PROCEED WITH CAUTION From time to time, you may receive a letter from a company whose name may, or may not, sound familiar. The letter may start with language like, "You've been referred to me by one of my many sources as being a talented songwriter" or "You're a writer who wants to be published and I'm a publisher looking for talented new writers."

Generally, these letters ask you to send your original works to a post office box or a suite number to be reviewed by their qualified staff and there is no mention of money required. If you respond to such a letter, the company will often write back that you have alot of talent and they want to publish, produce or record your work, whichever is applicable, but first you must send $39.00, or a similar amount, to help defray costs.

BE CAREFUL. Even if the company's letters look personal, there are some very sophisticated form letters floating around which are nothing more than a pitch for money.

Don't think that all of the so-called "vanity" publishers are fraudulent. Some are very reputable small companies that cannot bear the full cost of publication and distribution. If you are unsure whether the publisher actually believes in your work and will publish it properly, or if you will simply lose your money or your work, or both, there are a number of things you can do to help you ascertain whether the publisher, or other company, is reputable before you send money and/or a signed contract.

  1. Does the company have a phone number and, if so, is there a live person at the other end of the line or just an answering machine or service?
  2. Ask for references and contact those references to find out how they were treated by the company. Hopefully, the references are legitimate and do not work for the company.
  3. Ask what works have actually been published and sold, and where can you buy them. Try to obtain a product of the company to see if it exists and to check the qualty.
  4. Be suspicious of any company that guarantees SUCCESS.
  5. Call the Better Business Bureau and/or the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts for the area where the company is located and ask if there have been any complaints against it.
  6. If you have an actual address for the company, as opposed to a P.O. Box, try to find the company in person or have a friend in the area do it. If no one is ever at the address, then it may be a front or just a place to pickup the mailed checks.

First Published Version copyright 1990 David M. Spatt


WRITERS BEWARE It has come to the attention of this writer that a growing number of so-called literary agents are soliciting prospective clients if the client pays a reading fee. While it is true that some legitimate agents do charge a reading fee, beware of the agency that goes out of its way to solicit new writers only for the purpose of obtaining those fees. When in doubt, ask for references and a list of recent sales which you can confirm.

First Published Version, copyright 1991 David M. Spatt


THIS WEBSITE CANNOT BE USED AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR SOUND LEGAL ADVICE FROM A COMPETENT ARTS OR ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY. In the event of a legal problem or question, specific legal consultation is advised. This website is intended only as a means of educating arts organizations and artists of all disciplines as to their potential legal rights and liabilities. The information provided is made available with the understanding that neither OSLA nor the office of David M. Spatt is engaging in the rendering of legal counsel.

copyright 1997 David M. Spatt, All rights reserved

Reproduction is prohibited without the express written consent of the author