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 (www.TheBookShepherd.com), an author and book publishing expert and the Founder of Author U (www.AuthorU.org), 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 www.RockStarRadioNetwork.com. 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 Judith@Briles.com.

  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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39 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.

    • Was emailed out of the blue from an Andrew Cramer showing an address of 2090 Dunwoody Club Dr., Ste 106-07, Atlanta for Lifire Publishers. He called me later in the day. Briefly he try’s to sell me on getting my book in front of one of the big six publishers within 90 days or my money back. ($2499). Or half now half later. He called the next day offering only a third down with royalties exceeding 70K to 250K. The first clue in the scam was when he mispronounced the name of my book in horrible fashion. The second clue came when he said he’d reviewed my book. By the way he talked he obviously didn’t know it was a second edition. When I told him it was he acted quite surprised. The third and final clue came when I drove by the address on his email. It is not Litfire but rather two other businesses in the Kroger plaza. Cramer’s accent is a bit different. Not Asian but likely foreign. He claimed to have an office in Alberquerque. Think twice about Litfire.

    • 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.

          • I published through AuthorHouse. My children’s book cost about $1860 to publish 44 color pages. At the time, I thought it wasn’t a bad deal because I didn’t know much about the self-publishing industry and they were just bought by Penguin/Random House, what could go wrong? They said that Penguin/Random could possibly pick up my book after seeing it.
            They are just a printer with a few hands in between making phone calls to you, urging you to deliver your goods. They didn’t even format my manuscript or layout the pictures. I did all of that so, essentially, they got paid to be a middleman between me and the printer.
            A week after publication, I got a call from a Marketing Director-$5500, promising me a table display at an Arizona book fair and to set up author pages on Amazon, Goodreads and some other site. I didn’t bite.

            A month later, another Marketing director–$5500 to have my book reviewed in Pacific Review and US Review of Book and submission to the Eric Hoffer’s Contest. I am starting to get smarter. I found IngramSpark and their marketing services priced similar reviews for less than $500. The Eric Hoffer’s Contest is $99 entry fee. When I confronted Author House, they said they would be able to do much more than I could be cause they have contacts with these people similar to agents. I declined again.

            A few days ago, I started receiving relentless calls from LitFire, telling me how wonderful my book was and how they think, with the right promotion, it could be a best seller. Another $5000 please for book listings, social media and press releases, but again, I did not bite.

            Now, I am not saying this is a scam. AuthorHouse has delivered on everything so far that I have paid for. I learned through videos on AuthorSolutions how to format the book myself, which I probably could have accessed for free. They did distribute my book on all the websites and are putting my book in Book Mag. Had I known what that was really worth, I might have done it all myself.

            But, they did give me a free shipment of 100 books when the books they first delivered had a line of glue that was obvious, in every single book.

            They also told me I could republish with another company, I would just have to get a new ISBN number.

            Thus far, I have received a check for $10.85 in royalties which I have no idea how they calculate. I suppose these are from Internet sales on Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, etc. I have sold 200+ copies of the book myself and those were the biggest royalties. The ironic thing is that I noticed on the shipments of books, all the books were printed by Lightning Source…Ingram. You could go directly through Ingram Spark. So buyer beware and do your research before you go to self-publication.

  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.

    • barbaro alvaro says:

      Why are you like that Barbara? based on this, i do think you are the employee.

  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.

      • Wendy Murphy says:

        I published my book originally with Xlibris, but decided to republish with Litfire because of the royalty and retail price. I am very much happy now with them. I am getting royalties from book sales for the last six months. My republished book is more attractive than from xlibris. I have a very good consultant his name is Jerry. You might want to ask for him if you decide to go with litfire 🙂

        • Judith Briles says:

          Personally Wendy, I have my own imprint Mile High Press–and have the entire editing, design and print team in place. Glad you are away from Xlibris, as well as anything to do with Author House/Solutions. Although, in my opinion, LitFire is a kindred spirit of the AS publishing façade. http://litfirepublishingscam.blogspot.com/

  11. E. R. Bridgman says:

    I just found this site by googling “Publishing Scams.” Thank you for this site.

    I WAS CALLED by LitFire just last week. He called me by my full name. That in and of itself was strange because only the two publishers I’ve used, know and have my full name on contract. He kept calling me Mr. ****** ****** (my middle, or first and middle name). He talked to me about getting my book(s) into the hands of a full service publisher where I would receive ALL the royalties and not share, or split it, with the self-publishing publishers.

    They were interested in the second of my two books: There weren’t many books for that genre. They wanted to represent me with a group of movie production people AND at The London Book Show which sounded good, . . . I thought. Despite all that, I was curious, so I continued to listen and tried a credit card without much reserve for my downpayment. I thank God it didn’t go through. No payment, No contract. No LitFire. Bye, bye LitFire.

    Thank you Judith Briles, for this website and your information. It saved my disappointed heart and pocketbook!

    E. R. Bridgman

    • Judith Briles says:

      Gads … the publishing predators are alive and well I see. Here’s to you E.R. and the safety and success of your book!

  12. I just want to say that your website is amazing and I wish I had seen this before I self-published with Author House.

    Since AuthorHouse has given me the option to republish elsewhere, would you recommend doing so? I was thinking of doing so first because the price of the book is just absurd– $21.99 for softcover and $30.99 for a hardcover. I only get a 30-40% discount for the book and the rest goes into what they call publishing costs. I can only get a 50% discount when I purchase 250 books. That is a lot of inventory. They indicated the cost was so high because of the page number (44) and industry standard for a color picture book is 32 pages.

    So, republishing might serve two purposes, reduce the number of pages and eliminate the stigma of having been published by AuthorHouse.

    I have started story boarding my second book. Maybe I should just start clean with a new publisher on that book but, a lot of people have really enjoyed my first book, “All Ducks Are Birds.” It is being sold in local stores and a number of schools have asked me to read/present the book in their K -2nd grade classrooms. I guess I am just having troubling figuring out how to move forward. I am hoping I having tanked any real hopes of ever getting published by mistakenly starting with AuthorHouse.

    Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Tara .. I have spoken about, written about, even done radio shows about … DO NOT WORK WITH AUTHOR HOUSE or any of its step-children. They are publishing predators. Get your book back. Learn this business. Start over. There are a variety of options for you. I suggest you call into my weekly FREE coaching on Mondays … it’s noon Eastern , 9 Pacific and ask questions—we have approached predators many times. Call 218-632-9854, access code 1239874444#

      You can also schedule a private consult with me via my website, http://www.TheBookShepherd.com –look for this symbol and click on it:

      Pick Judith’s Brain

  13. Just wanted to put another note here to say beware of someone calling from Georgia (caller ID said Atlanta). I assume she was from one of the places you refer to here. I didn’t get the name and when I asked who was calling, she just glazed over that and started talking about the Guadalajara International Book Fair. After a while she finally said normally it would cost an author $5-$6,000 to get to this fair but they could represent my (self-published) book there for $1899. No way. I politely said that I would have to decline and she could better spend her time calling someone else since I’m not interested in spending that money. I hung up, and immediately afterwards she called back! Obviously I didn’t pick up and will block that number. I seriously doubt there’s an ROI on $1899. I’d be better off submitting (for free) to agents who would actually provide a service. No upfront money if THEY are the one who called YOU in the first place!

    • Judith Briles says:

      So agree Melissa. These people are breeding out of control!

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