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Saturday, September 14, 2013


Cheated Authors -- And How To Avoid It

I speak with a number of authors who have great dreams and desires for their book. Recently I began to speak with an author who told me in uncertain terms, that her book was coming out and going to be a bestseller. It sounded fascinating so I asked who was the publisher?

It turns out this author's publisher appears in 17 or 18 different formats and is actually a self-publisher. She had no idea that this company produced over 47,000 titles in 2011–-and it's only increased in the subsequent years. 

Yes I know publishing has changed and you can self-publish. There are many advantages to self-publishing: author control, not waiting on anyone or working with anyone else, etc. There are also many downsides to self-publishing such as: no books in the brick and mortar bookstores and no marketing help (of course unless you pay for it. Just check this article from Publishers Lunch about the numbers of titles produced in 2011.

Inside I groan because I know many of these authors will have their dreams and plans dashed. Yes the company where they publish will make the money and little of that will be returned to the author and they will have a terrible experience.

I received a hardcover book from an author who published with a “Christian” company. I had not closely examined a book from this company in some time so I looked at the book.

First, I can tell there are no plans to sell this book inside a brick and mortar bookstore (despite what the publisher may tell their prospective authors). Why? The back cover has no ISBN or barcode. It's the way retail stores keep track of their inventory and also process books so readers can pay for them. This book had no barcode.

Then I opened it up and began to read the book. This author had a fascinating personal experience story and I believe the book could have been good—but it certainly wasn't in the pages of this book. It was pages of nonsense—I am not exaggerating. No story was in the text and impatient readers are not going to give it much of a chance. You can pick up the book on a table and read a few lines and see what you are getting (or not getting). I was disappointed because I've done a little research and know this author had paid at least $4,000 to “partner” with this publisher in the marketing of her book. 

Let me give you several steps to avoid getting cheated and having a poor publishing experience.

1. Use Google and check out the publisher. You can type “NAME OF COMPANY complaints” and read the first couple of pages which come up. As a caution to this step, I will tell you that every publisher (whether traditional or self-publisher; large or small) has authors who complain. I work for Morgan James Publishing and we have our detractors online because anyone can say anything about anyone online and it hangs around forever—even if untrue. I will often tell authors about these detractors and that the information is not true but using Google is a good way to get start getting some information.

2. Ask to speak to published authors from the company, then follow-up and actually interact with some authors. Why? If the publisher is cheating authors, it will not take you long to hear some of these stories. Will the publisher give you contact information for their authors? 

At Morgan James, we have a list of authors who have given us permission to hand out their contact information and I often send it to prospective authors. Yet I also tell authors to look over our catalog and call anyone in our catalog and ask about their publishing experience with us. It shows we have nothing to hide—but also that we have content, positive, happy authors. The publishers who are cheating authors and simply collecting a paycheck do not want you speaking with their authors.

3. Ask your writer friends. The writing community is open and transparent. You can gain a lot of information just asking other writers. You have to be discerning about the feedback you get from others since some of that feedback could be uneducated and plain wrong. Yet you will gain valuable information using this method.

4. Look for print evidence of success for the company. For example, our books at Morgan James have been on the New York Times list 19 times (five books). I have PDF copies of when our books appeared on the New York Times list that I send to prospective authors. Why? Because it validates that we sell books inside the brick and mortar bookstores (which is the only way I know to get on the New York Times list.)

5. Get some training and during the training get information about different companies. For example, in late October, I will be at Author 101 University in Las Vegas. While Rick Frishman, the publisher at Morgan James, leads this event, it is not a Morgan James event. There will be literary agents and editors from many different publishers. It's a terrific place to get educated from my experience—especially before you spend thousands of dollars with the wrong company.

Thousands of authors are following their hearts with their pocket books and spending large amounts of money with companies that are going to fail them—because these companies are running a business and making money. Yet the dreams of these authors are ultimately dashed because they didn't take the time to do a few web searches, send a few emails and make a few phone calls.

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