Do Your Research
It started with a voicemail.
I am not a "talk on the phone" person - I truly loathe it and avoid having to speak on the phone at all costs. Save a catch-up call from a friend once a week (that I enjoy) - I likely won't answer a call unless I'm expecting it.
With that said, I'm sure we all get those awful telemarketing/political/you've just won a million bucks! calls and thank you modern-day technology, our phones automatically send those to voicemail.
And some leave that voicemail.
So, there I sat in the pick-up line, battling Jake (our new puppy - yes I am wayyyy behind on my newsletters which I hope to send out very soon) against eating everything in the car, including the car itself, while trying to read my book club novel and explaining to Diem (once again) that her iPad doesn't work on the school wifi... only to notice I had a voicemail from San Diego. This screamed "someone is going to ask to buy your house again" but I checked it anyway.
Why the hell not? I have nothing better to do!
I had to play it three times. The first I wasn't truly listening. The second because it mentioned they had received a "very compelling" article about my book and the third to catch the name of the company again. (The man had a fairly strong accent).
From what I gathered - it initially seemed legit enough. Were there red flags? Yes... but I can only say that now after having been at this long enough to know what they are and that is precisely why I want to share it now.
I don't want this post to be able blasting this company because calling them out doesn't do anything... there are going to be many more after this... it's MORE important to just be aware. To know your OWN business and learn if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
DO NOT PAY FOR SHIT!
The ONLY time you should be paying anything, is if you yourself seek out an agent/editor to critique your work. You should never ever pay someone to publish your work. That all gets handled on the back end. If you are self published, you pay for manufacturing basically. If you go through anything other than Amazon (which you will have to if you plan to try to get yourself into a book store) you'll pay for your ISBN. But these are things you do for your own work.
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
A simple Google search can often be your best bet, then fill in the gaps with social media and common sense. We are fortunate enough to live in a time where we have the internet - USE IT. Did it waste minutes of my precious personal time to realize these douchebags are scammers? Yes, but did it also potentially save me money and dignity? Absolutely.
First, Google reviews for whichever company has approached you. Look for trends in the wording - if it's overly complimentary, it's probably a crock of shit. Much like how they're overly complimentary about your work (I'll get to that later). Then, check their social media, if they have less followers than you, then how are they going to be the ones to launch you into a best seller? They won't. They can't. They'll take your money and run.
If you notice - writers who get picked up by an agent, aren't published for a year plus. A LOT goes into prepping a book for release. Rushing it won't do you any favors anyway, so don't think taking this seemingly easier route will be your golden ticket. You'll end up stuck with no way out, your work chained to a publisher and no one will touch it after that.
I can speak from personal experience and a dear friend just confirmed it with her own yesterday - this business is CUT THROAT - agents and editors will pick your work apart with a fine toothed comb. And it will suck. But the bummer is, this industry is saturated now, for better or worse. We are up against celebrities who are guaranteed money for these publishers. We are up against lifelong writers, people who have been rubbing shoulders with the right people far longer.
Does that mean they are better than us or more passionate? No... but it does give them a hell of an advantage over us. We have to know when to trust our gut and where our money is best spent. And these services aren't cheap - I know I don't have hundreds to thousands of dollars to pay for one. It's hard... but that's kind of the point too.
It should be hard. Just anyone SHOULDN'T be able to be published. And if you want that, self-publish... you may not have the following, marketing experience or professional editing, but if that's not what you "care" about for lack of a better word, just do it yourself and be proud of that. But don't be scammed... don't be fooled by a wolf in sheep's clothing.
And to those scammers... you suck. You're feeding off of people who put so much into something and want to believe you. They are HUNGRY for that big break and shouldn't have to see how shitty this can be, there are WAY more real opportunities for that. I have a folder of agent rejection letters to prove that much. But what we don't need, is some barely known, bottom feeding "publishing company" to take our work and our money and stuff their pockets.
Writers - stay hungry. Educate yourself, know your business better than anyone else. Don't be afraid to ask for help - follow helpful podcasts and other writers (well-known or just starting out) - there are TONS of good people in this industry too and being able to find that community can make all the difference.
Keep reading. Keep writing.