4 Red Flags Of Questionable Self-Publishing Companies

by | Other Helpful Information, Vanity Presses | 8 comments

4 Red Flags Of Questionable Self-Publishing Companies FINALWith the growth of the self-publishing industry, numerous companies have emerged professing to assist authors with self-publishing their books. While some of these companies offer excellent support, others are making promises that they may not be able to keep. Before you hand over your hard-earned cash, be sure you know the red flags that signal questionable self-publishing practices.


Dangers To Watch For When Researching Self-Publishing Companies

1. Sales guarantee

If a self-publishing company makes any guarantee of book sales, think twice about moving forward. We all certainly hope your book will be a best seller, but it’s impossible to guarantee even a single sale—unless the self-publishing company in question intends to buy copies of your book (an unlikely scenario). Self-publishing won’t make you a New York Times best seller overnight, and companies that claim otherwise aren’t above board.

2. Request of rights

All rights to your work should remain with you. If the self-publishing company you are considering requests that you transfer any rights to them, you may want to reconsider. While some self-publishing companies provide support services for an author, such as creating an Amazon Author Central page, purchasing an ISBN, etc., none of those things require any transfer of rights.

3. Royalty percentage claim

Online retailers (e.g., Amazon) and print-on-demand services (e.g., CreateSpace) may claim a percentage of your royalties, but it is not a standard practice for self-publishing companies to do so. Since most self-publishing companies already charge for their services, claiming additional royalties is definitely a red flag. If a company asks you for a part of your profits from each book sale, be sure you know why.

4. Unclear or nonexistent agreement of services

Since self-publishing is essentially self-regulated, you need to be hypervigilant. Be sure to read any agreement before signing your name to it. Get everything in writing: If a company makes promises and doesn’t itemize the services provided in writing—you should be wary.

Pro Tip: Here’s one sign that signals a self-publishing company is on the up and up: A FAQ section on the self-publishing company’s website. This is a good sign, since transparency is key in this industry.

Here’s What You Really Need From A Self-Publishing Company:

When looking for a company to assist you with self-publishing your book, focus on companies that thoroughly explain their services in a clear, easy-to-understand way. Being upfront about services and charges is what sets most good self-publishing companies apart from the questionable ones. But most importantly, you want a company that’s going to treat you with respect and care—not a company that makes pie-in-the-sky promises to hook you, then doesn’t follow through. Self-publishing a book takes time, effort, and cooperative communication: Make sure the people you choose understand your project and are willing to go the extra mile to help make your dreams come true.

QUESTION: What other red flags do you think people should watch for when considering self-publishing?


  1. Karen J. Hall

    To staff and fans,

    Unfortunately I can vouch for all of these tips on self-publishing. I was suckered by a “self-publisher” that is still selling my books and NOT paid me a cent. He kept my book on his account when our deal ended and wouldn’t put it in my name. RED FLAG!!! He didn’t copyright it as he was supposed to do per our contract. RED FLAG!!!
    This is all fraud but the cost of the lawyer would out way what he owes me. I just hope that I can save someone else from making the same mistake I made.

    “If it is too good to be true, it usually is!”

  2. Roger Henry

    It gives me cause to not even consider self-publishing. I don’t wish to have to study law before indulging.

  3. Angela Joseph

    Karen, I had the same experience with [another company]. They claim that in order for me to get my royalties (after having paid them a hefty sum to publish the book) I have to pay them a $25.00 storage fee. What on earth are they storing?

  4. EN Heim

    Oh, so true it is. Years ago, being naive and innocent in the game of publishing, back in the 1970s, I too was taken. The publisher-editor promised the moon, and delivered air. I paid $180 for his editing service, and did nothing more, but he persisted that I continue his services. Then, I read an article on Honest Publishers and Literary Agents. If they accept your work, they are obligated to produce your story free of charge, and only take 5-10% of your royalties. This is for literary agents and publishers. Since I’ve self-published several books, I’ve been deluged with publishing companies that promise the moon. When a company offers a package that promises results, it’s a RED FLAG. No honest publisher-agent can promise results. Literature is all subjective. Just look at what’s being sold on the internet.

  5. Arnold Mundua

    I have published my book ELep Returns with a self-publisher in 2012 and to date have not collected a penny from this publisher nor do I get a market report. But they keep on calling me for more money to promote my book.I truly regret publishing with them.

  6. Peter Newarski

    There should be a rating system for self pub companies.
    They could be rated by authors that have used them. We need a way to avoid dealing with the disreputable companies.

  7. Heather Whittaker

    I typed my manuscript and want to send it on pdf..2 different publishers are demanding it be sent on word.I do not trust this..What do you say?

    • SPR Staff

      Hi Heather,

      We wouldn’t call that a red flag. Self-publishing companies will almost certainly need to reformat your manuscript before publishing it, and having it in Word instead of PDF format is necessary for them to be able to do that.


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