10 New Publishing Scams to Watch Out for in 2020

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

I read a quote recently from an indie author who said he felt sorry for new writers who fall for scammy vanity publishers — because they obviously have no writer friends to clue them in.

It is true that networking with other authors is the best way to stay safe from scammers in this business. You can usually get by with a little help from your friends.

Unfortunately, the latest batch of scams are calculated to turn friends’ faces and familiar names into weapons to use against you.

Here are some of the nasty ways they’re trying to con you.

1) Riding the Coattails of Publishing Influencers

If you Google “Anne R. Allen,” about halfway down the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) — before a link to this blog — is an ad for a notorious vanity publisher. They’ve obviously used my name as a keyword for their ads.

Flattering, maybe, but also hella creepy.

And recently I saw a link to a “best websites for indie authors” list, and went to check it out. The first few links were to well known publishing blogs like Writer Unboxed, Nathan Bransford, and Jane Friedman. But sandwiched in between the real influencers were links to vanity presses. In other words, the “Best Websites” list was simply a con to steer newbies to scammy vanity presses. Most of the vanity sites on the list are owned or spawned by Author Solutions.

This clever ploy was designed to make the scammers look legit. Plus putting trusted names in there got real influencers to share the list — and put the vanity press names in front of their sizable readerships.

Always check out a publisher with Writer Beware, and ask your writer friends what they’ve heard about it.

. . . .

5) Goodreads Print Book Giveaways

I think it’s time to label these a scam. They were once a good way to get reviews, but way too many book re-sellers are gaming Goodreads giveaways to get free inventory.

After paying the Goodreads fee, plus postage, authors not only don’t get reviews, but they see their signed books for sale online.

One bookseller in the Midwest apparently stocks much of her store with Goodreads giveaway books.

I’m not going to use any names, because this bookseller is not only a crook but a sadistic bully. (Scammers are often sociopaths: you can’t have much empathy if you feed on peoples’ dreams for a living.)

Whenever an author complains — no matter how politely — about seeing review copies for sale with no review, this scammy bookseller will then give the author a one-star, four-word insulting review, and post it on all retailers across the Web. This sweetheart also threatens to ruin the authors’ careers by reporting them as scammers to Amazon.

Unfortunately the crook has many clones. And nobody at Goodreads cares.

Of course there are still good, honest people who ask for Goodreads giveaway books and write lovely, thoughtful reviews. But they are becoming scarce.

Goodreads simply has no policing and nobody to complain to when scammers use the site to commit fraud. The chances of getting a review from a Goodreads giveaway are slim, and that narrow chance is not worth gambling your career and well-being.

To give out review copies, try Booksprout, Hidden Gems, NetGalley or BookFunnel.

Goodreads doesn’t have enough moderation, and it has devolved into a site that’s toxic for authors and reviewers alike.

. . . .

9) Rights Grabs from “Free” Contests

This isn’t really new, but I’ve heard of several contests recently that, in the fine print, say they have the right to use any piece that’s sent to them. That is, not just the winners, but any story you submit becomes their property.

Yeah. You didn’t really enter a contest. You just gave away your work for free to an outfit that will probably publish it uncredited or sell it to a college essay mill.

So it helps to read that fine print.

Unfortunately, sometimes there’s not even any fine print. Writer Beware has reported one contest that posted NO rules or rights policies. Later, the site posted all the stories that had been sent in as entries—with no compensation or even notice to the authors.

And sometimes even very big name publications can include rights grabs. Here’s another warning from Writer Beware: Rights Grabs by the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award.

So be very wary of free contests, even when they’re sponsored by well-known organizations. If there’s something iffy in the fine print, or no fine print, stay away.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog