Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why I Turned Down a Publishing Contract...and Why You Should Too

Warning: evil predators ahead. I'd take my chances with
crocs over these guys.

About a month ago, a publisher asked for a full.

I was very excited. I sent the novel to them, brimming with optimism.

I knew it might result in a rejection, or worse--a terrible contract.

But I hoped for the best.

Last Wednesday, I received a response.

To my great joy, they offered me a contract!

Sadly, my initial elation didn't last long. Right after informing me that they wanted to publish my novel, the email devolved into a rant about how difficult and risky the publishing industry is.


But they were happy to offer me a contribution-based contract. Say what?

Does that mean what I think it means?

Yep. This "publisher" wanted the princely sum of 2600 pounds for the honour of publishing my book. They wanted me to pay THEM.

They made it all sound very logical. You believe in your work, don't you? Well, so do we. So, if you have the courage to invest in yourself, we will support you with marketing, editing, cover design....

Oh yeah--did we mention we can make any changes to your story that we want, without your approval? This includes removing anything we find remotely offensive. You're cool with that, right?

Um, in a word--NO.

At first I was crushed. After all, I'd been duped--duped into believing a vanity publisher was the real thing. (Well, it's actually worse than a vanity publisher, because vanities won't mess with your work. They'll print it as-is for a fee.)

But after allowing myself a day to wallow, I started to get angry.

Writers can be a desperate bunch. Most of us have been dreaming of seeing our name in print since we were toddlers.

Some of us want to be published more than anything else in the world, and that makes us a target for sleazy charlatans like this "publisher." If I didn't have to clean it up, I would spit on the floor every time I referred to them as such, even in quotes.

I think most of the writers who read this are an experienced bunch, but just in case:


If a publisher or agent asks you for money, it's a scam. Don't be tempted, no matter how well they try to sell it to you. You do not have to pay to get published, and if you really want to invest in your own work, self-publish.

At least you'll get to keep your royalties.


  1. Yep. Happens, sadly. Someone was telling me about their friend who had a children's book coming out soon, just like I did. When I asked about the publisher, it turned out it was one of those vanity presses. You can self-publish your novel for next-to-nothing, so why would anyone do that? I have learned that most average people don't know the difference between various publishers, so for those just writing to impress others in their lives, small presses or self-publishing is fine, as long as the cover looks professional.

    1. Yes, but it's best if the small press isn't taking advantage of writers by charging ridiculous, unnecessary fees and taking huge liberties with their work. There's no excuse for that. 2600 pounds is quite a bit of money!

      I got caught because there are three publishers with the exact same name, so I thought they were different branches of the same company. I sent my partial to the wrong one. But they do take a while to "read" it, just so everything seems legit.

      As more and more legitimate publishers acquire vanity presses, it's going to get even tougher to tell them apart.

      Thanks for commenting, Stephanie!

  2. Ugh. I'm so sorry you had to go through that roller coaster of emotions. That SO sucks.
    But, don't give up. One bad apple is all that was.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Keep moving forward!

    1. Thanks, Heather. I really appreciate the kind words and support.

      It was really tough, but I only gave myself one day to feel sorry for myself. I'm not going to let creeps like this discourage me. They shouldn't have even gotten a day.

  3. I'm sorry Holli, that sucks :(

    Your blog post is timely though, I just had someone send me a message saying they'd found someone to publish their book... for $1900 plus the cost of an illustrator. I explained why that was not such a great idea and pointed them in the right direction for information and resources, but it struck me how easily it is for these people to rip newbies off because they just don't know better. And of course, they get some who do as well, because they're willing to believe, because it's something they want *so* much. It's horrible :(

    1. Yes, even my boyfriend--who is very intelligent and a great critical thinker--was swayed by some of the language in the contract. It seems so reasonable--share the risk and share the rewards, right? Ugh. I'm really lucky that I know all about scam offers like this, so I was able to recognize it for what it was.

      I hope the writer you spoke to took your advice. Maybe if enough writers like us speak out, fewer people will be taken in by these scams.

  4. Unfortunately there's a lot of desperate people out there that want so much to be published they'll go for it :( But tbh, if you're going to fork out nearly 3k one might as well completely self-publish, then at least no one can screw with your MS!
    Suzanne @ Suzannes-Tribe

    1. Exactly, Suzanne. I agree. I hope this post will educate some other writers not to fall for these scams.

  5. Sorry I've been out of the loop for a little while -- I took an impromptu trip to California and have been playing catch-up since. I have run into these types, or people who want to pay you basement rates for your work because "there isn't much money in publishing." My attitude is if they can't design a decent business model and make their firm profitable, it isn't my problem.

    1. No worries, Steven. Everyone deserves a holiday. I've been behind on my blog reading and commenting too. It's summer! :)

      I completely agree. The fact that they started off their contract bemoaning the publishing industry was an immediate tip-off. Not to mention the fact that they spelled my name wrong. That's an indicator that their attention to detail will be fabulous.

      I've heard horror stories of writers who signed with them, only to get horrible covers and a complete massacre of their content for all that money. Needless to say, that didn't result in amazing sales.

  6. How disappointing, Holli. I'm so sorry you went through that. The business is hard enough without scam artists weaseling their way in. Ug. Well, I'm sending virtual cheese your way. Take care!

    1. Welcome back, Crystal! I've missed you around here. Thanks for the kind words and the virtual cheese--you do know my weakness.

      Hope you're doing well.