Dave King, perhaps best known for his Self Editing For Fiction Writers (now in second edition) wrote to say:
I’ve just become aware of a couple of new sins in the publishing world that writers need to know about. I know a lot of writers get so frustrated with traditional publishing that they have to go somewhere, so they turn to vanity presses and self-publishing. And the people waiting to prey on them seem to be evolving new methods. I’ve written and attached a warning for your readers. Can you post it on your blog?
Of course, we said. Here’s Dave’s piece:
A former client recently told me he’d just published with a small press to very good reviews. I was surprised since I had flagged some serious problems with his manuscript, and he said he had published it without changing a word. I looked into his situation and discovered two new publishing sins.
One is the back-door vanity press. Instead of asking for money up front like traditional vanities, these imprints only publish your novel if you promise to buy a certain number of copies yourself. This keeps them from being labeled as vanities by many of the websites that warn writers about scams. Two websites that caught this one are Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors . Back-door vanities make enough profit selling to their own writers, so they don’t have to bother selling to the public.
Then there are the review mills. These companies will review your book for free, then offer to put their review on your Amazon or Barnes and Noble page for a small fee. Somehow, the reviews all seem to be raves. And all the books they reviewed were either vanity or self published.
Pouring yourself into a novel with no idea how well it will be received can sometimes leave you hungry for good feedback. Sadly, there are unscrupulous businesses (including some editorial services) who will give you that feedback whether you deserve it or not. The books published by back-door vanities and praised by review mills may actually be good books. Since they never reach a fair marketplace, we’ll never know.