The #PublishingFoul Survey: The Results

#PublishingFoul Logo Indies UnlimitedIt’s been a wild #PublishingFoul ride here at Indies Unlimited. For the past month, we’ve brought you harrowing tales from indie authors who have fallen into the clutches of scammy publishers – both well-known vanity presses and small presses – as well as at least one service provider of questionable worth. We’ve also brought you some tips for coping with a scammer if you do have the misfortune of falling victim to one. And I hope it’s clear by now that anybody can fall victim to a professional scammer, no matter how smart or careful they are. Buyer beware is critical, of course, but luck plays a huge part, too.

Thanks to everybody who took our #PublishingFoul survey last month. A total of 115 people take the survey. Our respondents were self-selected, so this is by no means a scientific survey. But the results are encouraging in some ways and eye-opening in others. (And toting them up gave me the chance to play with pie charts in Excel, which is always a plus!)

Of the people who took the survey, more than a quarter said they either might have placed, or definitely did place, a book with a predatory publisher. Q1 Scammed by a publisherTwenty-one percent said yes, and 6% said maybe. That’s a sizeable portion of the indie population. The results were similar for our second question.Q2 scams by service providers

Seventeen percent of our respondents said they had been scammed by a service provider other than a publisher, and another 4% said they might have been.

The remaining questions were for those who were, or who might have been, scammed. Q3 publishing scammersThe results of our question about how many books those authors had placed with the publisher were in line with what you might expect: 76% of our respondents said they had just one book placed with the scummy publisher. That’s in line with the publishers’ own figures. When Pearson acquired Author Solutions in 2012, the news release announcing the sale stated that ASI had published more than 190,000 books by 150,000 authors – so about 78% of ASI’s authors had published just one book with the company.

The answers to our question about costs was a bit of a relief.Q4 publishing scam costsNearly half of those who dealt with a questionable publisher lost less than $500 on the deal. Those who paid more than $5,000 were few, and nobody in our survey paid more than $10,000 (whew!).

For those who have been in this boat, the majority – 62% – want to just forget about the whole thing and move on.Q5 publisher scam reports

But 28% have reported the incident somewhere. Two of our respondents are too afraid to report it because they’re worried about being sued.

In most cases, our respondents have been successful in getting their books back. Q6 publishing controlSixty-two percent report that their publisher no longer has the right to publish their book. But regardless of the status of control, more than 20% said their publisher still owes them money.

Finally, on the question of hiring a lawyer, 87% of our respondents have dodged that bullet and have gotten free of their contracts themselves. Q7 publishing scam lawyersOur March Madness observance is over, but we’re not giving up on this. We plan to keep an eye on the scammers, and we plan to keep using the #PublishingFoul hashtag. Clicking that hashtag will take you to all the articles in the series. If you haven’t read them, please do, and please share. Together, we can make enough noise to shut the bad guys down for good.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

21 thoughts on “The #PublishingFoul Survey: The Results”

  1. Those figures are pretty telling. It makes me wonder how many declined to take the survey out of hesitation to reveal themselves as victims, even though the results are reported anonymously.

    1. That’s a good point, Yvonne.

      And I wonder how many of the “just forget about it and move on” folks would fall into the “too embarrassed” camp if you scratched the surface.

    1. Also a fair point, Kevin. I know I’ve heard stories of authors who thought they had their rights back, only to find the vanity publisher’s editions of their books on sale right next to their indie edition.

      Thanks for the link to that post. I see the guy from ASI responded in the comments to the blogger’s question about perpetual rights without addressing the broader issue of whether their practices are fair to authors. Nice.

  2. I know an author who’s involved in a class-action suit against Author House and its subsidiaries, including Author Solutions. Kevin is right about those “gotcha clauses.”

    Fouled! proved an invaluable series. Thanks, IU!

      1. Yes, you folks did a great job with this. Maybe we can save a few folks. Did you know that Author Solutions’ market is in decline, according to Bowker’s report on ISBN sales? (happy sound)

  3. I think there are many more who choose, for one reason or another, not to step into the limelight, anonymous or otherwise, Lynne. I personally know one author who has published three books with a particular publisher and is hooked up for two more before he can get out of it; tied, hand and foot. His books are quite successful in his niche corner of the market, but he most certainly doesn’t see the benefits of that success.

    This little series has been a great initiative, Lynne, well done.

  4. It’s great that we’re getting the word out. Keeping folks informed about less than reputable publishers will help keep the $$ in the author’s pockets rather than the publishers.

  5. This was a very useful exercise, even for those of us who have luckily managed to avoid the scammer’s clutches. It offers a lot of good pointers to steer our thinking and raises awareness – always a good thing. As a public service for those who would publish books this is invaluable, so thanks for all the hard work, and thanks to those who shared their pain to make the rest of us aware.

    Another IU classic!

  6. Appreciate your drive and passion to get this out in the open. Should not be a dirty little secret anymore, though some people are not comfortable talking about it. Understandable.

    Nice work Lynne, KS and Indies Unlimited!!! Cheers to you. 🙂

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