Want to Get Published? Do Your Homework!

authors do your homework-1815899_960_720I wish I had read the reviews before I wasted my money with this company. 

I’ve spent $1500 and I still don’t have my book.

I gave this company $5000 and all I got was a single box of books.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard or read something like the statements above, I wouldn’t have to buy lottery tickets anymore. I hear it from the students who attend my self-publishing class; the admins here at IU get emails like this almost every day. It’s frustrating, not only for the writers involved, but for us here at IU because it’s so absolutely avoidable.

During the Gold Rush of 1849, thousands of people flocked to California to strike it rich and make their fortunes. Very few succeeded. You know who did? The people who served and/or fleeced the miners. Sure, there were honest storekeepers and cooks and hotel managers. There were also many opportunistic vultures that preyed on the miners’ dreams, offering worthless maps to “rich veins of gold,” promising “wealth beyond measure.”

Sound familiar?

Just recently, I got an email that said this:

I have recently come across your book A Novel Idea on Amazon and due to both its quality and plot, it qualifies to be promoted in our community of readers.

I actually laughed out loud. Why? Because my book, A Novel Idea, is a collection of the first chapters of twelve different novels. If this company thought the plot was great, it must be captained by a severe schizophrenic.

Okay, granted, most of the scams are not this obvious. But 99% of them will do two things: 1) flatter you that your book is good enough to publish, and 2) promise to take that book to amazing levels of success. Remember those maps of rich veins of gold? Yeah, same thing.

When you see something like this, there are two things you should do.  1) Do NOT succumb to the flattery. I know, you’d love to believe it. It’s your dream. It’s what you’ve always hoped for. But, sad to say, it’s a lie. All lies, just to reel you in. Suck it up, Buttercup, and stay in the real world. 2) DO YOUR HOMEWORK. It’s not that hard. Just GTS (Google That *ahem* Stuff).

Really, all it takes is a simple Google search. On Google, type in the name of the company and then “reviews.” See what comes up.

For America Star (formerly Publish America), one of the worst scammers, I got this on the first few hits:

Publish America aka America Star Books, is a very dishonest company and has been sued many times for fraud. It would be a good idea to not have your book published by them.

Unarguably the WORST automated ‘customer service’ line/system I have ever encountered. 

Another powerhouse fraudster is Author Solutions and their subsidiaries. An excellent post by Publishers Weekly had this to say:

Three authors have filed suit against self-publishing service provider Author Solutions, and its parent company Penguin, airing a laundry list of complaints and alleging the company is engaged in deceitful, dubious business practices. “Defendants have marketed themselves as an independent publisher with a reputation for outstanding quality and impressive book sales,” the complaint reads. “Instead, Defendants are not an independent publisher, but a print-on-demand vanity press.”

The suit, which seeks class action status, alleges that Author Solutions misrepresents itself, luring authors in with claims that its books can compete with “traditional publishers,” offering “greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors.” The company then profits from “fraudulent” practices, the complaint alleges, including “delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise.” The suit also alleges that Author Solutions fails to pay its authors the royalties they are due.

In a post by David Gaughran  he points out that:

Author Solutions has “dozens of self-publishing brands including iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford and Palibrio as well as media companies FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center and BookTango.”

Author Solutions’ modus operandi is pretty despicable, and they’ve been badgering, swindling and confusing writers out of money—and lots of it—for years.

The deceit starts with the web of brands they’ve established. With so many imprints, Author Solutions has tricked authors into thinking they have dozens of choices. In reality, however, the parent company is just slapping up half a dozen different logos, renaming packages, and selling the same grossly overpriced services to all of their customers no matter which brand ends up on the cover.

iUniverse is another scam house. With my Google search, I found these reviews:

They failed to put in the design back cover of the book. They failed to make correction of errors, and wanted to charge me $500 to correct. They then called me to pay them $500 to take 10 of my $11books to the book fair. 

Horrible. Fooled my Aunt into some expensive marketing package that cost $500 per month. Royalties were only $20 per month. Impossible to cancel.

Have I convinced you yet? I hope so, because we here at IU would actually LOVE to never see another email that starts out, “I wish I had read your post before…” As far back as 2015, we ran a series of posts on Publishing Foul, and we run new posts as new scams and new situations come to our attention. We work very hard at bringing you the facts and sounding the alarms, so save yourself a lot of time, money, and heartache.


(You can find more guidelines here which will help you identify scammers, no matter their name.)

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

29 thoughts on “Want to Get Published? Do Your Homework!”

  1. Yes, that information is much easier to find now that it was fourteen years ago when I got caught by iUniverse to the tune of $5000.00. When I did my best to “do the homework” at the time there was very little information I could find. That is no longer the case. Though I still feel sorry for those, especially the elderly, who are not so computer savvy and most of us. They are vulnerable in so many ways to scams, this and others.

      1. Ditto for me with Publish America. I thought I had all the info; I didn’t. Live and learn, right? With any luck we can save a few others from the pitfalls. Thanks, Yvonne.

        1. You guys definitely saved me, way back when. I first learned about Author Solutions via this website and I’m still learning.
          Sadly, like that goldrush, people believe what they want to believe. 🙁

  2. Excellent post, Melissa.

    Author Solutions and its associated imps of nastiness are all over my side of The Pond like a rash. I did not know they were associated with Penguin! O, Penguin: for shame.

    We shouldn’t forget that there are good, inexpensive outfits around who will enable an author to self-publish. Nor that ‘Print on Demand’ is a perfectly kosher way to produce hard- and paper-backs.

    Writers just must do their due diligence before signing anything.

    1. Thanks, Judi. I’m not surprised to hear you have Author Solutions issues, too; they’re rampant, and always looking for new victims. And, yes, there is a multitude of ways to self-publish, either on your own or using a service publisher. Whichever path a writer chooses, it will take work–there’s no way around that–but better to work to make your book the best it can be than to turn it over to a scam and then have a huge clean-up (and deficit in your bank account) on the back end. I know many writers would love to have someone else do it all for them but the sad truth is, that’s just not going to happen.

  3. Excellent warning! Wise words about scammers. Now if only those who need to listen do! I am fortunate, I never fell for one of these scams, but I have met some who have, and they lost big time.

    1. Yes, many of us have, sad to say. I do hope people will take this to heart and do some research before agreeing to anything. A Google search only takes a few minutes, and could save someone thousands of dollars.

  4. Hi Melissa. The timing of your article is amazing. Does anyone know anything about Mascot Books?
    Someone suggested that company to me for a PB but I can’t find ANY reviews on it nor any info. I don’t want to contact them because they’ll hound me until my 80th birthday if it’s Pay to Play. Anyone hear of them?

  5. Has anyone seen this yet? I got a text message from Amazon pushing a coupon for bookwriters.us ????
    I think another scammy site.

    Amazon Recommended: Become A Best Seller, Hire Expert Book Writers at 85% Off. Click here bookwriters.us to Activate Your Amazon Coupon.
    Text STOP to end

  6. Never saw that before. My question is why is amazon promoting this site? Is this another one of their companies? They getting a kickback? Check into it first.

    1. This came via text message on my phone ( I use Amazon a lot to buy all sorts of things) and it clearly says ‘Amazon recommended’ which if they do, then I think we should all be concerned the direction they are going as well.
      No I would never use this – nothing like this has ever happened before, usually they only text for delivery updates. I was curious if any one else ever received a message like this. – I’m deleting ???

      1. I would highly question that. Even if it says “Amazon recommended,” anyone can add that to an email and make it look official. I’ve been getting tons of those emails about Amazon coupons, and I delete them before I ever download them. You could, if you want, forward it to Amazon and see what they say, but I wouldn’t touch it otherwise.

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