Book Publishers to Avoid

Woman peeking from the blinds looking for book publishers to avoid

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Finding a reputable book publisher is crucial for authors and writers who want to bring their work to the market. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is not immune to scams, unscrupulous practices, and book publishers to avoid. It’s important to recognize the signs of scam publishers, identify red flags, and know the hallmarks of reputable publishers so you can protect yourself and make informed decisions about your book publishing.

What are scam publishers?

While some offers from publishing companies seem alluring, it’s imperative that you recognize the difference between traditional publishers and a reputable self-publishing company from a scam publisher.

Traditional publishers

Traditional publishers like Penguin Random House and Hachette will not charge you any upfront fees, like “submission fees” or “reading fees.” In fact, with a traditional publisher, the only money that will ever exchange hands is the advance and eventual royalties that the publisher will pay to you.

Self-publishing partners

These companies are designed to help authors bring their books to the marketplace. Aside from distribution, these companies may offer varying kinds of services like editing, design, print-on-demand, and more. Of course, BookBaby is a reputable self-publishing partner. The key difference between a fully vetted company like BookBaby and scam publishers is we are upfront about what our business model is, the services you will receive, and the fees that will be charged.

Scam publishers

A publishing scam typically ropes a writer in by promising the dream of publishing success — massive book sales and signings at Barnes & Noble or appearing on national TV — and never delivering on these promises. These publishers prioritize making money from authors rather than helping them succeed in the industry. They charge excessive fees and have high-pressure salespeople who talk writers into buying unnecessary products and services.

Signs of scam publishers

  1. Hidden fees. Reputable self-publishing partners are upfront about their prices and services. Scam publishers present themselves as traditional publishers, but they then demand substantial upfront fees from authors, sometimes disguising them as “processing” or “submission” fees. This financial burden often outweighs any potential benefits for unsuspecting authors.
  2. Unrealistic promises. Scam publishers often make grandiose claims, such as guaranteed best-seller status or promises of significant book marketing campaigns. While every author dreams of success, it’s essential to be cautious of publishers who make unrealistic guarantees without a proven track record.
  3. Lack of transparency. Transparency is vital in any publishing relationship. Scam publishers may be vague about their processes, contracts, and distribution channels. They may avoid answering critical questions or fail to provide clear information about royalties, rights, and author control.
  4. Negative reviews. Before signing with a publisher, thoroughly research their reputation. Look for reviews and testimonials from authors who have worked with them in the past. If you consistently find negative feedback about a publisher’s practices, it’s a clear warning sign to steer clear.
  5. Unreliable contract terms/rights retention. Scam publishers often include clauses in contracts that give them excessive control over an author’s work. They may retain exclusive rights for an extended period, limiting the author’s ability to seek better opportunities. Watch out for contracts that are heavily biased in favor of the publisher.
  6. False sense of identity. Some companies pretend they are affiliated with larger publishing houses or online bookstores. There are a number of these outfits, for example, that claim to be aligned with Amazon that are not affiliated with the online retailer.

Red flags to consider

  1. Unclear fee structure. If the publisher doesn’t list their fees upfront, or demands a consultation in order to get a quote or even have a sense of what you are signing up for, this is a scam publisher.
  2. Limited distribution. One of the main advantages of traditional publishing is wide or worldwide distribution. Scam publishers may restrict distribution to their own website or offer limited exposure, hindering your book’s potential reach and sales.
  3. Limited author royalties/profit-sharing. A fair and transparent profit-sharing model is crucial for authors. Be cautious of publishers who offer low royalty rates or use complex calculations that make it challenging to understand how their royalties are determined. A reputable publisher should offer reasonable and clearly defined royalty terms.

Hallmarks of a reputable book publisher

A reputable book publisher will possess the following characteristics:

  1. Clear prices and services. BookBaby offers upfront prices and states very clearly what our services include. For example, our Complete Self-Publishing package includes soft-cover books, eBook distribution, print-on-demand, and two ISBN barcodes, along with book cover design and interior formatting.
  2. Broad distribution channels. Reputable publishers have established relationships with distributors, bookstores, and online retailers, ensuring your book reaches a wide audience.
  3. Fair royalty structure. Expect transparent and fair royalty rates from a reputable author services company, with a clear understanding of how royalties are calculated and paid.
  4. Clear contract terms. A reputable publisher will provide a straightforward contract that protects your rights as an author, clearly outlining the terms and conditions of your partnership.

Which companies should you work with?

If you are unsure whether a publishing house is one you can trust or a scam publisher, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Read reviews. Google the name of the company you’re considering and look to see what customers have said.
  2. Search for the company on The Alliance of Independent Authors. The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is a nonprofit watchdog group that keeps an updated and extensive list of publishing companies in the industry. You can see their ratings of self-publishing service providers — and note that BookBaby is listed as “Excellent!”

Importance of choosing the right book publisher

Choosing the right book publisher is crucial for the success of your book. A reputable publisher can provide essential support and guidance throughout the publishing process, increasing your chances of reaching your target audience and achieving your publishing goals.

Scam publishers, on the other hand, can hinder your progress, drain your resources, and damage your reputation. By recognizing the signs of predatory publishers, understanding the red flags, and knowing the hallmarks of reputable publishers, you can make informed decisions and protect yourself in the publishing industry.

Book Publishing Plan guide

Related Posts
How to Spot Self-Publishing Scams
Self-Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing: Follow the Numbers
Book Cover Design Ideas: Before and After
Why Does My Book Need Interior Formatting?
How to Self-Publish a Book with BookBaby


  1. Good stuff. Thankfully, my red flag radar works rather well. I am leery of publisher names that are a variation of the real deal. Something like Amazon Kid Gloves. I know that’s a bit absurd, but I’m sure you have seen them. They are clever, and deceptive.
    I’ve been on the phone with more than 15 “publishers”. All but one, had a middle eastern voice. I asked one to send me a photo of himself, and the office of his publishing company.The pics were blurred, and no conclusive evidence in the scene. RUN!!!!
    The other thing is, that I don’t think Phil mentioned, is that once you send the money, there is a real possibility that they will disappear, with your money. No recourse.
    All of these articles listed here are very good, and help anchor the validity of Book Baby. Thank you. Now, about your prices……. ???? :)


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