It can be challenging to navigate the world of book publishing. Publishers with shady business practices often blend right in with the honest ones! From unnecessary fees to unfair contracts, these “services” take advantage of authors and prioritize their own bottom line over your book’s success.

Luckily, you can recognize publishing scams by looking out for specific red flags. Read on for a few simple tips on how to identify legitimate publishing companies.

Table of Contents:

Publishing Scams Are Real: Here’s What to Look Out For

Publishers With Unnecessary Costs and Fees

Unethical publishers often charge authors unnecessary costs. Watch out for:

  • Reading fees. Legitimate publishing companies won’t charge a fee just to read your work.
  • Required purchases of your own book. Publishers don’t require authors to purchase copies of their own book. Be wary of companies that ask you to buy bulk copies of your book to “sell at book signings” or “re-sell yourself.”
  • “Traditional” publisher fees. Although legitimate self-publishing services charge reasonable fees, “traditional” publishers should not require authors to pay for book publication.
  • Book contest fees. Publishing scams may claim that your book is a finalist in a paid contest, and charge you a fee to “submit your book to the finals.” Illegitimate book contests may also require you to sign away your publishing rights.

Publishers With Deceptive Claims and Advertising

Reputable book publishers won’t try to mislead you with tactics like:

  • A bestseller guarantee. No legitimate publisher will guarantee that your book will become a bestseller or sell a certain number of copies.
  • Direct solicitations. Be wary of any publisher with “book scouts” or “agents” who contact authors first. Avoid unfamiliar publishing services that call, email, or write to you out of the blue.
  • Hidden conflicts of interest. Some publishers are secretly connected to literary agencies that charge fees. Then the publisher “acquires” your book from the agency while keeping their business partnership quiet.

Publishers With Unethical Contracts

Always read publisher contracts, terms, and agreements carefully to avoid getting ensnared by:

  • A minimum sales guarantee. Shady publishers may require authors to sell a certain number of books within a certain time period. Authors who don’t meet that requirement must then pay back the difference or the book production costs.
  • Restrictive copyrights. Beware publisher contracts that have authors sign away the rights to their book or limit their option abilities.
  • Predatory royalties. Keep an eye out for substandard royalties and reverse-accounted royalty provisions.

What Are Some Book Publishers to Avoid?

These publisher lists are constantly changing and have more companies than we can include! Instead, here are a few tips to find the most up-to-date information on publishing scams.

1. Use resources with up-to-date publisher lists.

Trustworthy author groups frequently keep track of book publishers to avoid. For example, Writer Beware has a Thumbs Down Publisher List and the Alliance of Independent Authors documents publishers with “Caution” or “Watchdog Advisory” ratings. Check out these free resources before working with any publisher you’re unsure of.

Here are five book publishers to avoid with a “Watchdog Advisory” provided by the Alliance of Independent Authors:

  1. Abbott Press. Concerns: Quality, Value, Service, Communication, Transparency, Marketing, Legal
  2. Alliant Press. Concerns: Quality, Value, Service, Communication, Transparency, Marketing, Legal
  3. AlphaScript. Concerns: Quality, Value, Service, Communication, Marketing, Contract, Legal
  4. America Star Books. Concerns: Quality, Value, Service, Communication, Transparency, Marketing, Legal
  5. Archway Publishing. Concerns: Quality, Value, Service, Communication, Transparency, Marketing, Legal

These are just a few unreliable self-publishing companies from the list. Unfortunately, there are so many, that the best way to know who to avoid is to explore the comprehensive list yourself!

So, how does Gatekeeper Press measure up on this list?

gatekeeperpress recommended publisher

Well, we’re proud to be a recommended self-publisher!

2. Visit a publisher’s website and browse their titles.

You might be able to preview some of their published books on retailers like Amazon. Does the content meet your editorial standards? Are the formatting, printing quality, and design as high as you would expect? Try Googling the publisher’s name plus the word “review” or “scam.” Do any negative articles, author complaints, or shady business practices appear in the search results?

3. Explore author forums.

Author forums are a great way to find legitimate publishers and steer clear of scams. By talking to or reading reviews from other authors, you can use their firsthand experiences to identify self-publishing companies to avoid. Consider browsing AbsoluteWrite’s Bewares, Recommendations & Background Check forum, or other online author communities like Kboards,, and WritersNet.

Publish Your Book Hassle-Free With Legitimate Publishing Companies

Publishing scams exist, but so do legitimate publishing companies. When you’re ready to connect your book with readers, contact Gatekeeper Press to schedule a free 30-minute consultation and learn more about our editing, design, formatting, and publishing distribution services.

self publishing consultation