If you’ve completed a book and are looking for a publisher, you might think it makes sense to turn to Google. You aren’t alone. “How to get published,” “how to find a publisher,” and “how to get a book published for the first time” are all popular internet search phrases.
This is not a great idea.
While such searches turn up excellent resources (such as Jane Friedman’s Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published), a lot of what you’ll see on the first couple of pages (which is as far as most people look), is useless or worse.
For instance, ads from vanity publishers, like Dorrance and Austin Macauley, and predatory author services companies, like Bookwhip and Readers Magnet.
A good rule of thumb: real publishers don’t buy Google ads.
Another trap: listings for faux consumer guides like TopConsumerReviews.com, where overpriced author services companies like Xlibris and Outskirts Press pay for advertising, and misleading “Top 10” lists like this one or this one, which are really just a bunch of pay-per-click affiliate links. (There’s a reason why so many of these sites list the same companies.) Be skeptical in general of any resource that claims to list the Top Anything–at best, this will be subjective and incomplete–or that presents itself as a consumer resource (unless you can verify that it is, in fact, a consumer resource).
Most insidious are the websites that purport to match you with appropriate publishers in exchange for information about yourself and your book. To name just a few: SearchForPublishers.com (“Designed specifically for budding authors”), NeedPublishingHelp.com (“We work to connect authors with the right people”), DiscoverPublishers.com (“Have publishers compete for your new book!”), and FindPublishingHelp.com and its UK cousin (“A free service that delivers the best publishing matches to writers and prospective authors”).
The true purpose of these sites isn’t to provide helpful guidance to writers, but to generate leads for author services companies and vanity publishers, which either pay for listings or buy the information gathered through the forms writers fill out. (FindPublishingHelp.com discloses this fact, kind of, but none of the others do.) That’s why they want your phone number and mailing address, and why many of them ask how much you’re willing to pay for publication. If you go through the process of filling out the forms, you’ll either be promised direct contact from “interested publishers” (read: relentless phone solicitations from author services companies), or given a list of “personalized” recommendations–all of which are pay-to-play.
For instance, here’s what you get from DiscoverPublishers.com:
And here are some familiar names, courtesy of FindPublishingHelp.com:
Many of these sites neglect to say who sponsors them, and have anonymized domain registrations. Some can be traced back to lead generation or affiliate marketing companies, such as JAG Offers, but figuring out their provenance can be very difficult.
Unless they’re owned by the granddaddy of author services companies, Author Solutions.
Author Solutions is by far the largest sponsor of fake publisher matching sites, all designed to steer writers into the clutches of AS’s many “imprints”. Here are the ones I’ve found (so far):
- ChooseYourPublisher.com (“Your book is your passion…find the publisher that best suits your personal publishing goals”)
- FindYourPublisher.com and its UK clone (“You’ve poured your heart and soul into writing your book; and you’ve long dreamt of the day when you will finally see your words in print”)
- Findingapublisher.com (“Based on a few pieces of information, we help you find the most suitable publisher for your manuscript”)
- Bookpublishing-companies.com (“Now that you’ve finished writing your book, it’s time to take your literary career to the next level”)
- NewWriterPublisher.com (“We’re here to make sure you have access to book publishing options that make the publishing process smooth and straightforward”)
- Poetry-Publishers.com (“Enjoy a 100% hassle-free poetry publishing experience you’ll love”)
- Childrens-Book-Publishing.com (“Children are waiting to hear YOUR story!”)
- Childrensbook-publishing.com (yes, this is a different website)
- E-BooksPublishing.com (“Use the power of ebooks–get published today!)
AS does identify itself in tiny print at the bottom of the sites, or in the sites’ privacy policies. But these mild disclosures can easily be missed by eager writers, who in any case may not be familiar with AS’s reputation for high prices, aggressive solicitation, poor customer service, and junk marketing. (And seriously, who reads privacy policies?)
The internet is an invaluable resource. But it’s also a tsunami of misinformation and a shark pit of scammers and opportunists. To avoid falling victim to schemes and scams, you need to already know something about what you’re looking for. That’s why, if you’re completely new to the publishing world, I suggest that you start with an old-fashioned book, and hold off on internet searches until you have enough basic knowledge to filter what you find.
For more suggestions for getting safely started on the publication search, see my updated blog post, Learning the Ropes.