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Ripping Off Indie Authors: Let Us Count the Ways

By Coral Russell

Three years ago, when no one took self-publishing seriously, indie authors only had to worry about being ripped off by a vanity press, and that’s only if they were silly enough to sign with one.

Back then, it was a cozy community, with everyone banding together against big, bad traditional publishing.

Indie authors didn’t make the bestseller lists, self-publishing (it was thought) was for losers and those who did it volunteered, shared resources, time and energy. Because let’s face it…who of us can write, publish and market all on their own? So authors, editors and book bloggers gladly banded together in groups to help each other out.

When a suspicious service did crop up, there were sites like Preditors and Editors, Writer Warnings  and Writer Beware, manned (usually) by other indies eager to help identify unscrupulous companies and freelancers who were less than upfront about their services.

Then BAM! Authors began selling hundreds of thousands of books, The New York Times started including bestselling indie titles next to those by James Patterson, and hucksters started coming out of the woodwork like cockroaches, realizing there was money to be made off self-pubbed authors, especially those with ebooks in tow.

And so greed set in.  Let us count the ways.

1. The Blog Tour Bait and Switch

These are the people who start a blog tour company, charge an author for a tour and then disappear a couple of months later, taking all the blogger links with them.

So the author gets screwed out of any promotional value and has to start all over again. But they’re not the only ones starting over. The bogus book tour company has just changed their name and moved their tent to another location, scamming a different group of unsuspecting authors down the road.

2. The Web Charlatan

The so-called website “expert” who gets hired by an author to build and run their site. So far, so good. Until the writer transfers their service to said “expert”, only to find out that the person they hired is taking a night class in WordPress and charges hundreds of dollars to fix something that she never could.

Realizing this, the “expert” gives the author 48 hours to move their entire site somewhere else. Oh, and no refunds.


3. The Author Group Shark

The person who hangs out in author groups looking for those not smart enough to grab the domain name of their dreams…you know, the one they’ve been using to brand themselves and their books. When the author does decide to start their website, low and behold, someone bought their domain name and guess what? The author now has to pay that person before he can use the domain name that matches his branding.


4. The Crappy Editor/Publicist One-Two Punch

The company that offers publicity services, along with editing, which would be great if the editing services didn’t suck.

So the author hands their story over to an editor, who then hands the book over to the publicist. Not until the author turns over what they think is a finely tuned story to a group of book bloggers/reviewers does the author realize she’s been had.




5. The “All About Eve” Hanger-On

Should you become a famous self-published author, beware of any person you talked to in a forum who will claim she was instrumental in your success. Oh, maybe she read your story, and maybe she organized an event no one attended. But, in their bio, she’ll have been your personal assistant, publicist, manager. You’ll be too famous and rich to care by then, but think of all the unsuspecting authors after who take this person at their word. She’ll promise to be able to do for them what she supposedly did for you.

The lessons to be learned? Be smart. Take the time to check references. And then check them again. If an offer or service seems like it’s too good or to cheap to be true, it usually is.


Coral Russell lives in the southwest with her hubby, baby Godzilla-sized kid and an adorable dog with which she shares a one-way, thermal dynamic relationship. You can connect with her on and/or

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