Spotting the Scam
Long before encountering the potential hazards of vanity publishing, actually, at the tender age of eight, my “scam-dar” (radar for scams) was activated. I had gone with my friend and family to the Royal Adelaide Show.
My friend pointed to the laughing clowns. ‘Look, Lee-Anne, everyone wins a prize.’
I rolled my eyes as the clowns’ heads swayed from side to side. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, everyone wins a prize,’ the vendor with a weathered face said.
‘Okay,’ I replied and parted with my hard-earned pocket money to have a go.
I fed the ping pong balls into the wide red mouth of one clown and watched them roll down and settle into various numbered slots down below the laughing clown’s chest.
The vendor tallied up the numbers, fetched a plastic figure and passed it over to me. I examined the item with horror and disappointment. Toys offered at the bottom of a cereal packet were better value than this piece of junk.
‘Hey,’ I retorted, holding up the cheaply made foreign-made trifle, ‘this is a rip-off!’
The vendor grinned. ‘Every player wins a prize.’
As we walked away from the laughing clowns, I told my friend, ‘That’s the last time I’m playing any side show alley game. It’s a rip off.’
From then on, I was cautious in how I spent my time and money. Making sure I got value for my money. After all, my family was not flush with money. I had learnt to be frugal, do my research and if all else failed, ask mum and dad for sound fiscal advice.
By the time I had grown up, my “scam-dar” was well-established. However, even these days I have the occasional lapse from which I can still learn.
So, what’s some advice I can pass onto those of you out there who are still unsure and navigating the ever-growing sneakiness of scammers? In the world of publishing, the tricks scammers use are the same.
- First, the old premise: If it’s too good to be true, it is. I remember how my husband was drawn in by cold call about a holiday offer. Oh, wow, if we go to the event, we’ll win a travel bag. (Every player wins a prize bid.) So, off we go and discover it’s all about Time Share Accommodation. Huh! We studied the form we had to fill and considered the conditions (research). We both agreed that the disadvantages and cost outweighed the benefits, so we declined the offer. The pushy salesman was so disappointed, but we collected the bag and left. At least the bag was good quality.
- Cold Call: I figure, that if a business has to cold call, then they are desperate for customers and there must be some reason that they are not doing well. Avoid like the plague. Read what happened to one of our friends from such a cold call in “The Perils of Vanity Publishing”.
- Check Reviews: On the flip side, a good and ethical business (that includes publishing companies) will thrive on word of mouth, and these days, good reviews online. Again, not all good reviews are equal. Some businesses will stack their five-star reviews from friends, family and publicity specialists. So, what I do when checking out the quality of a product or service, is examine the one-star reviews and comments. Then the truth is revealed. Another means of checking how good a company is, is by seeing what users on social media platforms such as Facebook, and Whirlpool have to say about them. Hence, one reason, after research, I opted to publish my books through Amazon.
- Those Emails: Every so often, my mother beckons me, ‘I just want you to have a look at this email.’ So, I look. At the email. Bad grammar and spelling are a give-away as a scam. Then I check out where the email comes from. If it’s a scam it usually shows up some totally unrelated email address. Even if the email is legitimate, handle with caution if they have contacted you first. This is especially true of publishing companies. The legitimate traditional publishing companies are way too busy to be contacting novice aspiring writers. I mean, even if you send a manuscript to a traditional publishing company, you may never get a reply, as they are inundated with manuscripts from aspiring writers. Also, publishing companies are interested in how well you can market yourself and your product, your book, that is. Therefore, they are waiting for you to contact them, often having set timeframes when they are accepting unpublished manuscripts from new authors.
- Keep Safe: If you haven’t yet, join a writer’s group or fellowship where you can benefit from the wisdom of more experienced writers. Some writer’s groups, such as my own, have published a group anthology. In this way the new writer learns to navigate the journey of publishing with others, avoiding the pitfalls of vanity press while reaping the rewards of having their work published.
Here above, then are a few points which have helped me keep the scamming sharks from consuming my hard-earned money and time. Perhaps some of you fellow readers have tips you would like to share in our comments section. We would most welcome you to share your wisdom or experiences.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2023
Feature Photo: Laughing clowns © redbubble.com