Beware of Sharks in Publisher’s Clothing

by | Mar 1, 2017

Tate Publishing bit the dust and formally closed its doors on January 24, 2017. There are millions of dollars in lawsuits including one from Lightning Source (that’s Ingram) for over $1.8 million. In February, a default judgment was entered against Tate when its owners did a no-show in court. I can’t even imagine the number of authors and books who have been damaged.

Why another column on what I call the Publishing Predators?

  1. The self-publishing / indie publishing avenues now publish far more books than the traditional publishing stream from New York.
  2. Whenever there is growth, it identifies opportunity.
  3. Opportunity encourages darker forces to surface. The floodgates opened for self-publishing went into high drive when Amazon introduced BookSurge, the predecessor of CreateSpace in 2007. Scammers paid attention.
  4. In other words, scammers, publishing cons and publishing predators are breeding.

Two weeks ago, a phone call came in from one of my blog followers on a Sunday morning. I was in my offices and picked up the phone. My panic caller shared her information and needed some hand-holding. Rats … within seconds, I knew where the call was going … the giant sucking sound of author pain had started. The publishing predators had zapped one. I don’t like these calls or the news that spelled forth with it.

She had engaged Tate Publishing to create and publish her book. All was lost. And she didn’t have a book. Double rats.

Probing on my side, I came up with a plan to attempt to get some moneys back. And I referred her to:

  • The Book Designer site to get the templates for book interiors so she could get back into selling books pronto;
  • how to acquire her own ISBNs;
  • how to deal with Amazon;
  • and then get ready for a party to launch her new book and new publishing company.

“Breathe,” I said, “and let’s try this: I want you to contact the credit card company you used to pay for Tate … and tell them you’ve been scammed. If you want me to be on the phone when you do, I’ll text over things to say.” I gave her key words/phrases to use.

Oh my … she agreed to call. The following week, she came to the monthly AuthorYou Circles brainstorming I do on a Saturday. And WOOT … she has $2,000 back in her account. She bought the templates and is already laying out her book, tickled with their ease. And she has reached out to other authors who got caught in the loop that she knew to encourage them to take action.

Tate was a “paid-to-publish” operation … luring in authors-to-be with its massive ads … as a self-publishing company … Here’s one image:

Oh yes … what “wannabe” author wouldn’t ponder a bit with this image and then a sidebar of sorts giving a laundry list of benefits and a button to click over? What author-to-be wouldn’t want his or her dreams to come true? Authors respond to these lures by the thousands. The lure was tossed out, the author is hooked and oh my, a glorious email is received that is peppered with written strokes declaring that your book has been selected for publishing. It may share that hundreds, maybe thousands are submitted each year … but lucky you … you have been chosen “to be published.”

Sigh. Now here’s the bottom line truth: if you have a credit card or a check book to cover the “fees” … you are in.

That’s the way they work. As late as November of 2016, Tate’s executives were proclaiming on the local NBC affiliate that everything was fine.

In reality, it was not fine, nothing was fine—massive complaints and lawsuits were swirling in the air. Over 150 complaints had been filed with the Oklahoma Attorney General. Just about everyone was owed moneys—authors, vendors and I suspect, most employees.

Prevention Counts

Before you get into bed with ANY company that proclaims that it is a self-publishing company or expert or whatever, start probing before you pull out your credit card and sign on the dotted line. Please, please do your homework. News about Tate was posted online long before it went belly-up.

Yes, there are “self-publishing” companies and experts that are nothing more that sharks behind the slick logos, free webinars/trainings, etc.

Please honor your ”self” and your book-to-be. Before you pay anyone or company moneys, do your homework. Start searching online before doing business with any self-publishing publishers, a pay-to-publish, self-publish operation or any other person or company that wants your money to publish your book. Start with the Internet and create a Google search for:

(That company name) + Scam
(That company name) + Problem
(That company name) + Complaint
(That company name) + Lawsuit
(That company name) + Fraud
(That company name) + Rip-off
(That company name) + Con
(That company name) + “Better Business Bureau”

Don’t stop on the first page of your search like 90% of most Google visitors do … dig down and deeply. Scammers and cons know how to bury bad news–page four may have the info you are looking for. Read the reports and be advised. And here’s a caution. When I look at the Better Business Bureau’s reports on Tate related enterprises, over 100 had been lodged in the past three years—yet the Oklahoma BBB gave it an “A” rating. Really? Sounds like that rating might have moneys behind it, but I digress.

Taking the well known line:

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, acts like a duck … it is a duck

we can morph that for publishing to an Author Beware Mantra:

If it walks like predator, talks like a predator and acts like a predator … IT IS A PUBLISHING PREDATOR!

Don’t do business. Period. If you are in business with one, terminate it, don’t be seduced to stay—you may need legal advice to exit. Cancel the credit card it has on file and contact the credit card (or PayPal if you used it). And please, forewarn others.

Unfortunately, most walk away woven with the shame that they got sucked in the first place and/or so ticked that they got taken, they just want to take the shower and get as far away as possible. All of us who try to assist authors understand how you feel. The woman who called me on Sunday was already licking her wounds and upset with how she got taken. She never thought she would get her moneys back. And she did—but she had to ask the right person … is her case, PayPal. I was enthusiastically delighted to assist.

And, discover and subscribe to warning sites such as Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors.

My final advice:

  1. DO Your online research on any if these “self-published” companies. Best advice is to avoid one and ALL like the plague.
  2. Always pay with a credit card, not a check.
  3. If you have been duped, misrepresented, or scammed, immediately contact your credit card provider if you used one. Report that you have been scammed, that you are disputing, that you want your money back. Tell everyone.

Share this column with every author and writer you know. You may be doing them the biggest publishing favor they will ever receive.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. patriciaruthsusan

    Thanks, Judith, for this important information. :) — Suzanne

    • Judith

      You are welcome Suzanne. We are authors have to support each other.

  2. Judith Quate

    Thank you for this valuable information. Yes I was suckered with Tate as well. However, my book was published in 2015 and I purchased several copies and sell when I can. Tate contacted me in January informing me they were going through a transition. They offered me to purchase my original PDF version of my book and to sign out of my contact with them. I paid $50.00 for my original PDF. Still waiting for it. I was told it would take several weeks. I still have the transition email and my signed copy of the nding of the contract. I may start bugging them for my book.

    I still do not know what to do next. I need a marketing firm? Look into what Amazon offers. Very leiry in putting my trust in anyone.

    • Judith

      Judith–I’m sorry that you got taken. My step by step is too long for a written reply here. Please call my offices at 393-885-2207; have paper and pen available. I can talk after 2 pm Mountain time today.

      • Judith

        Oops. Auto correct. Area code is 303

  3. Jan

    Thanks for the information :-)

    • Judith

      You are welcome Jan.

  4. Mary Schneider

    I am very sad that Preditors and Editors is no longer live.
    It was an excellent site that warned me away from several “Tate”s early in my career.

    Personally, I’ve found publishing through Kindle quite easy and perfectly doable as an indie author. It does take research to learn to create an attention-grabbing cover and of course the technical side of formatting and editing, on top of the necessary editing. IMHO, indie authors would be better served to put their money and time into learning the craft and editing the finished product to its highest quality, then learning the relatively easy process of publishing through Kindle or another similar service. Quality should take precedence over a pretty font and fancy graphics. (Though, of course, design is also important. Great books won’t get read if they’re ignored behind crappy covers.)

    • Judith Briles

      Agree Mary–I loved the fast info and overseer positioning on the bad boys out there that Preditors & Editors provided. And I’ll echo what you are saying about creating a quality book, cover, learning the craft and understanding, embracing that publishing is a business. Learn it. Get that there is jargon we all use–jargon that one doesn’t need a PhD to understand. Authors also need to get out of the shell–move away from the mentality–I just want to write–I get it … but be real … authors have a product to promote and sell. The book. We are here to help them on all sides. Judith

  5. Iola

    Richard Tate used to sit on the Board of the Oklahoma BBB. I’m sure that had nothing to do with their stellar rating.

    I’m in a Facebook group with a lot of “Taters”. The saddest thing that they still don’t see they got scammed, and many run the risk of making the same mistake again. Suggesting they check out Writer Beware is useless – one said she doesn’t trust that site (probably because it says such nasty things about Tate).

    Unfortunately, Tate isn’t (wasn’t?) alone in targeting Christian authors. In researching publishers in the Christian area, I’ve found dozens of vanity presses. Sure, most aren’t as bad as Tate and WestBow Press (an imprint of Author Solutions), but that doesn’t make them sensible publishing choices.

    • Judith Briles

      Well … there you have it–buying your way for a spot at the table and that was his dessert! And Iola, Author Solutions has outreach to many in the Christian market. I just unraveled another Balboa Press this AM. Judith

  6. sahara foley

    Great advice. All authors need to do their due diligence first.

    • Judith Briles

      Yes indeed Sahara … yet in my many years of working with authors … very few do. They may ask a friend who he or she worked with … but a “deep dive”, they don’t. Judith

    • Amanda Greenslade

      I run an Australian self-publishing service called Australian eBook Publisher and it is a small business with under 10 employees. We are just editors and designers who love the publishing business and have worked out how to do everything our customers need. Some want only parts of the service (from editing, through typesetting, cover design, ebook conversion, print on demand and marketing) whereas others only want parts of it.

      I hate being lumped in with this concept of predatory publishing scams. The vast majority of our customers are very happy, but we do have the odd one that can’t understand why their book isn’t selling. We make no guarantees about books selling once they are out on the market. We offer training to all our customers about how much and when they are likely to be paid.

      I would be interested in your advice to me, as a business owner of a self-publishing service which is committed to being people our customers can trust. Apart from the obvious of always doing the right thing, and being up front and honest with our customers, how can we escape all this negativity about self-publishing in general? A lot of our customers want a really good book, and they lack the skills (or time) to do it themselves. Using book templates is not for everyone. We don’t even use templates in-house, but approach each book fresh.

      Thanks for your insightful articles and a big hello from me, down under.

      • Joel Friedlander

        Amanda, I’m sure Judith will have something to say, but I understand your position. There are many, many honest and professional vendors in the publishing industry, and it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff. One of the things that typifies the “bad actors” are the many phony claims they make about how great your book is going to do after they publish it. It is these broken promises that lie at the root of most people’s disappointment and heartbreak. I believe in publishing books that have a small universe of possible buyers, because I believe most of these books have value, but it’s vital that we are honest with our author/clients about what kind of expectations are reasonable, depending on the book itself and the kind of support it will have once in the market. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  7. John Doppler

    An excellent article, thank you!

    Unfortunately, P&E has shuttered its operations for now.

    May I recommend The Alliance of Independent Authors in its stead? In addition to our in-depth Watchdog reviews, ALLi offers ratings of hundreds of self-publishing services, and a separate index of contests and awards.

    I’d also like to point out that Better Business Bureau ratings are unreliable, as most predatory operations can simply purchase BBB accreditation. As long as they respond to the majority of complaints, regardless of whether those complaints are addressed, they can maintain a deceptive “A+ rating”.

    Despite two class-action lawsuits, hundreds of complaints, and a 74% negative rating by customers, Author Solutions currently holds an A+ rating on the BBB. That is shameful behavior for an organization that claims to protect consumers.

    However, the customer feedback on the BBB site does provide valuable insight into a company’s quality of service. Just ignore the meaningless BBB accreditation.

    • Judith Briles

      Good morning John … thanks for the updated heads up … and the reminder about ALLi … yet I need to remind all … that unless grumbles, concerns, are posted, the recommendations/reviews become tilted. I can remember communicating with the site expressing concern about one of the predators who was on my “do not work with” list and was told that it/they didn’t have much feedback and therefore didn’t post anything negative, just more of an analysis of the site.

      And I ignore any BBB accreditation as well. Amazing what a few bucks here and there can do to support the art of deception. Judith

  8. Andrew Claymore

    The ‘Dreams Come True’ font color is a bad choice. Washes out against the moon in the background. I suppose these guys fronted themselves as experts who’d provide their victims with ‘professional covers’?

    That’s not even the first signal that they’re to be avoided. If any publisher is asking the author for money instead of offering it, the author should immediately walk away.

    That’s not to be confused with service providers such as cover designers, freelance editors or template designers. Those are the professional services that a good publisher uses to produce a quality book and a self-publisher need not be afraid to source them on their own.

    • Judith Briles

      Agree with you your washed out remark and basically bad design … yet Andrew, thousands were hooked anyway. It consistently reminds me of how many get suckered in because they “don’t know what a good design is” … what the process of a truly professional designer, layout, editor, etc. is. If they don’t know, they are ignorant in how to create a measurement.

  9. Michael W. Perry

    Good advice. I do wonder how this happened?

    “There are millions of dollars in lawsuits including one from Lightning Source (that’s Ingram) for over $1.8 million.”

    I’ve been publishing the Lightning/Ingarm since 1999. All too familiar with the world of bookstores and their bankruptcies, the company runs a tight financial ship. The debts must have been LSI publishing charges and Ingram database fees, but I can’t understand why they didn’t simply extract those fees from on-going payments. If Tate gave them a ‘we can’t afford it now’ sob story, why did Lightning listen? The end result was only to increase the misery of Tate’s many authors.

    I tend to be hard-headed and skeptical, but I’ve been amazed at how many authors seem wlling to commit so much of their money and their long-labored-over book to the promises of distant strangers. Those who go through a self-publishing company should vet it carefully. And if they’ve got the time and resources, they can always make a go of publishing it completely by themselves, aided only by the advice of the Internet and friends. Whether that goes well or badly, at least you’ve retained control of your book and aren’t caught up in a messy bankruptcy. As I sometimes say, I’d rather suffer from my own mistakes than those of others.

    I might add that one very viable do-it-yourself route for new authors are to get Word templates that The Book Designer sells and use them. That takes care of the appearance of the interior. Then deal with sending the resulting files to CreateSpace and Ingram Spark (for print) and to Kindle and Smashwords (for ebooks). That may seem complicated, but that’s because it’s your first time. Presevere. All are doing their best to make the process easy.

    The cover is another issue, since it involves art and design rather than writing and layout. Being good at writing doesn’t necessarily mean being good at covers. You might want to hire someone. If you don’t have the money for that, look on Amazon at the covers for bestsellers that are have similar themes as your book. Don’t copy them too closely, but use the basic ideas about layout and design to inform yours. Here’s Amazon’s current bestsellers. Almost all will have been done by pros.

    Stock photo services are a good source of inexpensive, professionally done photos. I’ve been happy with both Deposit Photos and Big Stock Photos. Spend a lot of time looking for just the right picture.

    And yes, you may need to be creative. Spend a lot of time on that cover. That’s the first impression readers will get of your book. A good cover can make a self-published book look like one from major publisher.

    –Michael W. Perry

    • Judith

      I know, I know Michael. I’ve echoed what you’ve written more times than I care to count. Authors will make mistakes–we all do … but to get duped and allow it to be done, often boldly, just shouldn’t be in the mix. And yet it is.
      That is for your wise adds. Judith



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