Today’s virtual world is fraught with danger. From the prince of a faraway country asking for money to complex computer viruses disguised as helpful software, scams and phony programs are everywhere, and the publishing world is no different.
As self-publishing and open access academic journals become more prevalent, there are publishers who have realized that there are many ways to take advantage of inexperienced authors. These writers, taken in by promises of fast publication, may be forced not only to churn out works for the publisher, but will be required to pay in order to become published. Contracts may also force authors to sign over the copyrights to their works, creating a larger profit for the publisher without requiring them to provide editing resources or peer reviews for their writers—to the detriment of the authors’ credibility and reputation. Such self-serving institutions are defined as predatory publishers.
Because there is such a vast array of publishers to be found in today’s online world, discerning which publishers are predatory and which are legitimate can be difficult. Here are a few tips to use when evaluating the legitimacy of a publisher:
- Look at their website. Professional publishers will have a polished website free of grammatical errors or major design flaws. They will also have a clear mission statement and specific genres that they specialize in publishing. Predatory publishers rarely have specific areas of publication and often carry a range of works from a large variety of unrelated topics.
- Watch for transparency. Good publishers are open and honest about their publication process and carry a clear mission statement.
- Research previously published works. To get a grasp of the publisher’s quality, look at a sample of pieces that the company has published. Mistakes regarding spelling or grammar could show a lack of peer reviewed editing.
- Be mindful of fees! Any author’s fees should be clearly explained by the publisher. Hidden fees that appear during the publication process can indicate predatory publishers.
- Check the copyright agreement. If a publisher operates under an Open Access model, make sure they have a Creative Commons or other type of open license in use. Publishers should be clear about what rights the author will have after publication.
Authors are often approached by predatory publishers who offer to publish their work quickly. However, if an author discovers that the journal or publisher is illegitimate, the most effective course of action is to refuse the publication and withdraw their piece as soon as possible to avoid any future negative associations with their work. In the case of finding good publishers, caution and patience are key. While becoming a published author is an exciting accomplishment, we must be sure to arm ourselves effectively against the unfortunate institution of predatory publishing.