Self-publishing agencies make big promises, and they know exactly how to lure people in.
A woman once contacted me for advice, wanting to know if she should sign with a self-publishing agency who was asking her for $15,000 in exchange for them to publish a book she hadn’t even written yet—This included a full promise package that they would take care of everything for her. Unfortunately, these kinds of self-publishing offers are common. These companies rarely fulfil their promises and fail to inform authors that they would likely never make $15,000 in royalties back form book sales.
On another occasion, a friend of mine was contacted by an agency that proposed to republish his book. At the time it wasn't performing well on Amazon. Again, big promises were made. He caught the bait and had paid $2,000 for the company to publish his book, which in short terms meant “upload his book to Amazon” (which is free to do) with a poorly designed updated cover. A few weeks later they told him they could get him an interview with a reporter on Al Jazeera. They said it would only be an additional marketing fee of $2,000. This is when he called me.
He was excited about the opportunity proposed. Knowing the routine scams and false promises these agencies make, I wasn’t sold. After a bit of research on the company I found it was another offshore agency with a U.S. P.O Box making false promises.
Other people have been contacted by agencies, book coaches, and publishing companies all selling them services by telling them how much a book will impact their career with a promise of getting them on the best-seller list (which is a whole mal-informed topic in itself).
Another trend is contacting people to be a part of anthologies. Agencies contact leading industry experts saying their company is putting together an amazing project that they think these industry leaders would be a great fit for. They bait people with the idea of fulfilling their fantasy of becoming a published author and make promises that best-seller status will boost credibility. Not all of these offers are scams of course, but if the offer comes at a high-ticketed price, be sure you know exactly what you are paying for.
How could people fall for these schemes? Because these agencies tout themselves as reputable companies. They use manipulative copywriting tactics to lure people in and make big promises that they inevitably cannot and will not keep. But as Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware shared, most of these reputable companies have P.O. Boxes in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. with real time addresses offshore. You can find a list of these scam agencies on Strauss's website.
There are a shocking number of these companies, and unfortunately many of them go under the radar.
Self-publishing agencies and many book coaches will tell you everything you want to hear: Your status will improve. Your sales will double with the credibility of being a best-selling author. You’ll get new leads and your business skyrocket.
So are all self-publishing agencies and book coaches frauds? No. There are companies and coaches out there with good intentions of seeing you succeed, but you need to know exactly what you're paying for if you are self-publishing your book.
Unless you have a massive following, and I mean massive, there is little to no likelihood of you ever making the money you put into an agency self-published book back in royalties.
Many companies will take upwards $3,000-$15,000 to do what costs them very little to do. They will claim to ‘edit’ your manuscript which often likely means they will put your manuscript through an editing program like Grammarly or Hemmingway.
I once edited a book for someone who had passed through one of these self-publishing agencies. Even though he paid a high dollar price for his book to be published, it still had the most basic errors throughout the manuscript. He had to outsource for quality work even after signing with one of the most reputable self-publishing companies in the U.S.
There's also a reason you can detect a self-published book a mile away. The design and editing work will be far below any standard, though these agencies will promise to provide you with a cover design and layout.
Some people get signed up with these companies without even realizing they are self-publishing. They are not aware that to be traditionally published requires no payment up front. So to be clear, if you are paying a publisher, you are self-publishing.
Be knowledgeable and industry-aware before you consider paying some of the big-promise-making self-publishing companies large amounts of money.
If you are looking for a self-publishing agency, make sure you look at other books they've published and how many reviews their books have on Amazon. And know you can also self-publish without one of these companies. I offer a step by step guide on how to do this here.
There are only a few solid-legit companies out there, so choose wisely if you're choosing to self-publishing (or a hire a book coach) and know exactly what you are paying for. And know that you can also self-publish without one of these companies.
Some traditionalists will criticize this route entirely, but self-publishing is a great option if you want to be in control of your work and earn a much higher royalty percentage. But there's a smart way to do it.