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Vanity Publishers


Some companies charge writers a fee to edit, design, and print their work, then retain the rights to that work. These are vanity or subsidy presses. Sometimes they require writers to buy a copy of an anthology in which their work appears. In general these types of companies should be avoided. When a writer pays to have a book published, the writer should retain the rights to the book. On the whole, keep in mind that publishing with vanity presses that charge you a fee usually won’t advance your career, and that traditional publishing companies and legitimate agents don’t charge writers a fee to be published.

A legitimate contest may charge writers an entry fee, usually $10 to $20, to cover the costs of running the contest, prize money, and payment to outside judges. If you are asked to pay for anything else—typesetting, printing, design, or publication in an anthology—the organization sponsoring the contest could be a scam.

Recognizing Scams

If the publisher asks for money—or for the writer to “co-invest” in the publishing venture, be wary. If the publisher is evasive, if there is a lack of information on the website, if they do not have a telephone number, or if the listed number yields only a tape-recorded message, and your phone (or e-mail) queries go unanswered, be cautious. If the publisher makes promises that seem too good to be true, they probably are. Research all potential publishers before submitting your work.

Other Resources

Preditors and Editors can help you identify these scams before you fall victim to them. You can find listings of legitimate writing contests, grants, and awards in the Writing Contests, Grants & Awards database.

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  • meleah says...


    I'm a newbie to the publishing business, for the most part, although I have learned a lot in the research I've done, thus far.  In the process of entering some literary magazine contests, I think the main thing is to research which magazines/journals in which you'd like to be published and read their submission guidelines, as spelled out on their websites in detail.  Some of the publications will only accept unpublished manuscripts, others will accept pieces that have been published, whether for a general or "standard" submission or a contest.  The only way to know for sure is to research their "submission guidelines", which the magazines usually have a link to on their website.  Each publication has their own 'reading period' in which they accept submissions (usually particular months of the year), but some don't accept unsolicited submissions at all, whether previously published, or not.  You'll have to investigate that, per publication.  Anyway, best wishes on your success!  Hope that helps.

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