Monday afternoon when the siren sounded, Thobeka heaved a long sigh. End of the school day … but so much homework. Teachers really think we’re robots: do this, review that, read this, study that. I haven’t written a story in over a week.

“Thobeka, a moment please.” Mrs Edwards signalled Thobeka to her table.


Mrs Edwards waited until the last learner exited. “Did you join a writing group as I suggested?”

“Nope. Can I go now?”

“One more question.” Mrs Edwards studied Thobeka’s face. “I once met a journalist by the name of Robert Zotwana at an awards ceremony, after years of reading his articles. He knew how to paint word pictures, and he wasn’t afraid of sparking a debate, or upsetting even a politician about the truth. Do you have a relative by that name and occupation? It’s not a common surname, is it?”

Thobeka’s shoulders sagged. “My father.”

Mrs Edwards smiled and nodded. “You’re a lot like him in looks, though more so in fighting spirit. You should read his work.”

Thobeka glared at Mrs Edwards. Just great. Another fan of the ‘awesome’ Robert Zotwana.

“He was a renowned journalist, Thobeka, who valued honesty above all else – not someone’s version of the truth. You should be proud of–”

“Can I please go now, Miss? Tons of homework, you know.”

Mrs Edwards patted Thobeka on the shoulder. “Give the writing group a try. Unlike many of life’s challenges, it’s easier getting out than in.”

* * * * *

After she’d completed her mountain of homework, Thobeka stretched out on her bed and scrolled through the posts in the writing group she’d joined. Wow! These people know the world of writing and publishing ― so many professionally published authors. I didn’t know half the stuff they’re talking about.

She’d sent a post, as Mrs Edwards suggested, about her offer from the publishing company. Within seconds of its approval, the comments flooded in.

Bella Zayne » International Writers Support Group
Hey, guys. I’ve been offered an opportunity to have my book published and I’m super excited, but now they’re asking for money as an investment toward getting my book on the market and with top booksellers. I’ve been told this is a scam, but the company looks legit. How many of you have experienced this, and how did it work out for you? Thanks in advance for sharing. 🙂

Summer Jones commented:
Honey, it’s a scam. That’s a vanity press. There are better ways to get your book published. Check out indie publishing websites, or if you’re married to getting trad published, get an agent first, but don’t hand over any money.

Dan White commented:
It *is* a scam! Run in the other direction!

Rebecca Paeze commented:
As a freelance editor, I know the pitfalls of this industry. The best free advice I can offer, and I’m going to use shouty caps to say it: IF AN AGENT/PUBLISHER EVER OFFERS TO PUBLISH YOUR BOOK, BUT WANTS MONEY FROM YOU FOR *ANY* REASON, RUN. DO NOT WALK – RUN. PUBLISHERS PAY *YOU*. VANITY PRESSES ASK YOU TO PAY THEM.

Emma Souza commented:
RUN !!!

KD Myers commented:
5000 dollars will pay for an editor, cover designer, domain name for your website, and a holiday. AND you keep all your rights!

Elijah Witbooi commented:
Run away! They wanna steal ur money! 🙁

Linay Forrest
Oh sweetie, don’t do it. Happened to me when I was still naïve and dinna know better. :'(  They took my money, pretended they’d marketed my novel and that it bombed. I had to BUY a copy of my own book but that’s not the worst. I got a copy alright – in a ring binder!!!

Austin Delaware commented:
If you self-publish you might pay for an editor and cover designer. Publishing houses pay you. Search Watchdog Lists for dodgy publishers and vanity presses. Best of luck with your novel. 🙂

Suzie Blyde commented:
Run … Run … Run. That’s a scam. For some writing competitions though you might have to pay to enter. That is ok.

You commented on your own post:
They have my manuscript and they’re badgering me for the money. What if they go ahead and publish it? 🙁 

Rebecca Paeze commented:
They won’t. They’re not interested in selling your book; they are only interested in getting their grubby paws on your money. Besides, if you didn’t sign a contract, giving them the rights to your manuscript, they can’t publish it anyway.

Nick Bauer commented:
Send them a nice email stating you’ve decided to explore other options. The emails will stop.

Tears clung to Thobeka’s lashes as she read the comments over and over. There goes my dream: everyone can’t be wrong. Mrs Edwards … thank you … I guess …


Tell us: Have you heard of ‘vanity publishing’? Why is it called this derogatory name?