“We’ll do what you can do for free! For the low, low price of ten thousand dollars!”

That’s the aptest summation I can think of, of the email I received last night. It purported, of course, to offer something incredible. A veritable treasure chest of thrills, chills…and apparently bankruptcy? But okay,  you say, what was the specific offer? It was a laundry list of services that, when paid for in combination, would catapult my next book to the top of every bestseller list. I was a little surprised that, considering this person had originally held themselves out to be an editor, “incredible” didn’t focus so much on content. But oh, well! These days, it seems like “writer” is synonymous in many minds with “easy mark.” And I’ll elaborate on this list in a moment but first I want to tell you about the conversation it sparked with my husband.

Because I sent it to him, of course. Knowing he’d get a laugh. My husband is a successful professional with several degrees; he remarked that he’d seen a number of scams like this. Apparently, the internet knows no end of bloodsuckers. He also remarked, rather dryly, that stupidity and disposable income tend to walk hand in hand. There are as many writers, and would be writers, looking for a quick fix as there are people in other industries. What makes us as writers particularly vulnerable though is that we tend to have a certain vision: of ourselves, and of what the writing life is “supposed” to be. Anyone willing to exploit that vision is almost certainly guaranteed a paycheck.

I don’t have a problem with vanity publishing. It’s been around since forever, as have vanity art galleries and vanity everything else. You can pay someone to be nice to you. I do have a problem, however, with dishonesty. It’s fine to say, for example, “I’ll upload this book to KDP for you, so you can take advantage of Amazon’s publishing platform.” It’s not fine to charge an exorbitant sum on the pretext that you’re doing something only you can do. KDP is hardly “exclusive.”

So now, without further ado, I’m going to go through the list. Why? Because not every writer out there has a law degree. Not every writer out there has written, and published, 13 novels. I’m going to keep exposing scams, whenever and wherever I find them, so you don’t get taken in. We’re all better off, in this industry, when we help each other.

Hi [redacted],

This is [redacted].

The first thing I want to point out is that she spelled her own name wrong. The second thing I want to point out is that I had to reformat this email to make it legible enough for my blog. The third thing I want to point out is that when someone’s proposing to charge me 10K, I expect a little more effort. Like, you know, a PDF or something. Especially when, further on in the email, they’re praising their own formatting. Well, SHOW ME THE FORMATTING! You’re always, you know, when you’re contacting a client, putting your best foot forward. So….

And I want to say, too, here, don’t be afraid to trust your gut. An editor should catch typos. Someone being this sloppy now, it’s like someone picking at their toenails on a first date. They’re not saving their best manners up for later.

As promised here are the details of the [redacted] package. This one is the most comprehensive package I offer and it is currently on a special discount throughout the month of May. The usual price is $9999 but it is $7777 until May 31.

I am sending you this package so you can see the range of services I offer, but if this one is too much, I can put together a custom package for you just encompassing the things you want – it can be paid via a payment plan too.

This is the [redacted] package:

Full type-setting of your manuscript

Okay, this may sound great but isn’t. You don’t need “typesetting,” this isn’t 1802. Your, like, Word program is doing the typesetting. And guess what: your book will get formatted again, and not by you and not by your editor, when it’s being readied for publication. And this is true, however you’re being published. Your manuscript is going to be a .mobi for Kindle, a PDF for printing, etc, regardless. An editor’s job is a highly specific one, having to do with content.

If you’re looking for a fantastic interior formatter, you can find him here.

Full-color cover design

Again, this isn’t something an editor does. An editor polishes your manuscript. I’d personally be really wary of anyone who holds themselves out as an editor, but whose focus is on things like cover design. Is it that they don’t know what an editor does? Or is it that they think you don’t?

If you’re looking for a fantastic cover designer, though, I have one.

And by the way, we’re up to about 500 in total costs (maybe between 500 and 700, if your book’s a long one). Formatting generally isn’t expensive and Covertopia sells gorgeous pre-made covers for 100 each that are a million times better than some custom covers I’ve seen.

A proof of your book emailed prior to printing An ISBN number and bar code

You can buy an ISBN from bowker.com, or from Amazon. You also don’t actually need one to publish on Amazon. Even so, an ISBN is a good idea; 10 ISBN’s cost 250. And proofs should always be free. I cannot stress this enough: anyone who brags about showing you their work, that they’re doing for you, for no extra cost is ripping you off. An honest, reliable professional will happily create as many proofs as it takes, to make you happy.

50 printed copies of your new book

Which are purchased either through Lulu, or through Createspace. Both of which are free to use. Do you NEED 50 copies? When you upload a book to Createspace, or indeed use KDP’s new “create a paperback” feature, it automatically becomes eligible for distribution through Amazon–and, indeed, many other channels. You don’t need to buy anything!

Ability to reorder your book at any time Internet distribution via Amazon and online book sellers

You don’t need to reorder your book! Your book, when created using any major portal, is print on demand! If you’re on the hook for paying for your books, and reselling them, you’re doing something wrong. There’s absolutely no reason for you to ever, ever, ever even SEE one of your books. Unless, of course, you decide to visit it at the bookstore.

Kindle version of your book – plus Nook, Kobo and appleibooks [sic] version

Yes, indeed: this person will enroll you in Kindle Unlimited, which gains you access to Amazon’s extended distribution network. Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Oyster! Again, this is something anyone can do, and really easily, entirely for free!

Ingram catalog for one month

It’s unclear here whether this person means Ingram Spark, which is a pay for play self publishing thing, or Ingram, which is a book catalog geared mainly at distributors. Either way, this isn’t something that I personally think is terribly useful.

Page of information about you and your book on [redacted] website

Which is this person’s own (1995 fabulous!) website. It seems mainly geared toward…new agey stuff? It’s…not professional looking. I was designing better when I was a teenager, and I was no whiz.

90% royalties

Does this person mean they give you 90% of your own earnings? Because they don’t mean “royalties.” Amazon takes its cut every time you sell a book. So for example, every time someone buys a the Kindle version of Book of Shadows for 2.99, Amazon takes roughly 0.99 and I take roughly 2. The 2 is my royalties: what I earn, after my publisher (in this case, for this book, Amazon) takes to both recoup costs incurred on my behalf and earn a profit. There are definitely people out there who are okay with giving away their hard earned money when they don’t have to, but I’m not one of them. I don’t need someone taking who knows how many cuts off the top, especially after taking 10K, for uploading something to a website.

A final edit and proofread of your book

Ah, finally we get to the editing!

The blurb written on the back cover of your book

Most authors write their own.

Two press releases written and distributed to ten online PR sites

Which PR sites? For this amount of money I want to know. Well, for any amount of money I want to know; but as my husband put it, for this kind of money someone is impliedly holding themselves out to have some pretty amazing–and exclusive–contacts. This is “industry insider” kind of money. Actually, he may have said something about shitting gold bricks.

Book sales page – online with links to your book for sale and other info – (does not include
hosting or domain name purchase)

A book sales page where? Amazon gives me an author page for free.

Contacts list of 30 website owners and media representatives to approach about your book, together with an example email Book Trailer and upload to 5 video sites

What website owners? What media representatives? And to…approach? So I’m supposed to fork over the down payment on a house for “approach?”

An outline marketing plan to show you quick and easy steps that you can take daily (no more than 15-20 minutes of your time per day).

Hey, for 10K I thought someone else was doing the marketing!

Amazon top book reviewers contacted to read and then write a review of your book. One hundred reviewers will be contacted.

You can contact them, too, through Fiverr. They usually charge between 5 and 20 per review. And I do know of authors who’ve bought hundreds, even thousands of reviews. Although with Amazon’s recent crackdown on pay for play reviewing, even on positive mentions from Facebook friends, this has become–if it wasn’t already–a serious waste. There’s no reliable means of controlling your reviews, in quality or number. If there were, every author would have thousands. And they’d all be awesome!

Kindle marketing strategies used to get your book high up in the rankings plus advertising on 5 kindle websites Social media set up in facebook [sic] and Twitter and Youtube if you don’t already have those set up – design of banners, etc included.

Sooo…Facebook is free. Twitter is free. Kindle website? What now? I really like it when editors’ sentences make sense. Moreover, “Kindle marketing strategies,” beyond selecting the right keywords, are against Amazon’s TOS. Try to move your book up in the rankings by any other means, and you’ll get banned.

Five tweets about your book sent to my 70k followers.

Wow, five whole tweets!

Initial kindle advertising techniques applied to move your book up
the bestsellers rankings…

Okay, so how is this different than a few sentences ago?

Let me know if you have questions about any part of the process.

Many blessings,

[redacted]

So…yeah. That’s that. Please, please don’t throw your money at people who promise things they can’t deliver. Oh, and one more thing. Did you notice what was missing? Yeah, I did, too. Any examples of her work, etc. Editors should be able to furnish you with lists of books they’ve edited, with writers eager to extol their virtues. Likewise, graphic designers should have covers! And they should never, ever be the same person!