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I have been communicating with three PoD companies.

I was considering the first, it has been in business for years and provides a certain number of copies to the author, the rest are sold from their site.

I have since discovered a company that, for a considerable outlay, will do multiple rounds of content edit and then offer your work to many stores as well as online through various outlets. The royalties are higher with them, so I was considering them. They primarily print in Canada.

The third company, which contacted me believing I had written a children’s book, does a round of copy editing and publishes the book as the others do - however, they assign an agent to try and find one of the big five who might take you on. If potential in other media exists, they will also seek out producers etc and try and get a deal.

The third company does less to the actual book than the second does, but seems better in the distribution and promotion aspects. It also costs about a third of what the second one does.

My question is, how likely is a literary agent who is part of a self publishing company to be someone who actually knows the people who should see my mss?

If the agent is an effective professional, my choice seems clear, but how likely is it that such a person could compete with those who are purely literary agents and know the editors of the various houses well?

The third company has an A rating on BBB otherwise I would not have considered it. Now that I have checked, all three have A ratings on BBB.

The first one does not try to sell your book and the quality of their PoDs is less than I would like. A friend used them and gave me one copy of her first book.

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    This is a really weird combo. If you want an agent, I would submit to several who have space for new writers and have asked for your genre. Remember, you're interviewing agents as much as they're interviewing you. Just like taking a job; you wouldn't go with just anyone willing to hire you (if you had options). A print on demand publisher is not where I'd look for an agent. – Cyn Mar 16 at 0:46
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It may be a scam

When I read your question I was reminded of all those scam questions over at Money.SE - you mention that you contacted the first two of those companies and then the third contacted you? Here are your paragraphs about the third company with an emphasis added by me about everything I find suspicious and a little explanation in square brackets:

The third company, which contacted me [Where did they get your information from? From everything I know big companies tend to be really busy. They don't have time to go around and randomly ask people to do business with them.] believing I had written a children’s book [They believed you had written a children's book? This reads like you didn't and like a typical scam where you just make a probable guess about potential victims to lure them in. Or, if it's nothing like that, at least it seems like they thought they were talking to someone else, so you need to check whether that really is an opportunity for you.], does a round of copy editing and publishes the book as the others do - however, they assign an agent [For what? This is about self-publishing so there shouldn't be a reason to assign an agent to everyone who is making business with them. That's very expensive and companies don't throw away money if they want to stay in the business.] to try and find one of the big five who might take you on [They try? How do you know they will? They could just say "Sorry, we didn't find anyone." in the end. And the Big Five? This company didn't even get your book right when they asked you to do business with them - how likely do you think they are to have good enough contacts to the Big Five, who have this name for a reason, to land your book with them.]. If potential in other media exists [How do they judge that? What self-published books have they turned into a movie or similar so far? Do you have prove that they won't just take money for "research" and then say "Nope, not possible, sorry"?], they will also seek out producers etc and try and get a deal [With whom are they connected in that avenue? They already "know" the Big Five and now they know lots of producers who like to turn self-published books into movies? If that's the case they should be one of the biggest and most important companies out there and every "tips and tricks" guide should be talking about them by now. Have you heard of this company before?].

The third company does less to the actual book than the second does, but seems better in the distribution and promotion aspects. It also costs about a third of what the second one does. [They are far cheaper than the second one, but do far more by talking to the Big Five and movie producers while selling your book world-wide?]

I looked at your profile here on Writing.SE, which says:

I also enjoy writing poetry and have started a few novels in various genres. My current project seems something that might go somewhere.

This doesn't look to me like you have published so much best-selling stuff at this time that publishers would come to you and ask you to represent when talking with the Big Five and movie producers. That sounds too good to be true. And you know, if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

Furthermore you received a comment from the user Cyn (emphasis added by me):

This is a really weird combo. If you want an agent, I would submit to several who have space for new writers and have asked for your genre. Remember, you're interviewing agents as much as they're interviewing you. Just like taking a job; you wouldn't go with just anyone willing to hire you (if you had options). A print on demand publisher is not where I'd look for an agent.

The fact that nobody else commented anything like that or answered so far suggests that this is at least unusual and uncommon. Those are good indicators that you should take a really close look at the company. How often do their names come up in big sales news when you look for them on Google? How many movies were produced by books they have published? With all those promises you should easily find lots of examples on the internet.

Because this sounded like something interesting that should turn up lots of information even without the name of the company I tried to look them up - and I couldn't find a company that mentions something like you described.

What I found was information about the relationship between self-published authors and agents. The information suggests that the market is changing and that agents really are talking to self-published authors once they have a couple successes, but nobody would contact you out of the blue and there was never a mention of a company that does things like the one you describe. For example How Self-Publishing Helped Me Find A Literary Agent is a guide about how a self-published author should approach agents. Do literary agents want self-published authors? is a guide about how a self-published author should approach agents. How to Land an Agent for a Self-Published Book is a guide for how you, as the author, should approach potential agents. I am seeing a pattern there.

Literary Agents Open the Door to Self-Published Writers is a report from an agent about publishing self-published books. But there is no mention of a "middle man" self-publishing company that pitches all new books to them so they can then pitch the books further.

At that point I was pretty sure that this might be a scam, so I changed my search patterns to include the word scam and I found lots of information.

Beware of the scam agents and sharks in self-publishing for example mentions:

Literary agents and publishers all have huge slush piles, so none would be asking to make them even higher. If you are asked to submit your manuscript by someone you don’t know, especially by unsolicited email, DO NOT reply.

It’s 99.9999% sure to be a scam.

If you are approached out of the blue by a publisher you don’t know who wants to publish your book, be careful. It is a telltale sign of self-publishing companies to avoid.

It mentions a helpful site where you can get a first feeling for whether a company is trustworthy or not: Best and Worst Self-Publishing Services Reviewed & Rated by the Alliance of Independent Authors

About traditional publishing the blog post also mentions:

This means approaching literary agents with the hope of being contracted and having your book published and then promoted by one of the large publishing houses.

This, of course, is the most difficult and time-consuming method and it will involve sending submissions to a number of agents and then waiting and hoping.

The rejection rate is so high these days that a new author will need a lot of luck. It is not impossible of course, but for new writers, it is not very easy at all.

They also have a list with prices to expect so you can check that to see if it fits what the company has offered you - remember, if it's too good to be true it likely is a scam.

Publishing Companies To Avoid And Nasty New Author Scams mentions a few other possible scams. For example they could ask you to send your work to them for the editing and then simply publish it themselves.

Here’s How To Avoid Being Snared In A Publishing Scam has a list for things to look out for:

  • An agent or publisher unexpectedly inviting you to submit your book. Traditional publishers and literary agents rarely seek out authors.

  • A publisher without a footprint. You should be able to vet a publisher, their staff, and their publications without too much trouble. If a publisher’s only online presence is their website, that’s not a good sign.

  • A one-man show. No one person can provide a full-scale publishing process. Avoid any person claiming to handle production singlehandedly from start to finish.

  • Writing contests without a sizeable online presence. It’s common enough for contests to charge a small entry fee, but you should be wary of a contest that doesn’t boast some kind of online platform or winners from past years. And any contest operator requiring you to assign publishing rights is someone you want to steer clear of.

  • Any publisher saying your book is perfect or guaranteeing you a bestseller.

  • A publisher who pushes you out of the process. Publishers are professionals, so they will have the last word on some decisions, but any publisher that leaves you completely out of the loop is not worth your time or worthy of your trust.

  • A ‘self-publisher’ that takes royalties or makes a claim to your rights. Self-publishing companies make their money up front and give authors 100% of the profits and rights on the finished product. Any company charging you and taking royalties or negotiating for rights on the book is trouble.

Authors Beware: Scams and Publishing Companies to Avoid also mentions that you should be careful about hybrid publishers, which is often a vanity publisher in disguise offering you service while you are paying for them and not caring about the book sales because they are getting their money from you, not from the people that are buying the book in the end.

Reading all of these guides "junk marketing" seems to also be really high up there in the top-ten scams. Even if it's relatively cheap you should check the quality of their marketing. If they are doing effective marketing you should easily be able to check how their marketing looks like and what people think about it.

All in all: this might be genuine, but it reads like it is not. Be careful!

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Rasdashan, I would advise you NEVER to pay a company to publish your book.

No professional agent will ever ask for money. No professional publishing house will ever ask for money.

Publishing houses pay you advances for your work, not the other way around.

And, in these days of print on demand, there's no reason to pay anything upfront when books are printed as and when a customer buys.

If you want a traditional deal with a reputable publishing house, find an agent first and they will find a home for your work, only taking a small percentage of your profits in return.

As you haven't given any "royalty" figures or stated these considerable sums, I will have to generalise here, but even traditionally published authors rarely make back their advances. Which means, if you do it the other way around and advance these people your money, it's unlikely you'll ever get it back, let alone make a profit.

Think about this carefully... have these people even read your book yet? I assume not since one of them didn't even know what your book was. In which case, why do they want to publish it when they have no idea whether or not it will sell or make them or you money?

The answer is... they don't care.

These people just want your money upfront. And once they have it, there's a good chance they'll own world rights to your work and you'll never be able to sell it to a traditional publishing house.

Once you have exhausted every agent, if you find you cannot get representation, you would be much better off investing your money in indie publishing. Mark Dawson does an excellent course (I'm not an affiliate and have no interest in his company) called SPF101. But he also has a lot of free information on YouTube. As does Joanna Penn who is also excellent.

I cannot stress this enough... run! Run like the wind my friend!

  • The second gives 100% of the royalties, the first gives 30% and the third gives whatever is left after the cost of printing the book (400 pages $6.10) and the store fee of 30% if sold through a store. – Rasdashan Mar 18 at 18:52
  • Can I ask you what sums they are asking for upfront? – GGx Mar 18 at 18:59
  • The first ranges from $250 to $1250 depending on how many copies you want and the services you choose. The second comes in at just under $10000 for a full edit and the ‘traditional experience ‘ and the third asks for $1950 – Rasdashan Mar 18 at 19:01
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    $10,000??? There is nothing 'traditional' about fronting that kind of money. These people pray on authors anxious to get their work out there. As for the other two, there are many questions you need to ask before considering a deal: do you get to keep your own rights? Is it sold exclusively on their site or uploaded to Amazon, Apple, Google, Kobo, etc. (these are the retailers your book needs to be in). Are there other books in your genre published by this company that have had major success? ... cont... – GGx Mar 18 at 20:56
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    If you do decide to go ahead, join The Society of Authors and get them to review the contract for you. Do your research before you sign. Good luck! – GGx Mar 18 at 21:00
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I would like to add a personal anecdote that may be helpful. I sent my plot outline and first chapter to a publishing company. They said it was considered at an editorial meeting and had been accepted for publication. They would do various things, including setting up an author website, editing the manuscript, typesetting it (hardly a difficult task now-a-days), etc. However, I had to contribute to the production costs. I thought about it and reckoned that I was prepared to risk a few hundred pounds if they thought the novel was okay. Before agreeing, I looked to see how much other people had been asked to contribute: over £3000.

Firstly, very few first novels make that much profit. Secondly, I could pay for all the services the company was offering for less than a thousand pounds and go truly print-on-demand. It made no sense commercially to use the company. I might believe that my novel is a masterpiece that will achieve mass market success, but the company didn't. They were just out to make money.

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