Once upon a time, snake oil salesmen sold miracle elixirs by appealing to peoples’ hopes that the infirmities of living could be cured. Relief was, of course, induced by drug or alcohol. So people kept buying the elixirs, in the hope of extending the temporary relief. Some even became addicted to their magic elixir.

Today, scammers are selling writers the magical elixer of book sales. It’s easy to spot the scam: anyone who demands payment up front knows they cannot produce enough results to do the work on commission.

Before you pay anyone to sell your book, do yourself a favor by looking up the concept of “R.O.I.” and checking websites dedicated to exposing writer scams.


Rights of Writers
The Agent from Hell and the Top Six Scams Targeting Writers

What You Need to Know about Writing Scams – Marcia Yudkin

There are more. Many. More. A Google Search of the phrase, “Writer Scams” returns multiple pages.
But it doesn’t take long to recognize the signs. Snake oil salesmen and modern scammers sell the same product. They sell hope.


9 responses to “Writer Scams”

  1. atthysgage Avatar

    Yeah, hope dies last, which is generally a good thing. Commonly peddled nuggets of advice, which sort themselves into the impossible, the soul-deadening, the useless, and the duh! include:
    1) Write a series, as long as possible. One book sells the next.
    2) Write as many books as possible. One a month is a good goal.
    3) Use social media.
    4) Make your release an event!
    5) Become your own brand!
    6) Hire professionals to promote your books.
    7) Latch onto more successful bloggers and writers and ride their coattails to success.
    8) Figure out where your audience goes on social media and follow them there.(The stalker maneuver.
    9) Write exactly what has worked before. On no account vary a seemingly successful strategy, ever.
    10) Don’t ask your readers to do anything hard — like think or choose or read carefully.

    I’m sure I’ve left out a few, but my coffee is getting cold.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Perry Palin Avatar
    Perry Palin

    The information in the links is great. I’m suspicious, cynical, and cheap, so I haven’t fallen for any of those scams, yet.

    I’m reminded of a member of Book Country who looked and looked for a publisher for her book, and finally found one that offered a cash advance if she would sign a contract with them. She signed, the cash advance was for a dollar (enough to legally bind her to the terms of the contract), and the publisher put out her book, probably on print on demand. For each copy she got a little money and the publisher got the most. Without any marketing support, the only buyers were her family and friends and any others she could find on her own. Then she read the fine print of the contract. It bound her to publish through them anything she wrote for the next five years. Then they offered to let her buy her way out of the contract. A close reading of the company website promised writers a chance to realize their dreams of becoming published authors. It stopped short of promising to try to sell a book to anyone.

    Author services are not all bad. There are some in the near metropolitan area that look like scams, but I am aware of one that gives an honest appraisal of the book and the costs of bringing it to print, provides professional services for a fee, and puts out a good product. The author knows she is responsible for marketing. I have a friend who worked with them to put out a children’s book.It cost him plenty to do it, But he had a ready market, and he broke even in a couple of months and made good money after that. One of the things I like about this firm is that I know where the officers work and live, and they are within arms reach if there is an issue or problem.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Karen at Reprobate Typewriter Avatar

    Always an excellent reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mimispeike Avatar

    I have nothing published, but I’m starting to promote in a small way. I post fragments on Facebook and on medium.com. Not much response yet.

    I have connected with a college friend on Facebook who likes what she’s seen and is eager to read more. Thirty-five years ago she was an editor. Then she landed at the National Geographic Society and was there for thirty years. I only discovered this a few months ago after doing some Google research.

    I’m hoping she will recommend me to her wide network of contacts. (I see the back and forth on FB) I hope she’s not turned off by the anti-religion angle – she’s found God, big-time. I do see reason to hope. She just had an operation. I told her I’d prayed for her, though I’m an atheist. She said, probably makes it count double. She always did have a super sense of humor.

    On medium I have collected a few followers without posting much yet. I’m more skeptical of it than I was. There’s a ton of stuff on there. Same old problem: how do you get noticed in the flood of material?

    Can we have some concrete examples of how the published among us have advertised their books?

    Perry, you’re off the hook. I admire how you handle it. It seems to work for you and your material, the regional, personal thing. Bravo! I am very curious to see the novel you’re working on. Dare I hope for a touch of A River Runs Through It? (That I adored?)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Perry Palin Avatar
    Perry Palin

    Mimi, the connection with your college friend holds more promise, I believe, than posting stuff for the general public.

    If others have success connecting with strangers through electronic media, I would like to know how to do it.

    What success I have had comes through personal references and relationships. I’ve dropped names, with permission, and learned what I can about a publisher before I send a query.

    I shared a pizza with the publisher of my first collection before we signed the contract. He lives eight hundred miles away, but I knew that he has a summer cabin an hour from my home, and I used that, and other facts about him, in my query. I didn’t know that he would bring me a gift at the restaurant, but I had things covered with the gift I brought for him. He agreed to publish my second collection before he saw it.

    What I’ve had published to date is short fiction. Magazine credits have helped me be noticed, and magazine stories generate book buyers. Last month I was asked to submit 1500 words to a literary journal at a local college. (I haven’t heard if they will print my things.) In the past that journal led to a personal appearance and a reading. Later this month I will serve on a writers’ panel at a conference, with a chance to sell books without paying for a booth.

    My novel doesn’t really fit with his regular trade, and my publisher has offered to help me find another publishing house. I haven’t taken him up on that, yet.

    I queried another regional publisher with my book. I didn’t hear from him. I wrote and said I assume he wasn’t interested, threw in some stuff I knew about him, and he wrote back apologizing for overlooking my submission. We’re having lunch this spring when the weather improves.

    I love A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. I read my early edition several times long before the movie came out. My novel isn’t another Norman Maclean story, I am afraid. It has a country boy who is treated poorly by a city employer, and he goes home to visit family and engage in a little canoe camping, trout fishing, and horsemanship. When his now former employer appears on the scene, the young man needs the help of a friend, a young woman. I’m in constant revisions. The story has too many characters with speaking parts (more than 20, I lost count). All of the characters are flawed, except for maybe the red horse. I am enjoying the revision process,

    Liked by 2 people

    1. atthysgage Avatar

      I agree with Perry, Mimi. Ultimately, selling to strangers on social media is such a longshot. Explore ALL of the personal connections you possibly can. Even apart from the financial angle, I can tell you that the most satisfying night as a book promoter came from a signing I did at a local bookstore. It was so much more gratifying — though I didn’t sell a lot of books — talking to people who were really interested and connecting on a personal level. I wish there were more opportunities to do that sort of thing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Perry Palin Avatar
        Perry Palin

        Atthys, you are right. When my first book came out, the publisher said I might not make much money with the book but I would make some friends. I’ve made a little bit of money but what I remember is going to readings and connecting with people.

        My best success selling books over the web was to members of an online community, now defunct, where I knew and was known by the other members, and where I had posted some of my stories over a period of a couple years.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    There’s an article in today’s Wall Street Journal about major corporations cutting back their digital advertising on Facebook, Google, YouTube & other ad factories because they share Mimi’s concern, how do you get noticed in the flood of material? They’ve started actually studying results from digital ads and they ain’t happy with the results. The average view time of an ad on Facebook, for example, is 1.7 seconds.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Not to hijack the thread, but 🙂 the final vote tally for names of our new section is in.
    1. Recommended Reading = 1
    2. Peer Picks = 6 (+me = 7)
    3. I Love This Book = 5
    Peer Picks won. I added my vote to the majority because the new section is about books picked by the author’s peers.

    Now, for the next step: set up the Peer Picks section so that we can begin to receive picks. That may take a while because Curtis, Atthys & I are currently reading the short stories that have been submitted to date for our anthology.

    Remember: Please submit your short story by the 31st of this month! Details at:

    Liked by 1 person

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