Dodge the Scam – 5 paths into Self-Publishing and the risks that come with them

I raised this up in the article covering three print on demand sites that, whilst the freedom you have self-publishing is great, it isn’t without a few financial risks, especially for those who are new to the scene.
If you are looking to become self-published, with no prior experience in publishing at all, then this article could help you decide what path to go down in conjunction with my other article, which covers print-on-demand services in greater depth.

In this article, I will be covering five of the most common paths into self-publishing, the risks you will face, and what benefits each pathway has.

The sites I will be using are primarily UK based but the issues I raise, and the things you need to look out for, will apply to pretty much any country.

Table of Contents

  1. The Vanity Press Path
  2. The Team Recruitment Path
  3. The Hybrid Publishing Path
  4. The Print on Demand Path
  5. The Paid Marketing Path
  6. Weighing in the Pros & Cons
  7. Conclusion

1. The “Vanity Press” Path

(Left to Right) PublishNation, PublishingPush, Reedsy

Also known as the “Self-Publishing Package” site by those outside the publishing industry.
These sites are relatively new on the scene; self-publishing has been around since 1911, and online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo have all been around since 2007, which is far longer than these package sites have been. The recent surge in the vanity press is a growing concern for more experienced self-published authors because any new creators could be swindled out of their money and, potentially, their manuscript. In a way, not only can vanity presses rob the new author of their money, but they also can destroy an amazing books potential by giving it no care during production.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these sites. The services they offer also vary significantly, making it near impossible to scrutinise the category of sites as a whole; some offer complete packages for a single fee, others charge based on who you choose to hire for editing, cover work, and so on. Some charge you for who-knows-what because they don’t go into detail about what they’re offering you; avoid these ones especially. You, as the client, are paying for a service and have the right to know what that service actually is; if a site doesn’t disclose what you are getting, run for the hills, because they’re probably hiding something from you, be it hidden fees or the fact they could just be a scammer.

Here are the things to really watch out for with these sites; some of them are vague in describing what you actually get for a reason. They may have hidden fees later down the line that you won’t be expecting. I can’t tell you which sites out of the thousands may do this to you, there’s just so many vanity press sites popping up these days, just remember that if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Let me give you one example, at least; the site PublishNation has much cheaper prices than PublishingPush, and uses vague descriptions for what you get in the package.

When you scroll down on PublishNation you see a list of what you get, though they say in brackets on a handful of the list “except where noted”, yet nothing is actually noted in the list.
Digging into this list you also see there are hidden fees for books containing artwork, footnotes, tables, and even bullet points! The price for a cover is also not included in the package, even though they say it is. In truth, you just get a plain cover with text. No images at all. Do you want a real cover? That’s an additional £40 for the front to be made, and another £40 for the back. There’s £80 in hidden fees added to that supposed “all-inclusive” price!

PublishingPush lists far more about what is included in the package. The list was so long I couldn’t fit it onto the snapshot.
Digging around their site, and reading reviews, I couldn’t see any hidden fees. They also say you don’t pay until you’re satisfied with your book project, which is a rarity in vanity press. Out of the twenty sites I visited, only four of them disclosed that payment would only be taken after you tell them you’re satisfied.

The final site in the picture is Reedsy, which works a bit like Fiverr but is exclusively for publishing, so it’s more like a recruitment service than a complete vanity press. It tries to touch all bases in a way, being you can use it as a vanity press or recruit your own team of editors and whatnot. I will cover it in the next article portion. As a vanity press site, it is quite difficult to even navigate; I couldn’t get much info at all on the packages they offered, yet they advertise themselves as providing them. Their biggest focal point appears to be in the recruitment/freelance portion of the site.


Should I use this service?

These sites are high risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

You are banking on people, who aren’t listed as traditional or hybrid publishers, to take your manuscript and make it into a finished book, then distribute it for you. Nearly all vanity press give you no contract to sign, so really these package sites aren’t legally bound to do anything they say they’ll do. I strongly advise people don’t use these services.

First, there are plenty of independent folks out there who will do editing, covers, and marketing, for a decent price. These package sites charge far more, often in hidden fees, to make money as a broker between you and the services you actually need.

Second, these sites say they include items in your package that are free elsewhere; ISBN’s come free with publishing on sites like Amazon, LuLu, Blurb, Barnes & Noble, and so on. Creating a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account is also free and incredibly straightforward.
Global distribution is also free and available on LuLu, Blurb, and a bunch of other print-on-demand sites without needing to make an account outside their own website. If you need editors, a professional cover, or marketing, well, there are far better alternatives.

If you still think using a package is worth the risk, just be sure to research your chosen site carefully; find online reviews of that particular website or service provider, ask the writing community about them before investing your money and manuscript into these sorts of things.

Sites like Fiverr, Scribeophile, and Reedsy, are far better service providers given you are put in direct contact with the editor/artist and pay them for their work, not a third party who will take a huge portion of that payment for doing nothing. These sites have their own risks too, which I will cover next.

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • Vague descriptions of what your package includes.
  • A ludicrously low price. (This could indicate either hidden costs, missing features, or poor quality.)
  • A horrifyingly high price. (Scammers will charge a lot more to appeal to those sceptical of the low price.)
  • Whether the site is all-inclusive. (Some sites don’t include printing or distribution.)
  • Who has control of your manuscript. (It should always disclose that it’s you!)

2. The “Team Recruitment” Path

(Left to Right) Reedsy, Scribeophile, Fiverr

I mentioned Reedsy, Scribeophile, and Fiverr, in the Package Site portion of the article already, so I will be using them in this portion of the article in detail. I’ll start with Reedsy.

Reedsy is a team-building site; these types of site have been around longer than the package building websites have been, with Fiverr being around since 2010. Both sites are fairly similar, being you end up searching for the services you want, are in direct contact with the service provider, and assemble your book using what they provide, be it a stunning cover, or editing work. Scribeophile, however, is different to these two sites.

Scribeophile is exclusively meant to be used for editing and is free, but it makes use of “karma points” in order for you to submit your work for critique/editing. You’re also limited to how much of your work you can submit based on your points, and gain points by doing critique/editing on others submissions. You can pay for a premium account, whereby karma points don’t really matter and you can submit chapters for critique/editing, plus you get discounts on other editing software and services. I’ve only added it to this portion of the article because, in a way, you’re still enlisting someones else’s help to get your book publish-ready. The bonus to Scribeophile is it doesn’t really cost you anything but time to get help refining your manuscript.

Back to Reedsy; the prices are more expensive than Fiverr, but the people who are registered on the site are all professionals from publishing backgrounds.
You could make use of this site for hiring just an editor, or hire multiple people to assemble your own team, but aside from this, it isn’t clear what else you actually get from the site. You could end up with a fantastic manuscript and cover, but nowhere to print it at the specifications you paid all that money for. I also found the site a bit chaotic and confusing to use, but that could just be the ADHD in me.

The final site in the picture is Fiverr; costs vary on the individual you’re hiring, just like Reedsy, but the skill level of the person you’re paying for may not be professional, and the price you pay is no assurance either. You could be paying a hefty amount for editing work from someone who claims they are a professional but you could just end up either losing your manuscript to a scammer or being given poor quality work. Unlike Reedsy, Fiverr does not veto the people who join their sites as service providers, so there are absolutely zero guarantees.
As usual, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Printing-wise, you’ll have to do a LOT of exploring. It’s better to go local when it comes to printing, as shipping fees will be much lower, plus you might be able to visit the factory and help speed up the quality control process, resulting in a shorter turnaround for printing your projects. Note that printing sites will usually have a high minimum order amount, usually around fifty to two-hundred and fifty copies, so you should be prepared to have somewhere to send or store those books ahead of time.

You also need to watch out for sites that are meant to be just printers; many vanity press sites have rebranded themselves as just a printing service, and they may try to swindle more money out of you.
I needed hardbacks of my book series, Specimen G-13, and sent quote requests to seven printers who claimed they were situated in the UK; all but one of them gave me a quote instantly. The last one, called GateKeeper Press, didn’t even give me a quote. They just sent me an e-mail asking to book a consultation, along with a sales pitch for other services they could offer me. Turns out they weren’t just a printer and were actually an incognito Vanity Press.
Before you invest in a printer, make sure it’s not a vanity press in disguise; look for reviews of the service, and see if they offer more than just standard printing (if they do, they’ll more than likely be a vanity press.)


Should I use this service?

These sites are medium risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Enlisting individuals to edit your work professionally, or craft you a wonderful cover, based on nothing but their profile, is always a risk. The financial loss, however, is significantly less than relying on the Vanity Press sites as you are spreading the cost out over different services, rather than throwing it all in one place.

You also have the additional safety-net using these sites if you get in contact with other self-published authors and ask them who they would recommend for the service you need. You can also ask authors if they used a vanity press, but you’ll often find that they don’t.

If you feel that you are happy handling most of the book publishing process, like creating an account on a printing site and such, then finding your own editors/cover artists from Reedsy, Fiverr, or elsewhere, isn’t a bad option. Just be sure to do your research on who you’re planning on paying to do the job!

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • A ludicrously low price. (This could indicate poor quality. Not always the case, but be sceptical.)
  • A lack of reviews, or lots of 5-star ones with no comments. (Likely a scam account.)
  • Little, to no, samples of their work. (You need examples of what you are paying for!)
  • over-use of stock content/photos. (Likely a scam account that sells stolen content, and might steal yours!)
  • People who don’t respond to questions. (No info on their page? Not answering questions? Likely a scam account.)
  • Vanity Press masquerading as a printer. (They’ll be more likely to have hidden fees and hard-sell other services.)

3. The “Hybrid Publishing” Path

(Left to Right) TCKPublishing, BookPress, Boyle&Dalton

The latest method of publishing that is gaining traction is hybrid publishing. Whilst the practice itself isn’t new, its popularity within the world of writing is.
As you may have guessed, hybrid publishing is something of an in-between method of getting your manuscript out there as a book. It’s not quite traditional publishing, nor is it self-publishing either.
Here are a few bullet-points on what makes a hybrid publisher:

  • Submissions must be reviewed and vetted by someone in the company, including production quality checks and editorial checks.
  • The publisher must publish as its own imprint and use its own ISBNs, just like traditional.
  • They must manage the rights of the works they publish.
  • They must manage distribution services or hire a distributor for their authors’ works.
  • Authors who sign with hybrid publishers must be paid a higher royalty than that of a standard traditional publisher.

Unlike traditional publishers, hybrids allow unsolicited submissions of your manuscript, they also don’t require you to have an agent though many still accept submissions by literary agents on behalf of their clients. The hybrid model also tackles revenue differently, favouring a “split the cost” element and an absence of cash advances to the author. Hybrid published authors also get more royalties than traditional ones, though how much more and why will vary.

Hybrid publishers require you to pay some of the expenses in getting your book made; they’ll usually handle formatting, cover work, and printing time-wise, but financially you’ll have to cover the printing costs and then market the project yourself. Some hybrid publishers won’t do editing work for you and may expect you to hire an editor yourself before accepting your submission, it varies from publisher to publisher.

Unlike the vanity press I covered at the start of this article; hybrid publishers will always offer you a contract to sign, certifying that you are being paid by them when it comes to royalties and that you are representing them as an author under their publisher name. Providing the contract states you still own the rights to your manuscript, as they rightly should do, this level of security puts hybrid publishers above the vanity press and the risks they come with. However, you may find the hybrid publisher will be a bit more restricting than going 100% self-published, and getting out of a contract may prove a challenge.


Should I use this service?

These sites are medium risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hybrid publishing is a great bridge between going traditional and going self-published. You have the security of a contract that will protect you and your creations from being stolen, and whilst you have to provide some financial investment into the publications you make with them, they’re still far cheaper and less risky than using vanity press.
You may, however, find your level of control limited by the publisher; they can hire their own cover designer, pick a more preferred book size to the one you wanted, and so on. There may also be limits on where you can submit work, as publishers of any kind can be a bit iffy with their contracted authors going to other publishers and offering them new manuscripts.
Also, once you sign that dotted line, you might find it difficult to back out of the contract later after finding somewhere else that offers services more appealing to your particular project.

Financially, hybrid publishing isn’t a huge risk. Time-wise, and flexibility-wise, it can be. Consider how much time you’re willing to invest into creating and marketing your book because hybrid publishers don’t do all the legwork for you like a traditional publisher might; everything is shared, workload and profits alike.

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • What your contract says about your creative freedoms and rights.
  • The amount of money you will be required to invest in a project.
  • How much of the workload is tasked to you. (Are you doing all the work? Then there’s no point using them: go print-on-demand instead!)

4. The “Print-on-Demand” Path

(Left to Right) LuLu, Amazon KDP, Blurb

The go-to for many a self-published author; print on demand sites have existed since 2002, though the practice of printing to order has been around for far longer.
The premise of this method of publishing is that you pay nothing to create your book. You don’t need an agent, or to worry about things like buying an ISBN, or distribution for that matter. It’s similar to hybrid publishing, only you have 100% creative control of your work, and you can either list the website as your imprint publisher, or yourself (in my case, I made Zuperbuu Works my imprint).

You simply create your manuscript, edit it and make a cover yourself (or hire a freelancer), and upload it to one of these sites, type in the metadata of your book, and then submit. The books are then up for sale on the site of the printer within a day or so, and if you choose to opt-in for distribution then you’ll soon find your books up for sale on other sites as well after a few weeks.
This is just a summary of a far longer process, but I have already covered how these types of sites run operate in my other article. I suggest giving it a read HERE for a more in-depth explanation.

Your revenue is paid out per sale of whatever book you choose to go with. Your options in the print department depend on the site you use and can range from comics and magazines to paperback and hardback. All the print-on-demand sites I’ve used and explored in the past also offer options for ebook publishing as well.

These sites have zero expenses to you for getting your work published, and even printing costs you nothing. Your print costs and distribution fees are all factored into your books overall price and are deducted from it, resulting in your final revenue amount. Granted, this method of publishing yields the least in profits should you go for distributing your book outside the printers own bookstores, and some (like Amazon) can be very fussy about sharing your ebook work outside their own services.

Unlike vanity press and hybrid publishing, you’re not giving your manuscript over to these sites and asking them to compile everything into a finished book; you have to do all the design process, formatting, editing, cover creation, and basic quality checks yourself. Absolutely all of it. It can be a huge burden on people who have limited time to work on their project and might become a headache to those who need to learn how to use a new program to get the book looking right in PDF. (Note: not all print-on-demand request PDF format, but it is very common.)


Should I use this service?

These sites are low risk for beginners in self-publishing.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The most money you’ll invest in print-on-demand is ordering samples/proofs of your project. You’ll likely need to order a sample of your book from multiple sites to find the right one that suits your needs or to decide what type of cover you want to go with. After that point, you’ll only invest time into marketing the project unless you decide to spend that money you saved (by going print-on-demand) on ads elsewhere!

As for your manuscript; using sites like LuLu, Blurb, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are perfectly safe. These sites are all certified printers, some are even registered as publishers! Unlike the vanity press, which is not.

The biggest risks you have with print-on-demand sites is you’re less likely to get a traditional publishing offer later down the line if they learn you’d gone self-published, especially so if using vanity press or print-on-demand. If in the future you want to go traditional, you’ll have to be prepared for a few more rejections than normal unless you used a pseudonym.
Another risk is your book actually getting exposure; a project can easily be buried under the huge influx of new projects that flood the bookshelves daily, so you’ll have to invest more time or money into marketing, which we’ll get to next.

If you decide to use this service, look out for…

  • Them asking you for a deposit, or “insurance” payments. (Print-on-demand sites should never ask for this. Those that do are vanity press disguised as print-on-demand.)
  • Distribution restrictions that may apply. (eg. Kindle Unlimited requires your ebook to remain exclusive to KDP.)
  • Localised restrictions. (Barnes & Noble, for example, do not post to Europe so you cannot order book samples if you live there.)

5. The “Paid Marketing” Path

(Left to Right) Fiverr, Reedsy, GoodReads

Not exactly a path to self-publishing, per se, but an essential part of the self-publishing process.
Numerous websites like Fiverr, GoodReads, and even Reedsy offer paid-for-services connected to marketing your work. From paying for reviews to paying for book giveaways, and more.

We’ll start with the biggest of the bunch, the real reason you’re reading this part of the article at all: paid reviews.

Now, not only are these types of sites morally wrong, but they also violate numerous retailers terms of service; your book, and you as an author, can be removed from their stores and banned for making use of these types of services, especially if you use the wrong ones.

Giving book bloggers reviewer copies of your book, or using ReedsyDiscovery, is totally different to these paid reviews I’m writing about; you are giving someone a copy of your book and they are reviewing it, usually on their site, or for an article. Paid Reviews sites and services usually just take your money and then make fake accounts to post glowing reviews onto your books retail pages, and nowhere else, to help it move up the discoverability of retailers websites. They’ll usually be vague and highlight nothing in particular about your project because they don’t read the book when making the review itself.
Fiverr also has similar services, and just like the bigger sites that offer them, I strongly advise against using Fiverr for getting reviews. Get them legitimately: you’ll feel better for it, it will cost less, and won’t be breaking retailer rules either.

A rare few of the paid reviews sites, like ReedsyDiscovery, will ask for free copies of your book to then pass on to their reviewers, but then you’ve paid them to review the book AND given them a free copy, so you’re losing twice the amount of money than if you just gave a blogger a copy.

Next on the list is Giveaways: you pay for a site to host a giveaway of your book, and not only are you paying the site to host this giveaway, but you also have to pay for all the books going out to the winners. They’re not included in the overall cost of the giveaway package, even ebooks aren’t usually included in the packages unless you pay extra for them.
GoodReads is the most well known of the sites that host these types of things, and they’re overpriced. The winners don’t even have to review the book, even though GoodReads says it will remind them to.
It’s better to host your own giveaways on social media, which allow readers to actively engage with you, the author, as well.

You could also invest money in things like Facebook ads, or Google ads, but they too do not have any guarantee of success. Facebook ads require you to pay regardless of if anyone clicks the ad itself, whereas Google only charges you per ad that is engaged with via a legitimate click. Fake ad-clicks are refunded to you if the site displaying the ad has been caught falsifying clicks.

Some of the vanity press sites, like in part 1 of this article, may also come with social media set-up and management, but again, readers want to engage with you and not someone representing you! If you want to have a social media account for your author profile, I urge you to create and manage it yourself in your early days. When you grow too busy, then perhaps consider getting a social media assistant. You don’t need to pay for a publishing package to get this sort of support; you’ll find plenty of people on social media already who could do the job perfectly, with enthusiasm, and for a fraction of the package cost.


Should I use this service?

These type of services are all high risk, regardless of author experience.

Rating: 0 out of 5.

I have given all other sites and services the benefit of the doubt; some will be very useful to different people, but these services I outright cannot endorse at all. So, no. Don’t use these types of things, even if an author tells you whatever service is “worked for them”. I often believe folk like this are paid a commission for recommending these services because I’ve heard nothing but bad things about them from legitimate authors. Stories of paid reviews resulting in their books pulled from retailers shelves and being banned for falsifying reviews, and how £200 was wasted buying books for a giveaway that wasn’t even successful (giveaway money is refunded if nobody enters, but those books you paid for aren’t!)

Honestly, the book bloggers are the best option you have for obtaining legitimate, honest, reviews of your book. Social media works great for giveaways, and if you need help with social media then paying a social media manager for some help is better than buying a big publicity package elsewhere.

  • Paid reviews sites and services have no guarantee and may result in financial loss, books being pulled from retailers, or you being banned from online stores as a seller. I do not advise you to use them.
  • Paid Giveaway sites have no guarantee and can result in financial losses. Use them at your own risk.
  • Google and Facebook ads can be pricey and also have no guarantee.

Here are alternative options to the services mentioned above…

  • Book bloggers are a great source of reviews and constructive feedback on your book. Most will also write their reviews for free providing you give them an “Advanced Reviewer Copy” (or ARC) to use.
  • Social Media is an ideal place to host your own giveaways, virtually for free. All you have to pay for are the books themselves, and shipping physical copies to the winners. No 3rd party involved means less money is spent.
  • Offer your books to your local newspaper, book club, and friends, in exchange for a review.

You can have friends review your book in online retailers, but just be sure they’ve read the book already and state they got an “ARC” when writing their review, as the retailer may flag the review as falsified.
Do not use family members to review your book; retailers see these as subject to bias and violate their terms of service.


Weighing in the Pros & Cons

Each path into self-publishing comes with its own benefits and risks, though some pose more risks than others. What matters here is how much a financial hit you’re prepared to take, how much time you’re willing to sacrifice, and any creative freedoms you’re comfortable forfeiting, to get a copy of your book in your hands.

PathProsCons
Vanity PressLeast amount of work.
Quick turnaround.
No querying required.
Agents not required.
Hidden fees.
Easy for scammers to exploit.
No quality guarantees.
No creative control.
No security over your manuscript rights.
Little to no support after the book is printed.
No revenue from the service provider.
Team RecruitmentComplete creative control.
Agents not required.
Large amount of work.
Easy for scammers to exploit.
Teams are usually temporary.
Printing can be expensive.
Hybrid PublishingQuick turnaround.
Security over your manuscript rights.
No querying required/unsolicited submissions are permitted.
Agents not required.
Some support after the book is printed.
Fairly large amount of work.
Little to no creative freedom.
No revenue advances.
The contract may be hard to break out of.
Print on DemandComplete creative control.
Agents not required.
No querying required.
Quick turnaround.
Security over your manuscript rights.
Environmentally friendly.
Very large amount of work.
Time-consuming making print-ready files.
Little support from the service provider.
Distribution restrictions may apply.
Paid Marketing(I couldn’t think of any.)Paying for marketing of any kind is a huge gamble, with no guarantee of it working.

You could try traditional publishing which has a lot of benefits but it too has plenty of risks and other setbacks to it as well. One of the biggest issues with traditional publishers is they’re notorious for what is called “gatekeeping”.
Gatekeeping isn’t a new term, nor is it a new thing within publishing either.

Traditional publishing has always been discriminatory towards black, Hispanic, Asian, and other indigenous people, and more so if they’re LGBT+, neurodivergent, or even disabled. Some publishers have been improving their acceptance of others outside the white and heteronormative bunch that have dominated the industry for hundreds of years, but many still refuse to give up on their “traditional values”. There are also gatekeeper-deniers out there, who claim this discrimination doesn’t exist, yet a simple glance at the writing communities online puts out a very clear message that it does exist, and it’s far more widespread of an issue than I can fathom as the UK industry is all I really know.
Aside from the gatekeeping, you also have to tackle the nightmare that is querying: you can’t just submit your manuscript to a traditional publisher and expect them to look at it.

The first thing to do is see which publishers are open to queries, then write a query e-mail/letter with a synopsis of some kind about your book, you as its author, and why you think the publisher should pick up your manuscript over the countless other ones they’ll be receiving. It’s like applying for a job; sell yourself just as much as you try to sell your manuscript, don’t lie, and do your best to keep on-point and not waffle.
Publishers won’t even consider you unless you have a literary agent. Again, you usually have to do a lot of hunting around for one, if you can’t send your query to one of the publishers’ agents for some reason. Also, you should never be asked to pay for an agent to take you on board as a client; “agents” who contact you and ask for payment before they take you on as a client are just scammers.

Here’s an addition to the above table, to compare them to traditional publishing in general (note that some traditional publishers will greatly differ like hybrid ones.)

ProsCons
TRADITIONAL
PUBLISHING
Security over your manuscript rights.
Advances in revenue (varies by publisher).
Support after the book is printed.
No financial investment needed.
Least amount of project work.
Widest distribution reach (online and high street).
Literary Agents are required.
No unsolicited manuscript submissions.
No creative freedom.
Slow turnaround.
Gatekeeping.
The contract may be hard to break out of.

If you choose to go for traditional publishing instead of one of the self-publishing pathways, then that’s great! Just be prepared to undertake a lot of querying, researching into publishers, and receiving rejections in your journey, especially when just starting out as a new author. If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to the writing community and ask for help.
Here’s a few pointers that should make your quest for a traditional publication deal a bit less stressful:

  • Look for a publisher that has a diverse range of authors and book types. Querying will be a lot less difficult if your chosen publisher is accepting of those who are LGBT+, neurodivergent, disabled, or of other ethnicities. It helps if the publisher is very open about their stance on human rights; publishers who show little or no positive views on diversity and human rights are more likely to gatekeep.
  • Use Twitter and follow the “#PitMad” hashtags. These are times querying authors are looking to do quick pitches of their book, which absolutely any publisher can view without needing to write a long query letter. Interested agents/publishers will leave likes on the pitch, and may even get in touch to request a partial or full manuscript to examine.
  • Request constructive feedback from fellow authors on your query, manuscript, and target publisher. You can get that query made super appealing by having fellow authors look it over to see if it hooks them, and adjusting it accordingly if it doesn’t. The same goes for your manuscript; ask your author friends to help out with the synopsis if you’re struggling (we all know how painful a job that part can be!)
    Also, don’t be afraid to ask other authors what their thoughts or experiences are on a certain publisher; it’s better to know ahead of time which publisher will be your friend and which won’t be if you’re a diverse author.
  • If you want to start as self-published and later pick up traditional publishing, use a pseudonym for your self-published works. Some authors and publishers may say they’re not snobs to folk who went self-published, but there is still a stigma surrounding the practice and discrimination still happens in the industry. It’s better to protect yourself if you do plan a future within traditional publishing.

Conclusion

I started this article a while ago, having done plenty of research into what path best suited me for getting my stories out of my mind palace and into the world for others to enjoy. I saw plenty of scare stories about self-publishing, which I later found out had been written out by snooty traditional published authors and therefore had no merit behind them.
I dodged supposed “agents” who had found my querying on social media and sought to take advantage of me; asking for a whopping £3000 deposit before they would even consider looking at my manuscript.
I was let down repeatedly by people I paid for or trusted, to edit my work and get it printed at a high quality.

The traditional publishing industry is full of toxic people who look down on new writers with snobbery, and are gatekept by backward ideologies. Enlisting others for help just left me without money and full of nothing but disappointment. Everyone’s experiences will differ greatly, but these were mine, and they influenced my decision going forward with my work.

I decided that if I were to go self-published, I would have to do it all 100% on my own. I chose to go with Print on Demand, and haven’t thought about going traditional since. The independence it has given me, the complete control of how my work looks and feels, even how it is priced, is liberating.
So, looking at the results below, take them each with a grain of salt; these ratings are based on my own experiences, you may have better ones with those that I rate low, and that’s OK. Just remember the risks I talked about, and keep on your toes to dodge the scams!

PathwayRating
Vanity PressHigh Risk. Avoid.
Team BuildingMedium Risk. Use Caution.
Hybrid PublishingMedium Risk. Study your Contract.
Print on DemandLow risk.
Paid MarketingHigh Risk. Avoid.
Traditional PublishingMedium/Low Risk. Study your Contract.
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