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Scam alert red text

Online scams against authors are on the rise and becoming increasingly sophisticated. Nearly every day, we hear from authors who have been scammed or would have been had they not first reached out to the Authors Guild to confirm whether an “offer” was real. Authors must remain alert for these kinds of scams and be careful not to fall for them.

The first rule of thumb is that if someone solicits you out of the blue with an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Common types of scammer outreach include offers to get your book published by a well-known publisher, including a large advance—but then you find out that you must first pay a fee; you pay, and then you never hear from them again. Others make false promises to actively market your book and generate huge sales in exchange for an exorbitant fee. To engender trust, these scammers regularly mimic real companies, editors, and agents, often using names and email addresses that closely resemble a real company’s email to deceptively request manuscripts.

It is important to view any unsolicited offers to publish or market your books with caution. The Authors Guild has an ongoing list of reported scams below. If you encounter a potential scam that is not listed, please notify us so that we can investigate it. Even simple Google searches will unearth reports of particular scams. 

Is it a Publishing Scam? Rules to Keep in Mind

  1. Legitimate publishers and agents do not charge a fee to review your manuscript. Anyone seeking to collect such a fee is most likely fraudulent. Please note that some legitimate literary magazines or small presses run contests for which they charge a small reading fee, such as $25, but if the contest or its sponsor is unfamiliar to you or the fee seems high, do the appropriate research before submitting your work and the fee.
  2. Traditional publishers will not ask you to pay them up front, and so beware of any request for a fee from a publisher—with the exception of hybrid publishers, which do split costs. It is important to do your research on hybrid publishers, however, and make sure you are dealing with a reputable entity, as there are many scammers that bill themselves as hybrid publishers but provide little to no added value, while charging excessive fees. Review this IBPA hybrid criteria checklist when in doubt.
  3. Credible book publicists and marketers generally are fee-for-service providers, meaning they shouldn’t charge you until after they have performed the work. Some may ask for half their fees up front; if so, make sure you have a carefully worded agreement outlining what tasks they will perform, when the tasks will be completed, and your ability to terminate the agreement should they fail to provide the agreed-upon deliverables. The AG legal team will review the agreement for you if you are a member. 
  4. Whether by phone, email, or post, larger traditional publishers and movie studios rarely approach authors out of the blue with incredible opportunities. Again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  5. Look carefully at the sender’s email address. Some scammers create domain names that resemble those of legitimate publishers. Confirm domain name accuracy by going to the legitimate publisher’s website for comparison; for example, is Macmillan’s genuine web address, while is counterfeit. 
  6. Investigate all supposed “opportunities.”

If you learn about any efforts to defraud authors, please contact the Authors Guild to let us know so that we can better protect our members. In addition, Writers Beware is an excellent resource for looking into potential scams in the marketplace. Penguin has also recently launched their own fraud alert page.

Reported Publishing Scams

Click here to read the Authors Guild’s list of reported publishing scams.

We also have a list of publishers that have failed to pay authors on time or in full.