For new and unpublished writers, anthologies can be a great way to introduce their work to the world, and for a writer to gain confidence in the publishing industry. Many anthologies are legitimate, run by upstanding publishers with only the best of intentions. However, anthologies also present shady publishers with various ways to scam authors. Here are several to avoid:
Paid anthologies: If any publisher asks you for a fee to contribute to an anthology (poetry or shorts), don’t do it. It’s a scam. The book that ensues will be poorly executed, badly formatted and full of errors. It’s not worth seeing your name in print when your family, friends and readers will see such a poorly produced effort. It’ll be out there forever, with your name on it. Don’t let that be the reputation you build for yourself.
Charity anthologies: A publisher might ask you to contribute to to an anthology that they say is going to benefit charity. While it’s true that anthologies are a great way to raise money for a charity – and to gain some publicity for a writer – it’s also a gateway to a scam. It’s possible that the publisher is pocketing the money.
What to look out for: No mention of the charity in the book’s description on Amazon or on the book’s cover. A legitimate charity anthology will feature both. Also, don’t be shy about asking for confirmation from the charity, especially if the publisher isn’t forthcoming with proof of charitable contribution.
There’s nothing wrong with contributing to charity, but there’s everything wrong with a publisher putting your money in their pocket under the banner of charity.
Publishers that seek you out: Real, upstanding publishers field submissions from authors. They don’t need to seek you out. If a publisher contacts you, chances are they’re eager to scam you. So, if you get an email or private message from a publisher inviting you to contribute to an anthology, don’t. Solicitous contact is a sure way to spot a scam, even if they come from your publisher or one you know.
The switch-hit publisher: If you’ve submitted a book to a publisher and they solicit you to contribute an anthology they’ve got going (or several), be wary. It’s not a publisher’s job to hunt you down for anthologies. It’s their job to publish your work. If you make yourself available to contribute your work to an anthology your publisher’s putting together, that’s different. If a publisher that has produced a book for you hits you up about contributing to an anthology, you need to rethink your publisher. Chances are good they’re a scam.
In short, be wary. If a publisher asks you to pay anything up front to publish, don’t. Whether they want you to pay a fee (reading, editing, artwork, Amazon, or anything else) or buy copies of your own book (anthology, etc), it’s a scam to get money out of you. Run the other way.
Above all, make sure of your pay. If your publisher promises to pay you an equal cut, that’s great. But nail them down on it. For one thing, make sure that the other authors actually exist. If your publisher is creating alternyms and contributing stories to the same anthology you’re in, they’re keeping a bigger piece of the pie than you are. Chances are good that they’re only using your good name to lend legitimacy to a scam anthology.
If you know that your publisher’s publishing service (Createspace, for example) gets paid every month, but your publisher expects you to wait and get paid quarterly, you need to ask yourself why. Why should they put your money in their pocket every month but make you wait? That hardly seems fair.
Most importantly, make your publisher PROVE YOUR SALES. If your publisher pays you just a few dollars quarterly, make them prove why. Don’t let them tell you that it’s because it got divided between so many people. Especially if you suspect that your publisher is several of them. And don’t accept the excuse that there weren’t very many sales. As ever, make them prove it. Make them produce irrefutable sales reports. If they can’t, or won’t, do that, make them remove your work from their book.
Trust is a wonderful thing among friends, but publishing is a business. It relies upon specific contracts and verifiable details. Don’t let yourself be scammed by a publisher that deals in anything less. Don’t fall for words like “trust” and “dreams” in business. If a publisher needs to fall back on those, it’s only because they lack the proper, legal foundation. Take your patronage elsewhere.
It’s your reputation, your work and your money. Protect it.