolls. For the sake of amusement, I save the better (worse?) emails in a file called “they wanna make it famous.”

    1. This is both shocking and depressing, Sally! Why do you think you’re targeted so much? (And thanks for the laugh about the file name — I love that!)


  2. Hello Sandra,

    This is one of your best columns ever. Why? Not because of any special “hidden”secrets uncovered here; rather, this is a great reaffirmation of what novice writers need to be told over & over again: check your ego at the door when it comes to scammers trying to slide their hands down your pants pockets. It’s soooo easy to let your guard down & fall for these scam artists when you’ve been rejected by so many agents, editors, & publishers & are ready to throw in the towel. Thanks for this trenchant reminder, so well-stated.—Ron Roman, author of the dystopian doomsday thriller OF ASHES AND DUST (Histria Books/Nov. 2022).

    1. Thanks, Ron. You’ve really nailed it. I think that just plain ignorance — lack of knowledge — plays into this, especially with novices. If you don’t know how things work (legit publishers don’t need to trawl for manuscripts), you’re more likely to become a victim. That’s why I think it’s so important to spread the word about how these operations work. And sadly, people with all levels of experience are susceptible to flattery. (Sigh.)


  3. More often than I care to think about, I receive phone calls from “Your Online Publicist”. They have my name and phone number (lord knows how they got it) and want to publicize one or another of my and my husband’s travel memoirs.

    I try to stop the pitch by saying I did not contact them and am curious about how they have my home phone number. They can never explain exactly how they have my number, but continue with their unwelcome pitch.

    I always end up hanging up, but not before I ask them to remove my phone number from their listing.

    It is maddening!
    Our travel memoirs are self published through KDP, and also traditionally published by small independent publishers who have served us well.

    Your column here is excellent.
    Thanks for a chance to blow off some steam!

    1. How annoying, Sunny! Can you block phone numbers? I can do it with both my landline and cell numbers, and it makes a big difference in these situations.


  4. Very helpful. I’d forgotten about the Alli list, which covers a lot of service providers, not just publishers. I’ll recommend this to my writing contacts. Thanks

  5. I was a lucky winner. Got the call, the bookstore spiel. I asked where in Manhattan and the reply was an address on Madison Ave. that I happen to know doesn’t exist. Then into the goals, send us 10 books, how’s your book selling, yadda. Kept pressing me to make a decision. Told them to email me more info. Long story short, I emailed I wasn’t interested. Kept calling me. Didn’t answer the phone. The kicker was the email asking why I wasn’t interested. So, I replied because I wasn’t interested, and not to contact me again.

    I learned about predators like Stratton from a painful experience many years ago. From then on, my M.O. has been that if I receive a cold call from anyone about my books, whether by phone or email, I give them the cold shoulder.

    1. Roxanne, you must have been contacted by the same company that called me. Lucky, special, us! I’m glad I can block phone numbers on both my office landline and cell numbers. It helps in these situations!

      I hope many, many more authors adopt your MO. It’s perfect.


  6. My experience is a little different: I was approached (via email) by a company called The Reader’s House that offered me an “opportunity” to be interviewed by them and have the interview published in their magazine. I was curious, so I emailed them back & said I’d be interested, just so I could find out what their pitch was. Their response was both vague and confusing, and littered with spelling, grammatical, and and structural mistakes. Then I went to their website and the site of their parent company, NewYox, which was even worse. For instance, “Newyox makes you feel extraordinarily special by personalizing the products like books, magazines, catalogs, brochures, ads and so on. We already have world’s well designed, attractive and beautiful products, while publishers, companies, universities to join our platform.”
    Huh??? Needless to say, I passed on this “opportunity.”

    1. That’s fascinating, Joan! Did they ever tell you how much they’d charge you for that interview (that nobody would see)? And thank you for naming them — I hope people see this!

      Your experience reminds me of the emails I get telling me that I’ve been “personally selected” to host an online radio show. Oh, happy day! The messages say nothing about how much I have to pay for that honor, of course. What a racket!


  7. Thank you for this. I get calls from authors I work with asking me if offers like this are legit. My response is the same as yours. In some cases, the naive, first-time authors have already signed a contract, then are wondering if they got scammed. Duh!

    The more these outfits are exposed the better.

    1. Aw, Larry, I’ve had those “I wish I had talked to you first” conversations with authors, too. It makes me so sad! Some of my book marketing coaching clients have been smart enough to ask me to review proposals from publishers, which has allowed me to save them from making very, very expensive mistakes.


  8. Thank you so much for this article, Sandy.

    It’s amazing that there’s a whole industry built on scamming authors. I get these calls all the time, almost invariably for books that are out of print or at least very old and outdated. I’m traditionally published by a major house, but they still offer me services that a quick Google search on their part would reveal that I already have—like building a “personal author website” for me.

    The caller often starts with, “I have good news about your book.” When I say “Which one?”, they stumble. Sometimes they even rattle off a title of a book I didn’t write.

    1. Wow. I would have thought you’d be immune to this because you’re not self-published, Randi. Do you have any clue about how all of us become targets?

      The sad fact is that it has to be working because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to stay in business.


  9. Hi Sandy,
    I get a few scams like this a week. I must admit that I send one of my books, ‘Mama. Why Am I black?’. to see what would happen even though I checked to see if a store existed in Manhattan, NY. Their excuse was that the store was being renovated. When I was new in the business 13 years ago, I was scammed and made it public when I was interviewed. The name of the company was Book Masters in California. I started my podcast on youtube.com/@amosknollpublishinginc. I would love to interview you and help you pass on the message to authors. You can contact me at amos@knollpublishing.com PS. I have 64 books and more coming online. Enjoy some of my book trailers: “Mama, why am I Black?” https://youtu.be/p42cTykL3Sg

    Max and The Red-haired Dragon http://nebula.wsimg.com/dccc9c50d0575febe6299e8ee3352f55?AccessKeyId=220562FD4C8C34A01DC6&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

    ‘The Little Snowboy’ https://youtu.be/G-qA7QyvwBA

  10. I’m getting a lot of suspicious messages through LinkedIn. I suppose they search for keywords like ‘author’, ‘writer’. I’m definitely not falling for any of them.

    thanks for mentioning the Alli list. I’m going to check them out.

    1. There are lots of author groups on LinkedIn they can dig into, also, Kim. I’m sure they’ve got software that generates the hit list for them. Bookmark the ALLi list — it’s my go-to for this sort of thing!


  11. Hi, Sandy,

    Thanks for sharing this information and encouraging us to share your article with our author groups. I get an email “offer” every other week for a book I published in 2014. I know new authors who’ve signed up with “publishers” whose offers are just like this, and they’re paying tons of money for services they don’t need. Authors need this warning and scammers should all be exposed. Thanks again!

    1. You’re welcome, Patty. I’m sorry to hear they’re hounding you, but glad it doesn’t get them anywhere! I can see how/why those authors you know get sucked in. These people are slick!


  12. An annoying topic. They sniff out every one of us.

    I learned, many years ago, to follow the money. May make me appear cynical, but much in life is like the Wizard of Oz. And naivite is always the target.

    Stratton makes its money from authors — that’s all we need to know.

    Sites like BookBub and other promo sites always let you know about their millions of readers, knowing we need to work with people who make money from READERS, not from writers. (BB makes plenty from writers, too, but offers us a legitimate service/opportunity.)

    The biggest reality-check of the indie author construct, IMHO, is accepting (and ultimately embracing) that, with profit margins on books so meager, the only hope is by doing nearly everything yourself.

    “Nowhere does the word ‘self’ have the depth of meaning it does in ‘self-publishing'” is the opening line of my book, Surviving Self-Publishing or Why Ernest Hemingway Committed Suicide.

    1. Thanks, Wendy. I’m not an advocate of DIY all the way. People with no writing experience — and that’s most of those self-publishing today — need professional editors and proofreaders if they want to create a quality book that has a chance of selling. And then there’s cover design…most of us don’t have that skill, either. Now, if you don’t care about book sales and are doing this for the love of it or because it’s a bucket list item, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

      And yeah, “follow the money” is great advice!


  13. Another place all authors should bookmark is Writers Beware. It was started by author but now Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) took it over after she passed on. https://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/ Here is one about scams: https://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/cases/ I got a call from someone who is obviously Indian by the accent-same guy every few months about my only self-published book (novel), How the Vortex Changed My Life, which has been picking up lately as getting royalties from Amazon), but I tell him no, stop calling me, and shut down the phone. Then block the phone number. Problem with cells is not having a caller id, like with our home phones did. As for any emails I just block them and delete. Simplest thing to do. But do bookmark Writers Beware-=been around for a long time.

    1. Writer Beware is a great tip, Pamela. Thanks! I’ve noticed that it comes up in search results when you Google the company name plus “complaints,” “scam,” or “predator,” too. I appreciate the link. My iPhone *does* have caller ID, which is a big help. It also lets me automatically silence calls from any number that’s not in my contacts. It’s interesting to see how Ann keeps calling, even though I responded to her emailed proposal by saying I wasn’t interested. And hey, I’m sorry you’re being pestered, but I’m really glad sales are picking up. Yay!


  14. Sandy, Love your perfect graphics for this tragedy-riddled topic: A spoonful of humor makes the medicine sink in. My 2000 Wiley-published book gets garbage calls too. I’m grateful I didn’t learn the hard way about all this. Maybe we’re cousins because my father had a version of what your father said, “Don’t kid a kidder.”

    When claims in this business seem too good to be true, I check two additional places.
    Writer Beware blog, https://writerbeware.blog/ and
    https://writersweekly.com where “Angela’s Desk” often calls out scammers.

    1. Thanks for those links, cousin Maggi! They’re both great resources for this. How interesting that you’re getting calls on an older, traditionally published book, too. Do you have any insights into why? (I mean, beyond the fact that you’re “an important author.”)

      I think one issue here is that while you recognize when something is too good to be true, others don’t, simply because they don’t know enough. And the predators know that. What a way to earn a living, right?


      1. There must be cold-caller lists that are given to people who work for pennies on USD. Like the USPS ads/mail my mother gets at my house (she died in 2007), and my former roommate of 34 years ago gets. Maybe one “hit” is worth it? Awful odds!

        1. It will be interesting to see if I get calls from other companies, too. What I found interesting about this experience is that the company is definitely providing a service, and it might even do a good job of that. But the service has little value. Then there are those companies that just take the money and run. I hate that people get taken in by these offers.


  15. With you 1000% on the editing and proofing. Mandatory. Covers, too, unless you have the knack (and the fortitude for dealing with templates).

    Yet there’s still much more to publishing than we imagined, to do and to learn – not to mention marketing. And I think that initial overwhelm makes newer authors vulnerable to anything seeming like ‘help.’

    The real help comes from those willing to share their hard-fought experience, like yourself!

    1. You’re so right, Wendy. It’s a business, and running a business requires knowing how to do a lot of unrelated things — and knowing when to look for help (case in point: I pickd up my taxes from my accountant yesterday because that’s outside my skill set).

      I’m always grateful when people like you share your experiences in the comments, too. It reminds me of when I speak at conferences — my favorite part is answering questions at the end. I learn from the audience as much as they learn from my session — and I see that happening here, too. Thank you for always being willing to share your thoughts. It helps!


  16. Dear, Sandra.

    How i wish all inspiring book author in Uganda could read this piece of information!

    I have a story too about predator publishers here in Kampala-Uganda.

    That’s why i decided to self publish all my books.

    Thanks again Sandra.

    Best wishes,
    Johnson Grace Maganja
    +256 782116311
    +256 756398289

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve experienced this too, Johnson. They’re everywhere, aren’t they?


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