Someone today on one of my LinkedIn groups was moaning about how the publishing company he was working with had been stringing him along. He paid $20 for them to read his manuscript, they accepted it, and then he waited... and waited... and waited... until they just sent him a letter saying they were going under and couldn't print his book.
I got on and tried to explain to him that you should NEVER pay to have your book published (or read or whatever fee a 'publishing' company comes up with - that is a vanity press. I also told him vanity presses go under because they frequently do not have the funds and people frequently lose money.
He felt I was being condescending because I assumed he hadn't done his research. My husband, who frequently engages in equally risky attempts to contact "publishers" also ignores me when I yell at him about it. Please, Internet research is NOT research. Purchase a copy of the 2015 Writer's Market and submit to every traditional publisher, agent, and contest in there - but stay away from Internet resources.
Now, first, as an author - you are marketing yourself. You MUST learn to take criticism with grace. This is the only way. Yes, I am an epic fail at this, but I do try. In addition, if you criticize me and I realize I am wrong, I will admit it and attempt to do it right. Still, I know that my lack of grace (and refusal to act like a groveling slave around certain employers) is what kills some business relationships that could have been profitable. However, I really would not want to continue working with employers that treat me like scum anyway. On the other hand, when people rate my books poorly- I don't attack them. I have a feeling this guy would not be able to keep himself from getting the last word in - which is not good.
Second, he claimed to do his research. Thankfully, I think I have convinced my husband to stop his risky Internet behavior. I typed in the name of the last "agent" he contacted and the word "scam" into a search engine and let him see the results after the so-called agent sent us oodles of spam. But the problem is on the Internet, you may not be able to tell if the guy (or girl) is a scammer until it is too late. Scam posts only get posted after the fact. There were none on the LinkedIn guy's "publishers."
However, aside from the reading fee, there were several things that could have keyed the guy into the fact that these "publishers" might not be the best ones to go with. For comparison, I will use the website of the indie publishing company I share with my husband and Harlequin.
Here are the landing pages:
LinkedIn Guy: Automat
Mine: Dreaming Reality
Automat has 1 picture that is repeated on every page you click. Most of the pages are just text. Although the website domain was purchased - the design screams "I did it myself." A quick click on the about us page shows that, in fact, the website owner's son did it himself.
Obviously, when you click on my page, each page is uniquely designed. (Our website is a freebie site - that should be a warning if you were looking to submit to us. However, I cannot justify the cost of a website when we are (a) not taking submissions and (b) prefer to do our sales on Amazon.) The pictures on our website are varied except for those beneath the "coming soon" books. (Shoot, I have two more books to put out this month... why am I not working on those instead of blogging and doing LinkedIn!!!)
Harlequin also has unique pages and varied pictures. (And a newsletter sign up on the front page! Ours is on the "contact us" page - maybe I should move it?)