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ePublish a Book » Resources, The ePublishing market » Self-Publishers Beware – Analysis of the way some publishing enablers are preying on unwary writers

Self-Publishers Beware – Analysis of the way some publishing enablers are preying on unwary writers

Self-Published Writers Beware

Self-Publishers Beware – Analysis of the way some publishing enablers are preying on unwary writers


As the number of self-publishers is rising, so is the number of scammers or quasi-scammers hitching a ride on the naivety of some aspiring writers.

Below is a brilliant analysis of the way these quasi-scammers operate. Written by a British publisher, with the figures in British pounds, it dissects the many ways, tricks and techniques used by Trafford Publishing to lure unsuspecting self-publishers to their net.

This should be required reading for all would be self-publisher as, in addition to the warning against Trafford Publishing, it gives the tools to identify other such crooks operating under different names.

So, without further ado, let’s plunge into Hasting Press anatomy of a scam directed at self-publishers.



Republished with authorization of Hasting Press


Trafford Publishing’s brochure is a magnificent piece of psychological trickery. They make it sound like they are truly helping you to do yourself and your book some good.  The very words they use cleverly manipulate the emotions and work with the subconscious to lure you into believing that you are getting a lot for your money when in fact you get so little that you could easily do it yourself.
Take, for example, the names of the three different publishing packages they offer: “Legacy” (cheapest), “Entrepreneur” (middle) and “Best Seller”(most expensive).  They could have just called them Packages 1, 2 and 3, but they have spent a lot of time choosing exactly the right words to work on the subconscious: at the very least, you are leaving a “legacy”, one step up and you become an “entrepreneur”.
The third one is a breathtaking piece of psychological manipulation. It almost, but not quite, implies that if you pay them top whack (£1,349), your book will be a “best seller” – a well-known term within the publishing trade. This also implies that if you don’t choose this package, you are selling yourself and your book short.
The “Legacy” package is the one they tout to catch your attention and get you signed up. £499 to publish your book! Doesn’t that sound an absolute bargain? But what do you actually get for that?
• They assign you an ISBN (I bought a hundred ISBNs for £75 or 75p each)
• They lay out a cover to the design you supply, but you only get two hours of the layout person’s time.
• They create a barcode (one printer I use does this free, another charges £35, or you can buy your own barcode maker for less than £40)
• Print out and post to you a bound proof copy of the book (one printer I use does this free, another charges £15)
• Sends you ten copies of your finished book
• They send one copy of your book to the Library and Archives Canada (why Canada? – see below)
Notice that for your £499 they do NOT do anything else that needs to be done to a book before and after printing, such as proofreading, typesetting, writing a blurb, giving you a webpage,  or ANY marketing or publicity whatsoever.
So, an ISBN worth 75p, eleven books that cost them about £11 to print (estimating print costs @£1 a book – remember, Trafford is a PRINTING company; they don’t have  to pay retail for printing your books!) and a barcode which, in the worst-case scenario, you might have had to pay £35 for but costs them pennies. Postage for the proof – about £1
Cost to Trafford: about £13, and less than 8 hours’ work, for which you are charged £499. Still sound like a bargain?
What happens next?
• Once your book is ready for publication, Trafford will print you as many copies as you like, but there is a £7.50 “fine” for ordering fewer than 50 books.
• Trafford charge you per book  – plus you have to pay for them to be shipped over from Canada!
If, like many people, you don’t have the skills to typeset your book, you will inevitably opt for the next-up package, the “Legacy Plus”, which costs a further £350. For this, Trafford will also scan your artwork, typeset the book and the cover, do up to two hours of corrections and   send you a second proof.
The £499 you intended to spend has become £849. And still the world will not know anything about your book or where to buy it.
So, you need to go up one more step. You’re busy, or you don’t have the skills to make a website (besides which, that costs thousands doesn’t it?) so you let Trafford gives you a standard-format  page on their website, from which people can order your book. They also give you another 20 books (which I imagine costs them about £20). For this, Trafford charges an additional £250.
Your book’s page is buried deep within their site, and your book is not mentioned at all on the front  page of their site, but to make up for it, they run 150 bookmarks and 50 postcards off their printing press for you to give out to your family and friends. Trafford call these “sales tools that really work”.
Best seller
This is the top-of-the-range, super-deluxe service offered by Trafford.  For an additional £250 above the Entrepreneur price you get these extras:
• 300 bookmarks, 100 postcards, 10 posters.
• An email sent to their media contacts.
• A booklet with some marketing ideas.
• They fill in a few forms to inform the book trade of your book’s existence.
• They submit your webpage to search engines Yahoo and Google. There is no need to do this: search engines catalogue everything themselves by sending out ‘spiders’ to collect  new info. I have never submitted anything to a search engine, yet every book I publish comes top of the list from a Google search.
Note that, even though you have now parted with £1,349 they still don’t proofread or edit your book, or place it in bookshops, organise launches or anything else.
• Firstly, they charge you for printing the book, so they make the usual commercial printer’s profit on that (plus they overcharge – see below).
• Secondly, they take 25% of the income from selling a book via your webpage on their site.
• Thirdly, they take 40% of what is left.
If your 160-page book retails at £9.99. Traffords charges you £3.94 to print it, £2.50 commission for selling it and snatches 40% of what is left (£1.42) for no  reason. They give you the 60% (which they boast of as a really generous “royalty”.) This amounts to £2.13. Yep – you get £2.13 per book sold via their website and they get £7.87. From this, they have printing costs of about £1 per book, so their profit is £6.87 per book sold at £9.99.
If your book sells via a bookshop the outlook is even bleaker: a bookshop will take £4 commission, leaving you with £1.23 and Trafford with  82p +£3.94 – £1 =£3.76. It is not, therefore, in Trafford’s interest for you to sell via bookshops,  as Trafford makes £3.11 less per book than if was sold on their website.
Not that there is much likelihood of bookshop orders. Trafford leave you to do all the publicity and promotion. If you don’t, they don’t care;  they have your money in their pockets up front. If you do, they sit back and take £7.87 from each book you sell at £9.99.  Thus, you are working for Trafford, when the original deal was, they were supposed to be working for you!
Trafford also overcharges on the printing: print on demand book printer ARL charges £71 setup fee for a 160-page book  (including a proof copy)thence £2.40 per copy. Trafford charges £3.82 for the same book.  ARL does not fine you for having fewer than 50 books printed. ARL posts the books from UK not Canada and their courier charges £15 for a carton of up to about 35 books. ARL charges you £12.50 if you want to alter something after seeing the proof and doesn’t make you have another  proof printed afterwards. Trafford charges £32 to make an alteration and force yous to have another proof printed at a cost of £12.
Every book has to be proofread and most could benefit from editing, but Trafford won’t do this for you (it’s too much like hard work).  Instead they display a list of freelancers who you can pay. These freelancers have to pay £50 to Trafford for every job they do for one of “their” authors.  This, of course, is added to their charges and Trafford makes another £50 out of you, this time for doing absolutely nothing at all.
Trafford’s growth last year (2005) was an astounding 3,500%, making it the fifth most profitable company in Canada. ( In 1999 the company made a profit of 262,000 Canadian dollars;  in 2004 this was 9.5 million. Great news if you are a shareholder, but remember, if you are an author employing them to publish your book, that profit comes from YOU.
Misleading text
Trafford says in their brochure that “in the past” a self-publishing author would need to deal with “Sales promotions, announcements, advertising, seeking publicity – it could all be overwhelming.”  This implies that Trafford are taking all this off your hands (otherwise, why mention it?) but doesn’t actually say that they will. In fact, they do none of those things.
Illiterate and repulsive stablemates
I’ve looked at some Trafford books and seen some astoundingly illiterate excerpts on their website. Laughably typeset and chock-full of errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar and layout.
On an even more unpleasant note, Trafford claim that they exclude books which are “inciting violence, hate literature or pornography”, and yet one book on their website is pure pornography from start to finish, and, worse,  it graphically portrays a woman being sexually abused, damaged and bleeding from vicious penetration by a man who “chuckles” (author’s word) at her pain: “He ripped her open, laughing at her screams.” Another, by the same author, insults rape victims by claiming that they are gold-diggers  who prey on poor, vulnerable men by having sex with them and “crying rape” for financial gain. I call that “hate literature”.
Publication in Canada
Even though you deal with their Oxford office: “We are proud to announce that our UK office has relocated to one of the world’s great literary hotspots …  It is our hope that Oxford’s history of literary inspiration will provide the perfect backdrop for authors” –  your book is registered and printed only in Canada and it is from there that you have to pay for shipping of all your books.

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3 Responses to "Self-Publishers Beware – Analysis of the way some publishing enablers are preying on unwary writers"

  1. Amanda Taylor says:

    Trafford Publishing is basically just one piece of a grander scheme that rips off authors. They are in the same bushel basket as Xlibris, iUniverse, AuthorHouse etc in the same sadistic family that calls themselves Author Solutions, and they are in turn owned by Bertram Capital. I’ll be doing a post later on. AS is causing havoc in the US and it seems in the UK as well!

  2. John says:

    I notice the bulk of this article was written in either 2005/2006.

    It’s clear that Trafford have gone from strength to strength – their website is much slicker than implied in this article and they do now offer many of the services that this article says it does not.

    While it is clear it is still effectively a vanity press operation, other than “you have been warned” – I’m not sure what the benefit of posting a 7yr old article (i.e. “Trafford’s growth last year (2005) was an astounding 3,500%”) is.

    Ho hum…

  3. Doris says:

    Thanks for posting this Patricia. Hope it is read allover the internet and saves as many authors as possible from falling into this trap.

    Will re-post it for sure and spread the word.


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