Saturday, September 1

Snake Oil Salesmen And The Indie Author

Snake Oil Salesmen And The Indie Author

I know I posted about this yesterday, but this article by Kris Rusch is excellent. Kris talks about companies that charge for things like editing, formatting, etc., and then ALSO take 15 or more percent of the author's royalties.

In one of my previous blog posts I called these companies Vanity Presses because the moniker seemed to fit, but no one else is using that name. To make things easier I'm going to call these companies Snake Oil companies, because not only are they selling authors something they don't need, they're selling something which can harm them.

Judging from what I'm hearing in the community and from friends, as well as friends of friends, it seems that more authors are turning to Snake Oil companies to put their books online. I had thought, though, that these scams appealed mostly to writers who didn't have the money to pay a flat fee for cover design, etc., but it seems I was wrong. Kris writes:
This writer has multiple New York Times bestsellers published at more than three per year for at least twenty years. She has sold 35 million copies of her books. She can afford to pay someone a flat fee to put her out-of-print backlist up as e-titles. She can afford to pay someone with real experience to handle her social media for her.

Instead, she gave it all to a start-up for 15% of royalties earned.

That’s not the scary part. The scary part is the Terms of Use that she had to agree to in order to go with this company.
.  .  .  .
And then this POS [the Terms of Use] gets even worse. Let’s say  you do cancel. Do you get the e-pub or MOBI files of your e-book, the one that  you paid for through 15% of your royalties? Nope. Those files are proprietary to this service.

By the way, the service doesn’t pay for copyedits or proofreading, and so you get charged for those services by a flat fee separately. If you read the bestselling romance writer’s supposed Facebook post, you can see why this service doesn’t do copy edits. But really, there’s no one at the service who knows how to design covers either, certainly not covers worthy of a New York Times bestselling author.

And speaking of that author, she’s spending thousands for a service she’s tied to at 15% of royalties earned. If she cancels, she gets nothing.
To read Kris Rusch's article in full click here: The Business Rusch: A Warning To All Writers Who Need Help Indie Publishing.

There are many reputable companies who charge a flat fee for things like cover design, formatting, and so on. Joe Konrath has links to the folks he uses (you may need to scroll down the page) and John Locke has recommended Telemachus Press and still uses them to format and publish his work.

This is from the landing page at the Telemachus Press website:
Telemachus Press is a "work for hire" author services epublishing company. What makes us different than a vanity press? You keep 100% of your royalties and receive complete sales reporting. All material that we create on your behalf belongs to you — it's your property. We store all working copies of your book (interior and cover files) on a secure FTP site where you have access to your work 24/7. You don't need our permission to retrieve a copy of your files. We set up all eBook accounts in your name. It's your book - access sales reports and keep all royalties. Some of our channel partners are listed below. We work for you.
I've never used Telemachus Press, but that's the sort of information you need to ask about when you're shopping around for someone to help you put your book online.

Best of luck to you. And, remember, don't get so caught up with these publishing details you forget to write!

Other articles you might like:
- Writer Beware: The Return Of The Vanity Press
- Indie Authors: Don't Give Anyone Ownership Of Your Work
- Book Promotion: Where's The Line?

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  1. It seems to me that a lot of writers turn to stuff like this hoping to get some of the load taken off of their plate, and then they don't realize what they've done until after they signed the contract.

    For me, I can't give up that level of control - I'm too anal. :-D

    1. "It seems to me that a lot of writers turn to stuff like this hoping to get some of the load taken off of their plate, and then they don't realize what they've done until after they signed the contract."

      I think that's exactly right. Kris and Dean have been blogging about this lately so, hopefully, fewer writers will be victims of this kind of scam.

      I call myself a control freak, same diff ;) In indie publishing it's a good thing!

  2. As someone in the business of providing services to authors, these vanity publishers really give everyone a bad name. It's sad that the big publishing houses like Penguin are buying them out so they can exploit authors on a mass scale. Our company would never dream of taking anyone's royalties or even asking about their sales. Thanks for bringing this to light, since many authors still seem to be falling for this.

    1. Hi Paul, I had no idea you had an author services company. I think authors will be clamoring for your services, if they aren't already! Glad to hear you're one of the good guys.

    2. Thanks, Karen, for the vote of confidence. We do eBook design, formatting, and other technical what-have-you. Here's our site if your interested:


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