5 Red Flags to Look For When Getting Self-Publishing Help

Self-publishing your book is a difficult task with a ton of moving parts. Because of this, a lot of authors seek out help from coaches or small independent publishing houses to help them realize their dreams.

And that’s absolutely wonderful – when the company they are working with is legitimate. Unfortunately, the number of horror stories I have heard from authors talking about being ripped off and taken advantage of has made this blog an absolute necessity. 

So without further ado, here are 5 red flags that mean you should run (not walk) in the other direction when working with someone who is going to help you publish your book. 

And let’s be honest, several of these apply to working with anyone on anything – including my services!

Red Flag #1: They Purchase Your ISBN for You

Unless you want the company that is helping you publish to own the rights to your book, buy your own ISBN. If you are just selling ebooks on Amazon, you actually don’t even need one if you don’t want to buy it. Amazon will provide you with an ASIN automatically, for free, for your digital books. 

You will need one to sell almost anywhere else, though. 

ISBNs go to the publisher. Because you are self-publishing, it should belong to you. You do not need a corporate status to buy an ISBN. Period. 

Red Flag #2: They Won’t Tell You Who They’ve Worked With (Or Can’t Prove It)

First things first, good businesses have testimonials. They have clients who will vouch for them. And unless they admit to you being the first person they’ve worked with as a business, they should be absolutely thrilled to share their social proof. Sometimes I look at my testimonials page when I’m feeling imposter syndrome set in to remind myself that I do, in fact, know what I am doing. 

If you are looking at a company that will help you publish a book, they should have links to books they have previously helped publish. If they didn’t publish directly, their stamp may be in a slightly different place. When I spoke to Porsche from MystiqueRose Publishing Services, she mentioned she always gets her stamp on a page so she can prove she helped publish the book. 

Red Flag #3: They Are Not Transparent in the Process

You deserve to know more about the process than “hand it to us, and we’ll run with it.” If you’re like most of the authors I know, you’ve poured so much time, love, energy, and skill into writing your book. See it through to the end. 

Red Flag #4: They Aren’t Answering Your Questions

This builds off the back of the last red flag. If you have questions about the process, they deserve to be answered. If they just don’t want to talk about it right now: that is not a good sign. 

When you receive help with your book, in any capacity, make sure you interview the service provider back.

They are professionals and should be able to answer any questions you have.

Red Flag #5: There is NO CONTRACT

Y’all, I have absolutely no idea why any good business would not have some sort of contract to protect themselves when they are providing services. I am not a legal professional, and this should not be taken as legal advice, but contracts just keep honest people honest. 

They do not HAVE to be super complex and long. Having in writing what the professional will do, your responsibilities, the payment schedule, and other details like that can only provide clarity for you and the business. I mean, why would you want any confusion on that front?

If they don’t have you sign some sort of contract… run.

To Sum Up

If you aren’t sure about something, make sure you ask a ton of questions. Professionals in this industry should not get upset with you. We will just answer you and continue to move on. 

It is important you feel secure in your investment.