After spending about $1,400 through a U.S.-based self-publishing company and no books to show for it, a mother and daughter from Gander are cautioning people before taking the self-publishing route.
Lindsay Whiteway, 14, said it was a dream to have her book — which she compared to American author Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians series — published.
"I kind of wanted to publish them and get them out. Because it's just all the stories I built up in my mind. ... I need other people to read it, you know," she told CBC News.
While looking for publishers online, Lindsay's mother, Jessica Pritchett, came across Premium Book Publishing, which is based in Florida.
Lindsay said working with the company was initially positive.
"At first they were really nice. The guy who picks up your answers was named Adam," she recalled. "I spoke to him about a bunch of stuff and he was cool about it.".
Pritchett said they started doing business with the company in late March and were told it would take two to three months to have the books in hand, just in time for Lindsay to finish Grade 9. The plan was for Lindsay to join a relative who goes to trade shows to sell some of her books over the summer.
But by June, Pritchett said, she realized something was wrong, and after repeatedly speaking with company representatives she was eventually told that when her order was taken, the sales rep didn't fill out their form correctly.
The package they were signed up for — which cost them about $1,400 — included only editing and cover design, something they didn't need, Pritchett said, because her daughter had done it. The package didn't include printed copies of the book, Pritchett said, and the company wouldn't print Lindsay's book without more money.
Prices aren't listed on Premium Book Publishing's website, and the company didn't respond to repeated requests for comment, including questions about pricing.
Pritchett said people looking into self-publishing should keep an eye out for scams.
"If they're calling and constantly looking for money, people need to know that that's a red flag. If they don't talk to you for two weeks, that's a red flag."
WritersNL executive director Jen Winsor said someone contacts them every few months about a self-publishing scam. People typically get in touch with WritersNL for help after money has changed hands, said Winsor, so there isn't much that can be done.
I've seen authors pay up tens of thousands of dollars in these processes — and then they get scammed. It's heartbreaking. - Jen Winsor
She advises people looking at self-publishing to research the company and check if they're on Writer Beware, a website that compiles lists of scams as well as other information. They should also contact a local writers' group, like WritersNL, beforehand.
"For the writers, this work is their baby. And in some cases they've ... worked on this book for years and they've put blood, sweat and tears into it. And it means so much to them," said Winsor.
"I've seen authors pay up to tens of thousands of dollars in these processes — and then they get scammed. It's heartbreaking."
There are a number of red flags to look out for, she said, like excessive flattery of a manuscript, price lists not posted on the website, promises authors will become best-sellers, chatbots, representatives who can't explain the payment structure, no phone number or business address.
Winsor also urged people to look for negative reviews and talk to authors who have used the self-publishing service before. People should also look into the history of the business to see who is the owner and how long it's been around.
Pritchett said the spending the money thinking her daughter would have a book published. But it could have been put toward something else, like school supplies or getting their vehicle serviced.
"Now we have nothing," she said.
Lindsay says she's not deterred from publishing her book. She plans to approach a Newfoundland and Labrador publisher in the next few months.
"If you look around my room right now, there's quite a lot of stuff all about the book. My pictures are drawn. There's swords that I've made," she said.
"I want these books to be out there because there's so many people who want to read them, like friends of my mom's and my dad's and my friends."
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