Tuesday night, I went to a local meetup for writers. I sat across from a guy who said he had published his self-help/health book. Over the evening, he gradually mentioned that he hadn’t actually self-published, he had published it through a company. When the conversation got around to talking about sales of rights, he mentioned that he had paid money to the company for services of editing and layout.
That immediately made me suspicious. In the publishing process, money should always flow towards the writer. If an agent or publisher asks for money, stay away.
I and some of the other people had to explain this to the guy, and get him to understand this was not self-publishing, that this was not the way legitimate publishing should work, and now that the company had his money, they had no incentive to sell his book. This wasn’t publishing or even self-publishing, just an old-fashioned vanity press, that didn’t even leave him with boxes of books to try to sell.
Later on, he passed around printed copies of the opening of his self-help/health book. I counted two obvious grammar errors in the first sentence alone. He said something about having cleaned it up for this version, which means it was either grammatically abysmal when it was printed by this supposed publisher, or he went to the trouble of editing it himself. This guy definitely did not speak English fluently.
I thought this guy had the bad luck to run into a vanity press, and he was out a few hundred dollars. The last bomb he dropped was that he had spent $2000 on this.
“Two thousand dollars?!” I asked. “You’ve been screwed, my friend.”
“You should calm down,” he said.
“I’ll calm down. You should be more agitated about this.”
This really ticked me off, that there is somebody out there ripping off authors. This is the scuzzy side of the self-publishing and ebook boom, opportunists who will take advantage of uninformed writers.