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When a friend falls for a scam

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Princess Of Needles

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A good friend recently announced that she spoke to a small publisher and they are going to offer her a contract to publish her [still unfinished] manuscript this summer. I asked her who the publisher was, if they're charging her anything, and suggested that maybe this should set off some warning bells. She didn't tell me who the publisher was, but it sounds like they are charging her for their services. She responded that she "did a lot of research" and that she has a friend who published with this company and that they "honored the contract."

I'm still skeptical. "Honoring the contract" doesn't mean much if the contract is crap to begin with. But without more information, I have no way of knowing if this is an honest vanity publisher or some kind of scam. My friend is naive and relatively new to the writing world, but she's also an adult who can make her own decisions.

If it were me, I would want my friends to talk me out of falling for a potential scam. But this friend seems pretty insistent on signing the contract, so I'm inclined to step back and mind my own business. (Besides, maybe this will give her the motivation to actually finish the book.)

Anyone have any thoughts?
 
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mrsmig

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I was in a similar situation with a friend who was dead set on publishing a book of poetry with a vanity publisher (I believe it was iUniverse, one of the many hydra-heads of the notorious Author Solutions). I sent her links to articles about the press, the class-action suit against it, the iUniverse thread here at AW - to no avail. She was going to publish with them or be damned.

She seemed perfectly content to pay a company to publish her books. So I gave up, and invoked Filigree's Rule: "Some Authors Deserve Some Publishers."
 

Chris P

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As a faller for a scam myself, I was beyond human aid when this "publisher" "gave my book the chance it deserves." I saw what I wanted to see and connected my own dots to my favor, figuring mutual self interest between me and the publisher made it a sure win for both of us. I only learned later that this outfit was absolutely genius at double truths and half lies, and knew exactly how to play to what I thought I knew about publishing. I couldn't see how anyone, upon agreeing to publish my book, could be foisting a scam. "After all, why would they not want to promote my book? Why would they price it at least double the going rate for similar commercially published books? They put me on Amazon. The sales will be rolling in any day now!"

What could a friend have told me during that phase? Precious little. I'm not saying don't say anything to your friend, but you can't tell someone they're not happy. If the contract is not signed, you can suggest more research to do, or describe what you understand about publishing. If the ink has already dried, wish them well, and keep talking to them about their books and yours. You might need to be a sympathetic and knowledgeable ear when the cat is out of the bag. I hope you are wrong, and everyone ends up happy, but. . . well, we all live in this same world.


ETA:

keep talking to them about their books and yours

Upon reflection, I think this is exactly what you need to do. Once you have said what you need to say (and it sounds like you have), keep engaging about writerly stuff and let the scam matter drop. When I realized I'd been had, I was deeply discouraged, and the fellow writers here at AW kept my spirits up, and showed me a way forward to better writing and a better understanding of publishing. I might have given up otherwise and not written my best works so far, nor what I'm still going to write in the future.
 
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mccardey

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A good friend recently announced that she spoke to a small publisher and they are going to offer her a contract to publish her [still unfinished] manuscript this summer. I asked her who the publisher was, if they're charging her anything, and suggested that maybe this should set off some warning bells. She didn't tell me who the publisher was, but it sounds like they are charging her for their services.
I had a friend who was going down the same rabbit hole. I sent them a couple of links about Austin Macauley...
 
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cool pop

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There's nothing you can do but warn her. As you said she is a grown woman. If she refuses to heed your warning and signs then that's on her. You've done all you can as a friend and if I were you, I'd be more offended that my "friend" is not taking my warning seriously. If she values your opinion she should seriously take what you say into consideration. I've warned authors before from going with a shady company and they ignored me and did it anyway. Months later they always came back saying they should've listened to me. Yeah, they should've.

You can lead a horse to water...

She's obviously desperate and her desperation might get her taken advantage of, but maybe that's the only way she will learn to heed warnings and be more careful next time.
 
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Marian Perera

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"Honoring the contract" doesn't mean much if the contract is crap to begin with.

So true. I remember how PublishAmerica loyalists used to claim, "PA did all that they said they would do." Yes, they said they would do hardly anything, and they lived down to that.
 

Tazlima

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Sigh. I feel for you. I had a friend, a sweet little old lady, who fell for one of these scams. I didn't even get a chance to try and warn her, because I didn't know anything about it until she showed up one day with a copy of her freshly "published" picture book. At first I was thrilled for her. I recognized the name of the publisher immediately as a large and, as far as I knew at the time, legitimate company. It wasn't until I flipped through a few pages that I realized something was dreadfully wrong. The story simply wasn't publication-worthy, and the illustrations, provided by the publisher, were, well... the text and images together were reminiscent of a pamphlet you might see at a doctor's office. Informative, yes, but neither attractive nor entertaining.

She was in the process of setting up a website around the book and planning for a half-dozen sequels once this one "took off."

When I went home that night, it took only a minimal amount of research to discover that this particular large, well-known publisher also has a vanity branch. There were prices listed. I don't know exactly which "package" my friend went with, but I had a ballpark idea based on the "color illustrations provided by the publisher," and she got taken for thousands. She's not a wealthy woman. It probably wiped out her bank account.

I debated telling her, but what good would it do? I considered her a friend becayse we were in the same chorus and got along well, but we weren't particularly close. She doesn't even know I write, and would be unlikely to consider my words worth heeding if she did. After all, she's "a published author" and I'm not. It's not like she'd be able to get her money back, and since I knew she wouldn't proceed with a second book until the first one had raised the funds to do so, I knew her future finances were safe.

I ultimately decided there was no good to be derived from having such a conversation and kept my mouth shut. It was heartbreaking to watch though. She was so proud of her project.
 
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zmethos

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I've been at writing conferences where people stand up in the middle of sessions and espouse how happy they are with AuthorSolutions and the like, challenging panelists over the subject... Some people are plain determined to go that way. They think they'll be an exception to all the evidence to the contrary, or they think you're trying to sabotage their work. I have a friend who is very proud of his book with Outskirts Press, too. It can be hard as a friend to stand by and watch the train come barreling down the track, but these authors are so sure this train is their ride to fame and fortune. Filigree is right: some authors deserve some publishers.
 

cool pop

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Another thing, if she won't even tell you who the publisher is, sounds to me like she knows something might be fishy but don't want to admit it. If not, why be so secretive? It's sad that desperation to be published causes people to ignore sense. Maybe she'll wake up and smell the coffee before there is too much damage done.
 

Barbara R.

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A good friend recently announced that she spoke to a small publisher and they are going to offer her a contract to publish her [still unfinished] manuscript this summer. I asked her who the publisher was, if they're charging her anything, and suggested that maybe this should set off some warning bells. She didn't tell me who the publisher was, but it sounds like they are charging her for their services. She responded that she "did a lot of research" and that she has a friend who published with this company and that they "honored the contract."

I'm still skeptical. "Honoring the contract" doesn't mean much if the contract is crap to begin with. But without more information, I have no way of knowing if this is an honest vanity publisher or some kind of scam. My friend is naive and relatively new to the writing world, but she's also an adult who can make her own decisions.

If it were me, I would want my friends to talk me out of falling for a potential scam. But this friend seems pretty insistent on signing the contract, so I'm inclined to step back and mind my own business. (Besides, maybe this will give her the motivation to actually finish the book.)

Anyone have any thoughts?

My mother always said, "There are none so deaf as those who will not hear." If she still hasn't signed, it should in theory be possible for a friend to step in. But if she won't even say who the publisher is, she probably realizes on some level that they're phony.

So sorry this happened to her...and to so many other naive writers. If it's any comfort, many of those writers will never even realize they've been had. They'll blame Amazon's algorithms or reader snobbery or some other factor for why their books don't sell. Or they'll give away copies and count that as sales. I know a guy who actually worked in the real publishing world before retiring. He started writing and ended up paying a so-called "hybrid" press to publish his work. Then he gave away thousands of copies, and now calls himself a best-selling author.

What can you do? [sigh]
 

Gillhoughly

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I hope she understands that bookstores don't stock vanity titles. That can be a deal-breaker for those in denial and can give her a face saving way out.

Being "available to stores" and being "stocked on the shelves" -- two different critters. I've been available to have dinner out with Liam Neeson for ages, but so far no joy.

Also, she can do a chargeback on her plastic if she's within a certain grace period of 90 days for some cards. Of course, the "publisher" is aware of that and may draw the process out long enough to be able to keep the money. If nothing else, she has a business loss on her Schedule C to go with her plate of steaming hot crow.
 
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ctripp

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I've been available to have dinner out with Liam Neeson for ages, but so far no joy.

:roll:THAT is just perfect!

It's like trying to tell a friend that her new boyfriend is a creep. In that first flush of "love" they can't, or choose not to, hear anything negative.
Perhaps you could suggest she look up her publisher here, under the Agent and Publisher Index (since she won't tell you the name) Most of them are listed. And though she still may not believe what she reads, you'll know you have at least done all you can.
 
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Krampus Nacht

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