Friday, June 9, 2017

On "publishing companies" that are really scammers by Brian Henry

I often get emails from people who have been offered a publishing contract from some publisher the writer’s never heard of and asking me what I think. Usually I’ve never heard of the publisher, either, and I’m inclined to suspect a scam. 

In that case, here’s what I suggest:

Step One is to check the company out with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) which maintains a “Writer Beware” page. 

Recently, I got an email about an outfit called Austin MacAuley. And, oh look, SFWA does indeed list Austin MacAuley here.

Step Two is to check them out on Absolute Write, which maintains a Bewares and Recommendations page here

There, you'll find a link to a discussion of Austin MacAuley here.

Or if you’re in a hurry, your Step One might be to go straight to the Water Cooler. Google: absolute water cooler austin macauley – and this discussion will be the first item on the search page.

I’m not going to draw any conclusions about Austin MacAuley; I’ll let you do that for yourself, dear reader. My policy is to always be careful of saying anything that might be seen as libelous. If a potentially damaging statement’s not true, it’s a terrible thing to publish, and if it is true, well, the dodgier the company, the more likely they are to threaten a lawsuit.

But here’s my definition of a scam operation: It’s a company that pretends to be a traditional publisher, but is really a vanity press AKA a self-publishing operation. Their business model is to get their money from authors, not from selling books, but they pretend otherwise in order to bilk you out of your money.

Of course there are also respectable self-publishing operations; the difference is that respectable businesses are upfront about what they do.

I will add, though, that even otherwise upfront self-publishers often try to sell you on a “marketing package.” This is likely a scam. The company may go through the motions for you – a self-publisher may, for example, send out your book for review to dozens or hundreds of reviewers. But none of them will actually review your book, because it comes from a self-publisher, and the whole point of a self-publisher is that they’ll publish anything a writer sends them.

If you want to publish a book containing nothing by nonsense syllables, who are they to refuse your money? And if the self-publisher can persuade you to give them more money to “market” your scribbles, all the better from their point of view. So naturally, reviewers do not take books from self-publishing companies seriously.

There are legitimate professionals who can help you market your self-published books. Seek out other people who have done this. Find out who they’ve worked with.

I think the bottom line is that there’s no easy route to fame and fortune. So always remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

Time After Time (HarperCollins publisher)
by Hannah McKinnon
Brian Henry will lead “You can write great dialogue," workshops on Saturday, June 10 in Guelph, with author Hannah McKinnon, (see here), Saturday, July 15, in Mississauga (see here) and Saturday, July 22, in London (see here), and “How to Write Great Characters," Saturday, June 17 in Burlington (see here).

And there are three weekly creative writing courses, introductory to advanced, starting soon:
Exploring Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, July 4 – August 22, in Burlington. See here.
Next Step in Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington. See here.
Intensive Creative WritingWednesday afternoons, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington. See here.
      Details of all three courses  here.  

Brian Henry will lead a Writing for Children & for Young Adult workshop on Saturday, Aug 12, in Collingwood with literary agent Monica Pacheco (see here). 
In the fall, Brian will lead a weekly Writing Kid Lit class, Thursday mornings, Oct 5 – Nov 30, in Oakville (see here).
Note: For updated listings of Writing for Children & for Young adult workshops and for weekly Kid lit classes, see here (and scroll down).

Literary agent Monica Pacheco
Join us for a Fall Colours Writing Retreat, at Arowhon Pines Resort in Algonquin Park, Friday, Sept 15 – Sunday, Sept 17 (see here).

Also, in the fall, Brian will lead a full range of courses, including (for the first time) a creative writing course in Toronto:
Intensive Creative Writing, Monday mornings, Sept 25 – Dec 4, in Toronto. See here.
Next Step in Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons Sept 19 – Nov 21, in Burlington.
Extreme Creative Writing, Wednesday afternoons,Sept 20 – Dec 6, in Burlington
Writing Personal Stories, Wednesday evenings, Sept 27 – Nov 15, in Burlington
Writing Kid Lit, Thursday mornings, Oct 5 – Nov 30, in Oakville. See here.
Welcome to Creative Writing, Thursday afternoons, Sept 28 – Nov 30, in Burlington
Intensive Creative Writing, Thursday evenings, Sept 28 – Nov 30 in Georgetown. See here.

For more information or to reserve a spot in any workshop, retreat, or weekly course, email
Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.


  1. Thank you because you have been willing to share information with us. we will always appreciate all you have done here because I know you are very concerned with our. best self publishing

  2. Thank you so much for giving us amazing ideas about publish my book. I am a new writer. Recently i finished my first story now i want to publish my books. This article will definitely help me.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.