As if publishing and marketing a book isn’t hard enough, now we also have to watch out for scam publishers? Yes, I’m afraid that’s true. In fact, it happened to me three years ago, and I had a hard time getting out of it.
If you’re an independent author, meaning that you self publish your books, you know very well how difficult it can be to get noticed by the publishing houses. Many don’t even bother and take the self publishing route. I did too. Self publishing allows you all the control.
However, I was contacted by some publishers, and let me tell you that it is an incredible feeling to receive an email from a publishing house, informing you that they want to read YOUR manuscript.
It is even more amazing when after you’ve sent them your work, they email you again and tell you that they want to publish YOUR work. They even send you a contract. Nothing seems wrong, right? Wrong! A lot can be fishy. I learned that the hard way.
How I Fell For It
I had already published several books, and I was eager to publish a sequel to a historical fantasy series I had on my Amazon Author page. I also wanted to get another book out, which was written in a genre I usually didn’t venture in, a mix between science fiction, fantasy, and dystopia. That last book had a message, and that is why I wanted to publish it.
I stumbled upon this fake publisher on Twitter. Yes, I know, I have been singing Twitter’s praises in my previous article, and I stand by what I wrote. Twitter is a great place to network, make friends, and grow your business. Unfortunately, there are a few bad apples in every social media platform, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit. They can’t always be avoided.
So, what happened? I gained a new follower, and lo´ and behold, it was a publisher. His pinned tweet featured a writing contest, and the winner would win a 1000 or 2000 dollar cash prize (I’m not sure about the exact amount but it was a 000 number) and a FREE publishing deal.
I had participated in writing contests before. In one of them I had even achieved fourth place among 120 participants. Although I didn’t win that one – I had to be at least in third place for that – the organizers still contacted me to inform me that I held fourth place and they congratulated me. I was proud of myself and cherished that accomplishment.
So, writing contests were perfectly legit. Nonetheless, this one wasn’t, but I didn’t know that yet. I paid the entry fee, I believe it was 10 or 20 US dollars per entry. I entered two manuscripts.
A week or two later I received an email, telling me that I had not won the cash prize, but that the publisher still wanted to publish both my manuscripts.
The Theft of My Hard Work
The name of this publisher is Nesbit Publishing, and the owner of the website is André Nesbit. Please note that there are other publishers that are called Nesbit Publishing, and that I had no contact with them. They have nothing to do with this and are perfectly legit. This article is about my experience with André Nesbit and his fake publishing house only.
First red flag I didn’t see: his website was a free website. Nowadays I would have noticed that right away, but back then, I didn’t realize that an established publishing house should have its own domain and a .com. I checked out the website, but I didn’t see the most obvious alert.
Second red flag: the contract. I have little experience with contracts, I am no lawyer. Only when my lawyer got involved much later did he point out all the discrepancies in Mr. Nesbit’s flimsy contract. I felt like such a fool …
A contract meant legitimacy to me, I thought that Mr. Nesbit was serious.
Third Red Flag: vague and noncommittal correspondence. It often took André Nesbit a week or two weeks to reply to my emails, and when he finally did, his answers were very brief. In one email he replied “Yes to both” after I had asked him questions in a previous mail. I found him rude, but I thought that perhaps publishers deal with so many authors that they automatically resort to rudeness …
Fourth Red Flag: Now I was getting suspicious. I had dealt with two vanity publishers before, and I knew that the first step in publishing a manuscript is editing the work. I didn’t hear anything about an editor and I didn’t receive an edited version of my stories. That is always sent to the author, so that both the writer and editor can go over the highlighted errors and paragraphs that need explanation or improvement. There was nothing …
I wrote Mr. Nesbit, but he ignored my emails. I didn’t get an answer for quite a while. Then, I thought (and hoped) that perhaps it was taking a long time to get an editor assigned. The thought that he was a lousy publisher also occurred to me.
One day I had a meeting at work. At some point I drifted of and I checked my phone. I don’t know why I did it, but I googled my name and I suddenly saw both names of my manuscripts with my author name, published on Amazon … I clicked on the links and saw my books. One was published under my name, and the other one had André Nesbit´s name as “co-author”.
I was shocked! Not only had they been published in July 2017 (by the time I found out, it was November 2017), the covers were terrible, the formatting was non-existent, no editing had been done, on one paperback version there was even no title or author’s name, the blurbs seemed to have been written by a three-year-old (how embarrassing is that?!), and the books didn’t even have an author disclaimers page.
How Amazon allowed this to be published was beyond me.
Immediately, I contacted Mr. Nesbit and again I got no reply, but now I was adamant. I wanted answers and I sure as hell wanted his name removed from my book cover!
It had taken me a little over two years to write both books, and now this guy was going to reap the rewards? I didn’t even know if he had sold any copies, but I honestly doubted it, judging by the horrible publishing job he had done.
I commented on the terrible grammar and spelling and the childish wording of the book blurbs, and I complained about the bad book covers about which I hadn’t even been consulted, but I got no answer.
Then, in another email, I accused him of stealing my work and I told him that my manuscripts had copyright.
I also contacted Amazon and told them what had happened, but they advised me to clear this with the publisher. I informed them that he was no real publisher and I urged them to look at the books. I insisted that they be removed from the Amazon platform.
In the meantime I contacted my lawyer. He wrote André Nesbit and this time the man could no longer ignore me. He replied to me and my lawyer, and he apologized. Nothing was done though. My lawyer did his work and I did mine (contacting Amazon over and over again, and being a royal pain in the behind in Mr. Nesbit’s email inbox).
After many attempts I managed to add one of the books to my author page and then I removed it myself, but it was impossible for the other book, because it had his name on it. I kept on writing to Amazon and I urged them to look at the book. Finally, they did. I assume that they must have been as horrified as I was, because the book was promptly removed.
This whole process took a little over four or five months, but in the end I saved my work. They are mine again. I still haven’t published them, but one of these books will come out this year. I still need to find an editor 😉
Always Do your Homework
When a publisher contacts you, please make sure you verify that this publishing house is for real. Some are only after your manuscripts, others do not deliver what they promise. There are many good, dependable publishers around, obviously, and it is sad that those bad apples tarnish the publishing industry, but we have to be careful. Always do your research. You can find a list of predatory publishers and journals on the following websites: https://beallslist.net/ and
What I Learned From My Mistakes
- Check the websites: is it a .com or a free one? Does it have SSL?
- When you receive a contract, don’t assume everything is well. Have your lawyer revise it.
- Do proper research about a publisher before trusting him/her with your work.
Even in The Jungle You Can Find Your Way
The internet is a jungle, but there are still many opportunities. Don’t be discouraged by all the scams. My experience did not stop me from putting me and my work out there. You can self publish on Amazon, you can contact an agent who has direct contact with publishing houses (although that may be difficult, but it is possible), you can also self publish on smashwords. You can create your own author website. The possibilities are endless. Just be cautious online.