The publishing world has changed since I started querying publishers back in 1994. Without the internet scams and bad actors flourished. Then, in 1998 Writer Beware was born. (https://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/about/) Though now a part of Science Fiction Writers of America, with support from other genre groups, Writer Beware doesn’t focus only on speculative fiction. They uncover and put disinfecting sunlight on all the bad actors in the publishing world from agents to pay to pay publishers to scammy contests–regardless of genre. You’d think with the advent of social media and the internet that such scams would be less common, not more. Alas, this is not the case. Not only can anyone put up a website and call themselves a “publisher”, but with the tools of self-publishing becoming easier to access, people can now claim to be promoters or boxed set curators, and act like a publisher without ever having the knowledge of one.
In fact, one of the great skills I fear has been lost in the new publishing world is the simple art of how to research a publisher.
My best advice? Use your favorite search engine and type “Publisher Name Reviews” or “Publisher Name Problems”, without the quotes and replacing Publisher Name with the name of the entity. If there are reports out there, and these days that’s a big if as people don’t want to speak up, afraid of being labeled the proverbial “bad apple” (Hey, I’m here to tell you it’s not that bad over in bad apple land. We’re awesome and we don’t take shit from anyone.) or “causing problems”. But if there are problems out there, they’ll be found.
You can also search resources like the Writer Beware blog: https://accrispin.blogspot.com/.
It’s easy (too easy as a previous blog of mine shows) to get caught up in the marketing and promotion that such places promise. And yet, we need to remember, at the end of the day, it’s important for writers of all genres to beware. We’re only as good as the people policing us, and the internet, instead of making it easier for the scammers to be known has fragmented us and makes it easier for them to hide.