Publishing Rip-offs, Scams and Predators

Have you ever been around someone; read something; or seen something … and you want to get in a shower or a hot bath and soak the slime off?

That’s exactly how I feel when I read about the gobbling up that involves the granddaddy of all Vanity Presses—Author Solutions as the mother ship to Booktango, Inkubook, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, Wordclay, AuthorHive, Pallbrio and Hollywood Pitch. Did you know that Author Solutions and its various companies derive over two-thirds of its income from selling services and books to authors … not to the readers of authors’ books?

The kingpin of vanity presses (as Smashwords’ founder Mark Coker states in his blog that Author Solutions makes more money from selling services to authors than selling authors’ books, “Author Solutions is one of the companies that put the ‘V’ in vanity. Author Solutions earns two-thirds or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors’ books to readers …”

The shocker is that truly legit publishers have gotten into bed with the predators … one recent pitch from an Author House/Solutions rep to a would member of the Author U community, “If you sign with us … your book will get in front of (fill in the blank) … at Penguin.”

With the partnering, both stealth and visible, Author Solutions has gotten into bed with Hay House (Balboa Press), Thomas Nelson (Westbow Press), Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing packages start at $1599 and can go up to $24,999), Guide Post/Writers Digest (Abbott Press) and others. With Penguin recently acquiring Author Solutions, who knows what Penguin will turn over from their slush/pass piles to Author House to “follow up” on.

Author House/Solutions is a boiler house operation. Pitch, pitch, pitch. The deals put together with them … mean squat—there is absolutely NO GUARANTEE that a book will get in front of the acquisition team with the publishing house that is now diving into the self-publishing/vanity press arena.
You are still dealing with a pay-to-publish operation; a vanity type of press—they type that has excelled in total sales average of 100 copies of a book and selling books to the author at a very inflated cost. What it wants to do is SELL you more stuff.

Some of these companies have tarnished records with a lot of unhappy customers. Several authors have complained to the Better Business Bureau and some companies have been sued.

When people are victims of scams,
they often report the incidents on the Internet.

Before doing business with POD publishers, a pay-to-publisher operation or any other person or company that wants your money, make a Google search for:

(That company name) + Scam
(That company name) + Problem
(That company name) + Complaint
(That company name) + Fraud
(That company name) + Rip-off
(That company name) + “Better Business Bureau”

Read the reports and be advised. Unfortunately, too many walk away woven with shame that they got sucked in the first place and/or so ticked that they got taken, they just want to take the shower and get as far away as possible.

As a side note,
one of the members of the Author U LinkedIn group, posted that she had just got he had been sucked into the Balboa Press operation, sure that Hay House, and of course Louise Hay, would personally be watching over her book. The pitch she got from her Author Solutions rep—which is what Balboa Press is—she needed, she should get the marketing package, and it was only $18,000!

The boiler rooms are in full gear. Outside of the Author Solution predators, another crop is popping up offering “self-publishing services” to authors and small/indie publishers. They employ “boiler rooms” of sales people making relentless calls. The goal: to wear the author on the other end of the phone down. In many cases, they are hard to resist.

Let’s face it. The major publishers are doing some bleeding. The self and indie author moves faster and in many cases, is willing to commit money—often more that what a traditional publisher would commit to in the support of a newbie author’s book. Don’t be seduced. Check them out.

 My advice …. Do not; do not; do not go down this rabbit hole. Stop this predator insanity. Stop the wrong author package. Author beware, be very beware.

Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd (, an author and book publishing expert and the Founder of Author U (, a membership organization created for the author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 30 books including Show Me About Book Publishing, co-written with John Kremer and Rick Frishman and a speaker at publishing conferences. Her latest, Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms is just being released. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and TheBookShepherd on Facebook. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact her at

  If you are looking for FREE author and book coaching … call in to Judith’s Author Monday Mornings at NOON Eastern each Monday. The number is 218-632-9854; Access Code 1239874444 … have your questions ready–there’s a full hour to ask and listen.

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28 Comments on Publishing Rip-offs, Scams and Predators

  1. Pingback: Best of the Web Book Marketing Tips for the Week of December 10, 2012 | Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

  2. Pingback: The week in publishing (December 10 through December 16) | Self-Publishing Resources

  3. A new company offering services (promotion etc) to keep an eye on it Lit Fire Publishing based in Atlanta and somewhere out west. Just got 3 weeks full of full court pressure from them promising the moon for 800+ bucks a month! Former Authorhouse “editor,” Portia Peterson, was the contact.

    • Joe Conklin says:

      @Jim. I’m confused, which part are you claiming to be a scam?

      Seems to me that you may have a chicken and the egg situation on your hands – your latest book, “Joe Perk” appears to be ranking #2,239,979 on Kindle at the moment and is therefore making essentially no sales and goes some way to explaining why $800 seems like so much money to you.

      On the other hand, if you did spend the money or time on promotion, maybe you’d rank better and make it back?

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I agree with some of the practices in the self-publishing industry but it seems a little backwards to come to a site selling services/courses to self publishing authors in order to make baseless accusations about the evils of selling services to authors.

      Maybe this was all just an elaborate excuse just to drop that backlink to your website and shamelessly promote yourself?

      I haven’t had first hand experience with lit fire, but I have used the services of Author House in the past when I published under my pen name (no shameless self-promotion required here) and the cost equated to substantially more than $800 a month for the marketing part of the deal. At no point did I feel ripped off and eventually did make the money back (although admittedly not as quickly as I had been led to believe I would).

      • Judith Briles says:

        Well, Joe, we have had countless chatter on the Author U group on LinkedIn about authors being scammed by Author House, Balboa Press and all the affiliates. What you don’t seem to get is there are countless, very naïve authors who are sucked in by their offers of publishing for a few hundred bucks and then get roped in … they are not being published… they are being sold publishing services. Author House is the King Daddy of the Publishing Predators and has created a myriad of knock-offs who are out fleecing authors right and left.

        Author U communicates with its followers in a variety of ways–the LinkedIn group with over 7,000 members; our radio show, AuthorU-Your Guide to Book Publishing, which has over 100,000 downloads a month … and in fact, for the month of November as I post this entry back to you, over 130,000 have downloaded so far just for November. So 299 hits … it’s all part of the author education pie.

      • @Joe Conklin. Do you know this “Portia Peterson”? Or did you even received a phone call from this company or the said agent claiming to market books.

        • Judith Briles says:

          I don’t know Portia Peterson –google the name with “complaints, problems, ripoffs, con, scams, lawsuits” and see if any pops up

        • Jim Yoakum says:

          @barbara. Portia Peterson called me and emailed me several times. She claimed to be in Atlanta, but her IP said Gulf Shores, AL.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Oooh, we feel the fire pain coming through … thanks for the heads-up Barbara.

  4. Pingback: LitFire Publishing Scam and Reviews | LitFire Publishing Scam

    • Judith Briles says:

      Another to add to the Author Beware and Avoid list … LitFire! Thanks for sharing this information Julia.

      • John Rodgers says:

        I just self published an inspirational title with Balboa. 1st attempt at writing, just to see how it feels. I bought the lowest end package for $1800. I do not feel ripped off by them, however, book just went live last week, and I got a call on my (home phone # that is not mentioned in book, or ever given to Balboa???) from Litfire.
        For $500, the will promote my book to other publishers, and worldwide booksellers at the Guadalajara Book Fair this November. They claimed my book was an easy read and very marketable.
        Is this a scam?

        • Judith Briles says:

          I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve gotten out-of-the-blue solicitations from LitFire, and I’ve been trying to find out more about it. Claims on its website don’t check out (it says it has published “hundreds” of books, but I could only find five; it also says it was founded in 2008, but its URL was registered only in June 2014). There’s more than a whiff of Author Solutions about its website, and that appears to be no accident: both of the names I’ve heard associated with LitFire are former (or maybe current) AuthorHouse employees.

          Looking at LitFire’s “marketing” plans (which are eye-poppingly expensive, and look a lot like Author Solutions’), it’s the usual mix of cheap and easy stuff (for LitFire) such as press releases and website creation; and things you could do yourself, such as book listings, social media, Goodreads giveaways, etc. Not worth anything like what they’re charging.

          SUGGEST you avoid … Balboa is affiliated with Author Solutions/Author House, xLibris, IUniverse … in my opinion … all should be avoided.

  5. I published with Author House on the recommendation of a good friend who has published several books with them. I had a fairly reasonable package bought on sale. They were fine to work with and I am very pleased with the results. I did not buy any of the the marketing extras and have done my own marketing. I’d recommend being a discerning buyer if you’re looking for a vanity publisher, as with any investment and making sure your product is print ready, no major changes after submission. I found this site helpful however since I was just contacted by Lit Fire. You could hear all the other sales people in the background so I figured there was heavy selling going on,

    • Judith Briles says:

      Author House is no different than LitFire or any of the other pay to publish, vanity press crowd. If you like their results–good for you. You are more in the exception crowd–not the rule.

  6. @Jean costa I don’t believe you. Are you for real? Why defend them so much. I think you are just an employee of Litfire Publishing trying to defend their bad reviews and scam practices.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Hmmm .. Author House, Author Solutions, Xlibris, Iuniverse and all the AS kin are backroom operations that have the great majority of operations and sales room–as in boiler tactics overseas. Last time I saw stats, over 70% were so. My advice is to stay away from them … and it sounds like Litfire may be a kindred spirit. I would NEVER recommend AUthor House or its kin to any author. They head the list of Publishing Predators.

  7. Pingback: How to Pick the Best way of Publishing Your NovelNext Swag | Next Swag

    • Judith Briles says:

      And it’s about the GOYT Factor… authors: Get Off Your Tush in all facets of publishing. Learn and go forward.

  8. Pingback: Painless book publishing author Secrets – An Update | educ84health

    • Judith Briles says:

      Too many “co-publishers” gather moneys to cover the costs of the production and then do nothing. Authors must be clear as to what they are getting into. Jut getting an ISBN is no big deal. Anyone can do it. The real question is: what does the co-publisher really bring to the party that the author couldn’t do himself?

  9. I published my book Veni Vidi Vici through IUniverse the first of the year. I just received a call from Lit Fire. Good thing I googled them before I called back. You a correct about all different areas that this publisher wants me to go. I have been to pitch fest, etc. I have to say, I am not too disappointed in dealing with them, but would love to find a way to “really” get my book out there. I would love to talk to you!
    Pam Jackson

    • Judith Briles says:

      … a call from who/what?????

  10. Jessica Ratcliffe says:

    I have yet to publish my first book but am in the process of doing so now. I am looking for a good reputable company to do so with now and have spoken numerous times with a Porcha Williams from lit fire. I am not sure what to do. I also spoke with archway and they jist felt horrible to me. Any advice please.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Stay away from Lit Fire.

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