One of the due diligence practices I learned in my publishing journey was to research companies before I queried them. Since that was back in pre-internet days, my resources were limited to what I could find in the library, mainly the Writer’s Market and the Literary Marketplace. Through those venerable sources, I learned to be wary of vanity presses and what to look out for.

That doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. It does mean that I’m wary.

With publishing being an unregulated industry, it’s rife with bad actors. Yet aspiring and ambitious authors remain unwary, desperate for validation, I suppose. Recently on two Facebook groups geared toward writers, editors, and publishing, I saw some worrisome posts basically along the lines of “I need X.”

Posts like that serve as blatant invitations to scammers of all sorts.

It’s good to know when you don’t know what you need to know, because many people don’t know what they don’t know. However, an open-ended “I need help” message without any additional qualifying information leaves a person wide open to being exploited.

Because I have a conscience, I make an effort to set folks straight.

Every week (nearly every day), I receive inquiries as to what Hen House Publishing publishes. These inquiries demonstrate laziness. Anyone who sees the company name and is interested in being published should go to the website: On the website under the SERVICES menu, you’ll find what my company does.

I admit, the business’ name is misleading because I don’t publish other author’s books. I publish my books. And I assist authors in their publishing journeys.

You see, when I started the business, I intended to become a small press, a traditional press, not a vanity publisher. However, to quote poet Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” That means what I planned or intended did not come to pass.

I ghostwrite, edit, proofread, and design other authors’ books, but I don’t publish those. I seldom offer cover design. I certainly do not offer marketing. If a client needs assistance in the publishing process, I’ll offer guidance. I do not offer services I don’t do well or cannot perform to a high, professional standard.

What distinguishes Hen House Publishing from hybrid or vanity publishing companies is that I don’t own the copyright and I don’t command a share of the royalties—unless we work out a contract otherwise. I get paid for services rendered, which means I don’t work “on spec.” (Working on spec refers to working for the promise of potential future payment of unknown amount.)

I explain that every day, sometimes several times a day, to authors who fail to exercise their own resourcefulness and check out the company before asking me to publish their books.

That lack of resourcefulness shows up in other ways, too, mainly naivete. Lessons delivered by the school of hard knocks are painful; there are better ways to learn. I suggest you learn from my errors and save yourself some grief. So, if you want to publish your book, do the following:

  1. Research the service(s) you want to hire. Get referrals from people you trust and know what you should expect to pay a professional.
  2. If you want to hire an editor or proofreader, get a sample edit first. A sample edit show you how the editor will treat your manuscript and informs the editor as to the effort needed to whip your manuscript into shape so it’s worth of public consumption.
  3. If you want to hire a book designer, check out the designer’s portfolio of work.
  4. If you want to hire a cover designer, check out the designer’s portfolio of work.

Avoid low-bid vendors. You may find a young professional working to build his or her portfolio and willing to work for a low rate, but most cut-rate vendors deliver substandard service—if they deliver at all.

In the publishing industry, it’s caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

Be careful out there.