Meet Publishing’s T-Rex …Publishing Predators Put You and Your Book at Risk

What a tangled web they weave … the Publishing Predators are breeding, casting out their nets for naive authors-to-be, those who are looking for a book publishing bargain and don’t realize that they will end up in a boiler plate up sales operation; promising bestseller status and so much more.

It’s author beware, author beware, author beware.

Over the past three years, I’ve worked with several private clients and fielded numerous phone calls/emails from authors who have issues with their “publishers.” In all cases, they’ve been duped, misrepresented and lost thousands of dollars.


These publishers are really not “publishers,” at least in the sense that they have the infrastructure to create and support a quality book and its author; that they have their internal team—from editing to some semblance of book design and publishing marketing and publicity; and that they are accountable in the critical accountability departments of actual book sales and responsibility, sometimes.

I attended a national conference last month whose members were speakers. Many were well established speakers—a majority was new to the industry, gobbling up information that would hopefully turn them into a star on the platform. Having a book helps. Within the Exhibit Hall, several booths proclaimed that they were publishers … they would publish your book for a fee–ranging from $1,000 to many thousands of dollars. What they were, were vanity presses—nothing more, nothing less. The new breed of paid-to-publish operators. The predators of the print world … and they were signing up people … their next victims …  left and right. Are there Red Flags that can help you spot the vanity press in sheep’s clothing? Sure, start with:

#1: We publish your book for ONLY $___. This is called “pay-to-publish”—know it by the true name. When you are told that there is a fee to publish/print your book—that’s what is being done. Quality has zip to do with it; if you want editing, marketing, publicity, redoing mistakes found or their layout, etc., you will pay, and pay for it and anything else to fix, create at a very over-inflated cost.

#2: We list your book on Think big freakin’ deal here. Anyone can list on Amazon—set aside 30 minutes, fill out the form and you are listed. Should you be listed on Amazon? Yes indeed. You can do it … anyone can do it. Vanity presses shot in the arm was Amazon—otherwise, their books never got any type of national/international presence for their authors. But, and it’s a big BUT, if you dream of getting your book in a bookstore, wake up. The cheap workmanship, quality of what is usually produced will never make it there. In a phone conversation with a key person at the Tattered Cover here in Denver, CO, he said, “We don’t purchase vanity press books—they usually fall apart … not to mention, they are so costly per unit, and the return policy is usually not available—it’s a clear pass for us.”

#3: We have the solution for author success. So do I—it’s work your tush off, although that’s not what they will tell you. Their success will be to always buy all their add-on packages, driving your “investment” with this enterprise to many thousands of dollars. Success for them, mostly likely, not you.

#4: Publisher looking for authors. Yes, there is always the rare gem, break-through author that the media loves to profile …BUT here again, this is a rarity. Publishers have authors up the gazoo … what they want is an author with a Platform and a Plan … that’s the part where you work your tush off.

#5: Author Beware notices from creditable sites. Start with a search on Google and put in the name of the publishing entity you are checking out. Follow it with the word: complaints, scam and problems and see what pops up. Websites, such as Rip-off Reports at, Writer Beware on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at and Predators and Editors at will become your best friends. Ripoff Reports has a section dedicated to comments from former employees; Predators and Editors states in red which publishers to avoid; and Writer Beware includes case studies from authors sharing their ill-fated experience.

#6 Bait and Switch. Many of these companies pitch (after all, most have a boiler room type of operation—it’s about quotas) and you don’t realize that you have to pay them to publish your book. Not until you have submitted information—from your name, contact, book title, even the manuscript—do you realize you need to pony up funds to keep the process going. Think of it as “rinse” and “repeat” …

#7 Partnering with a well-know name. Let’s face it, authors want their books published and when a vanity press partners, or purchases one that is well known, the assumption is that it’s a marriage made in publishing heaven. Not likely. With the rapid growth of the self-publishing world, both large and small presses are looking for avenues to carry them to the masses of self-published authors that came through the vanity press door. Get out of the book daze and stupor and do your homework before you head down the aisle. See #6 above.

Do “publishers” rip-off authors? And, if so, do they do it deliberately? The answer is simply yes … and they do it every day. Your best defense: don’t get involved with anything that looks like, feels like, or acts like a vanity press. If you have, consider joining the class action suit filed in 2013 filed by Giskan Solotaroff in New York. Companies like Author House/Solutions, Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford Publishing, Palibris, Author HouseUK, Wordclay, Balboa Press, Westbow, etc.,  are to be avoided like the plague.

This would be a good time to listen into one of the recent radio shows on Author U-Your Guide to Book Publishing … the topic … Publishing Predators: What to Do if You Get Hooked.

Publishing predators are the T-Rex of the industry—avoid, avoid, avoid.


JB_pic_2013-2Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd a book publishing expert and coach. She is the Founder of Author U, a membership organization created for the serious 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 31 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms, Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at . 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 Judith 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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33 Comments on Meet Publishing’s T-Rex …Publishing Predators Put You and Your Book at Risk

  1. I have been talking to POD publishers all over the country and none of them, except Dog Ear, were much more than a phone room and send money today. I have had difficulty with an out of state employer and getting him in court has been a nightmare. I have decided to use a Colorado domiciled publisher
    because I can get service of process on him if needed; Denver is not that far from my residence. What services for an author are available within a reasonable contract with a publisher? I want a quality product and access to the market that gets the book in the public eye. I also want e-publishing as well. David Fischer

    • Judith Briles says:

      David–you can control all of this by taking charge yourself. At a recent conference created for fiction writers–over 350 were in attendance–as each announced their “contracts” for the year–none were with major publishers; all very small presses. If you are going into publishing thinking that you might need to “serve” the publisher, caution lights are flashing. I suggest you seriously think about creating your own press; take control of all; and of course, epublish as well. All the resources are available to you, right here in Colorado.

  2. Jill says:

    Thank you for this post. Unfortunately for me too late. I signed up to work with Balboa Press totally believing they were part of Hay House a reputable company who I thought shared my values. After receiving awful shoddy work I would never want my name on, I did some homework only to find out they are really just an alias for Author Solutions a very disreputable company. I think what Hay House is doing is very wrong. Sure they may pick up a book or two but what about the harm being done to everyone else by ripping them off and offering poor quality shoddy work? Not to mention all the other pitfalls of POD publishing which they make sound like the ultimate dream. So sad, what an awful way to tarnish Louise Hay’s image.

    • Judith Briles says:

      This is the 4th contact AuthorU has had regarding Balboa Press and the run-around. Nowhere on the site can we find that the author is really working with Author Solutions and not Hay House. All authors beware–in any contract, you need an OUT–if what is represented on the site or information you are basing your working with the company is not what you get; terminate and demand your money back. Always make payments by credit card (not debit) so that you can challenge via the credit card company as well. Blatant misrepresentation is fraud. State is such and request an immediate refund. Document–names, times, what was said.

  3. douglas says:

    I just signed to have a book published by Balboa Press.

    I need your help.

    I am a college professor and already have a published book by a traditional publisher who does academic titles.

    Please let me know how best to terminate this contract. I am making payments. Just one so far.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Douglas…. I had an Outlook crash… can you reconnect with me via my personal email so that I can advise you beyond what we talked about on the phone–Judith

  4. Tyler says:

    Many bookstores have closed up shop so I don’t think upcoming authors are trying to get their book in bookstores. Most everything is online now.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Don’t throw all bookstores under the bus. The savvy author IDs one in their community and feeds into it. Bookselling is a team and community effort. I have seen many, many books build their buzz with the assist of someone in a bookstore that takes a fancy to it. Look for the independents, the niche bookstores to partner with. Tell your local fans to go there for books. In Colorado, where I live, we have the fabulous Tattered Cover–the cat’s meow for authors and they love local authors to support.

  5. Lisa says:

    How can I teminate my contract with Balboa Press I have made all my payments:(… !

  6. With more authors self-publishing today, what sort of liability are they exposed to? Do self-publishers typically buy errors and omissions policies and if so, are they needed and are they any good? You might like to take this on as a topic. Thank you.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Good question. Most don’t. E&O can be expensive and my personal position would be that if I wasn’t writing in arenas that would expose me to liability issues… I would take a pass.. otherwise, check it out. I will post this on a couple of my forums and see what readers respond.

  7. Wendy Karasin says:

    I may have found you just in time. I was about to sign with either Balboa Press or Xlibris, both of whom told me I’ll get a great deal if I sign up in August. What are the main reasons not to use these publishing houses, and who would you recommend if I live in New York?

    • Judith Briles says:

      Wendy, I’ve written such massive amounts about the deceptive relationship with Author Solutions and Balboa Press, I can’t repeat it all. I strongly encourage you to go to LinkedIN now … and join the Author U group. follow the 200 plus comments on the Discussion that starts out with … “Does anyone know anything about Balboa Press.. it’s a Christian Publisher, it can’t be bad … or some variation of that. Read and weep what authors have gone through and been fleeced.

      It doesn’t matter where you live. Learn about book publishing and authoring–this is a business. You can maintain total control of your book; you can have it designed as you want it; you can get it printed; you can sell it. All that information is within the Author U community. On the website, look at Our Premier Partners and Associate parters … they have been vetted.. not just anyone can join. Join. Get smart. Get savvy. If you are interested in a full consult, I’m glad to help out …

  8. Pingback: Am I there yet? | Not My Story

  9. Patsie says:

    Hi Judith I stumbled upon your site and this article when I was searching for a way to file a complaint to Balboa Press (or Hay House) Thank you so much for this article, and for what you do. Definitely T-Rex of the publishing world, I can vouch for that. I’ve had a look at Author U as per your suggestion, and have left this msg there, would like to share it here to your readers as well if I may:

    I self-published with Balboa April last year, as mine is a spiritual (not religious) book. I was a new and naive author, signed up for their wonderful promises and mainly trusted in the integrity of Louise Hay, as the parent company. To date, I’ve spent nearly $10K (including buying softcover supplies of my books for my readers locally) I thought it was just publishing I had to pay for , but editorial and publicity packages were promoted and marketed as a requirement so while halfway through the publishing process, felt I had to go all the way. All services and packages to date are very short of their promises. Having now done other business courses,self-publishing kindle courses and connected with other self-publishing author networks, I can see how bad the services were and still are. The products and services delivered were very mediocre and often poorly, being thrown from one consultant to another. No support or customer care for complaints. My complaints were always left unanswered or not responded to. They were very friendly and prompt when they wanted more business out of you eg. to sign up for another package or service. It just all felt like I’d been on a money-taking ride with Balboa, and not much to show for it. After book is published, you’re just left out there on the dry. The only time they call these days is to keep trying to entice you to publish your next book with them. Some experiences in life, I learn what not to do, this is one huge one on that. Sadly, its a big let down on Louise Hay, either she’s totally oblivious on this bottom end of the line or she should take more care on what she puts her name to. Lots of innocent new authors will fall in the dangerous trap, of being drained of big time $ for services and support that falls extremely short in value. My advice is to beware, do your own research, and really, these days, do it on your own. Now I don’t wish to have my book connected with the Balboa name at all, after my research has uncovered some dodgy affiliations they have with Authors Solutions. All the best..
    I’m onto a better future, having learned through the rough, with my house down payments out of pocket, but that’s my price for being naive and my lesson to not trust so easily, even so called ‘spiritual’ people or ethics.
    So thanks again for allowing this space to bring this awareness to many authors and potential authors.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Patsie … if I say, “I feel your pain….” I so do. And it’s the ring of pain that is echoed by so many authors who have been taken down the black path of Balboa/Author Solutions. I am so, so sorry that you’ve had this experience. Thank you for sharing this. Judith

  10. Janet says:

    First of all I have to thank you. I almost signed up with AuthorHouse. I don’t have the amount of money they want and that is the one thing that held be back. I am glad I am broke, It saved me. I have been in touch with and have been exploring Smashwords. Lulu is expensive and Smashwords has me confused. I understand as a first time autor I am not going to make millions, but I just want to get my work out without getting screwed. Thank you Judith

    • Judith Briles says:

      Janet, for the bare bones budget, work through Amazon’s CreateSpace for a POD version, you can get your ebook and you can also post into Smashwords as well. The Smashwords site has many excellent videos and tutorials on it. Judith

  11. Laurel Weber says:

    I worked for Hay House for almost 5 years. This is in no way an ethical or “spiritual” company. Louise Hay has no control over the company. She’s well over 80 and not even able to speak at a conference for more than 15 minutes. Balboa Press is just another money making scheme for them. Management doesn’t care about the customers or employees–only their own bottom line, fat bonuses, exotic travel, new cars… Run as far as fast as you can.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Amen Laurel. I have heard your lines repeated from many, many formal employees of the Balboa Press fiasco. Not only horrendous feedback and input from employees but OMG issues from authors who have been sucked into the Hay House illusion and end up in the spiraling Author Solutions mess.

  12. Thanks for finally talking about > Meet Publishing’s T-Rex :
    Publishing Predators Put Your Book at Risk | Author U < Loved it!

    • Judith Briles says:

      Have been talking about these Rexes for years.

  13. Hi!
    Has anyone ever heard of Verbii Press? I came across them in my readings and can’t find any reviews on them whatsoever. I had signed with Balboa but decided to request a refund before handing them my book. I am still waiting on that but it has only been a week. Thank you, Judith, for your tips on Amazon’s Createspace and Smashwords. I intend to put an audio book out as well. My biggest question is how to I market this fun story?
    Thank you and have a wonderful day

    • Judith Briles says:

      Contact your credit card company and get a stop payment on the transaction. Reason: services not rendered and product not delivered.

      For marketing … who is your buyer? Where do they hang out on social media? Get involved in those communities and post; offer content, become known … do this before you market your book.

  14. My story started in June/July 2012.
    I heard about Balboa Press through their affiliation to Hay House and thought I had found a reputable publisher – how wrong I was.
    My dealings with them have been a nightmare from beginning to end and have left me seriously out of pocket (money wise). In total I have paid Balboa between £4,000-00 – £5,000-00 Sterling and they have done nothing to have deserved/earned it.
    I have done all the promotional – meet the author – – sale of books – book signings etc.
    They didn’t put out the ‘press release ‘until 4 months (March/April 2013) after my book had been launched in October 2012, which was like bolting the stable door after the horse had bolted!!
    Also not on: u-tube – facebook page – twitter etc. until 4-5 months after the book launch. Why they bothered then I don’t know as my book was no longer classed as a ‘new release’.
    They said my book would be sent to 25K outlets world-wide. (absolute poppy-cock). When enquiring why the book was not in the shops, stores, book shops etc.
    I was told “It would not be in the shops etc. because I wasn’t a known or well-known author). To which I replied: “How the heck am I ever going to be known if nobody can buy the darn book”).
    Apparently the 25K outlets worldwide are electronic – nowhere in the hundreds of letters/e-mails between us was that ever stated. If I’d known that from the beginning I would never have done business with Balboa Press as I wanted people to actually buy a hardback or paper back copy of my book. I feel as though they misrepresented what services they were offering.
    From 2012 until present date I am still being hounded by Balboa Press for even more money i.e. this time for promotional purposes which I thought I had bought in my package deal and which Balboa Press confirmed to me promotional services were included in the package; obviously it was not if they are still hounding me for more money.
    I have had several consultants looking over my project. They seem to change every time they contact me so there is no consistency. It has me wondering what kind of employer Balboa Press are.
    One of the consultants actually hounded me for more money (via phone calls) and made me feel as though I don’t care whether my book was published or not if I wasn’t prepared to hand over to Balboa Press thousands and thousands more pounds.
    I had to make a formal and serious complaint in order to get the harassment stopped by this particular women.
    The only good thing I can say about my dealings with Balboa Press is that the finished book has a beautiful cover illustration and the print-out looks lovely but I could have got this end results and saved myself thousands of pound by just having it printed, bound and illustrated cover.
    With the money saved I could have put it to good use with promotional etc. I.e. and put petrol in the car and gone around the various shops stores see if they would take one or two books and put them on display. Balboa Press as far as I can see did nothing to promote my book or get it out to the general population.
    In summary I am angry and very sorry I ever heard of Balboa Press. Hay House has also gone down in my opinion as a reputable business. They were the deciding reason I went with Balboa Press in the first place. I thought I was in reputable/safe hands how wrong I was.
    Without the connection to Hay House I would never have done business with Balboa Press.
    Not sure if I have a genuine claim for a refund? I was certainly misrepresented with facts and the services being offered and what I was actually purchasing.
    A very expensive lesson to learn.

    • Judith Briles says:

      I’m so sorry about the chaos and disaster you went through with the Balboa Press fiasco. Yes, I would ask for some money back … and then I would get my files and terminate with them … do you own the cover? Did you pay for it? And I would love to write a blog around this AGAIN … and quote from your very detailed letter … of course, I don’t need to ID you. Do I have permission?


  15. Hi Judith,
    I revived a call from Balboa Press but had a gut feeling something wasn’t correct. The lady that called me seemed in a panic to sign my up. Sometimes it pays to go with your gut feeling. I told her i had a series of children’s truck books. This lady was over excited about this when i said I have about 36 truck books written, this woman was as i said over excited, and insisted on sending me an invoice I explained not to send an invoice just some details on what they do. NO i received an invoice. alarm bells rang. I sent a reply email back saying, NO thank you I have no money.
    Then i searched the web and found this site, thank you so much,
    I have sold over 1000 of my children’s truck books, I think i might be doing Okay as a self publisher.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Balboa Press aka Author Solutions … is on my “hit list” for bad things to happen to too many authors. Avoid like the plague Kathy

  16. Alex says:

    Thanks for this informative article. Aside from those so-called publishers listed, I would add other semi-legitimate publishers. In particular, “Schiffer Publishing,” based in Atglen, Pennsylvania — a publisher who has made a career of exploiting writers mercilessly and basically screwing-up every book project they touch. They are, basically, the bottom of the barrel — amateur level publishers, and if you ran a poll on those writers that had the unfortunate experience of submitting a book project to them, you would discover the true meaning of torture! Word of advice: Avoid Schiffer Publishing!

    • Judith Briles says:

      Thanks Alex … I’ll check it out and Schiffler to it.

  17. Ray Hawk says:


    What is your view on crowdfunded publishers like Publishizer (which I believe operates out of the U.K. but accepts books from U.S. authors)?

    They seem to be sort of a hybrid. They will take just about any book, like these vanity publishers (maybe literally any), but then they do a basic crowdfunding campaign to promote it, and they take a percentage of any money raised. In good cases, the book can sell a few hundred copies and potentially get the attention of a traditional publisher and/or agent.

    Its a long shot though. I contacted them once (just like Schiffer and Dorrance)…then when they were eager to work with me on pretty much anything I submitted, I started getting suspicious and walked away.

    They don’t charge anything like these crooked vanity publishers do. But they don’t guarantee much in the way of results either…

    Then again, traditional small publishing houses aren’t much better. That is, from what I hear, even if you get a book contract with one of these small firms, you basically are surrendering most of your rights to your property, most of the profit, and you are still expected to do all the marketing yourself to promote it.

    So there really seems to be only two approaches to successful publishing these days. To be a complete independent and run your own show, or to get a contract with one of the big New York conglomerates…


    • Judith Briles says:

      Ray–Publisher had better success in its early days as a true crowdfunding platform. When it added the bells and whistles of publisher matchups, it changed with the results. Very few were legit publishers and many were in the predator platform. At this point I would avoid. Here’s an excellent article via Writer Beware on it:
      I’m of the position that no matter what–authors must learn what the publishing biz is about. And, that the Independent is the better way if you take publishing seriously and will do the work to support/market the book. The odds of being picked up by are not high. I left my NY publishing path, after publishing 18 books with it, in 2000 and formed my own publishing company and have never regretted it or looked back.

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