Writing a book is no picnic, but getting it published… that's the hard part. Dorrance Publishing would like to make it easier, but according to some, they're a scam.
In this review, we'll explore that question (is Dorrance Publishing a scam?), because let's face it… making money while working from home may be a dream for many, but if you're an aspiring writer, you'll know what I mean when I say it's something more. You might even call it a need.
Please note, I am not affiliated with Dorrance Publishing in any way. This review has been researched with information and testimonials that are available online in the public domain. Any conclusions drawn by myself are opinions. more info
As with any company, there are both positive and negative experiences and comments. Dorrance is no different. There are always two sides to every story. I encourage you to continue your research beyond this review and not take any negative comments as absolute. It would not be fair to Dorrance nor you to base your decision on one person's opinion.
What Is Dorrance Publishing?
Dorrance Publishing is a self-publishing service provider, founded in 1920 by Gordan Dorrance. They are one of (if not the) oldest existing companies of their kind.
They also operate under alternate business names such as I-Proclaim Books, Red Lead Press, Rose Dog Books, and Whitmore Publishing Company.
Dorrance has often been called a vanity publisher. Vanity publishers are known for their indifferent (or liberal) approach to submissions, high-costs and limited promotion (unless the author pays for it). Vanity publishers are also known to claim rights over the authors work.
An alternative to vanity publishing, is self-publishing… in which the author maintains control of the copyright, editorial and publishing processes.
Whether Dorrance is considered a vanity publisher, or a self-publisher, is not clear. Although you (the author) do maintain some control of your work, Dorrance's right to distribute your book could use some clarity.
I’ll come back to that in a moment.
Getting Paid To Write
You probably write because you love writing, not because you love money. But the need for money is the biggest obstacle that prevents most writers from doing what they love, writing.
While publishers like Dorrance make it much easier to turn your ideas into an actual book you can hold, they don't solve the biggest problem most writers have…
… earning a living while they write their book.
Dorrance does offer some promotional services which are helpful once your book is complete and I'll discuss those further below, but before you can take advantage of them, you need a completed manuscript and the available finances.
It's frustrating. You're passionate about writing, and you're passionate about the things you're writing about. But you still have to pay for a roof over your head, right?
If you're like most writers, your best hours are spent at a job you don't like so you can afford to live. Why not combine them?
Combine your love of writing with making money, I mean.
That's the problem I faced, and I get it…
Writing a book, getting it published, and having it make money is a massive project that takes years. It's a big swing and a miss for most. If you're one of the few… you hit it out of the park and begin your writing career.
But it's a big risk. It's a lot of time to invest and in 2014 with a couple novels on the go I decided I couldn't take that risk. It was my dream to earn a living while writing… I had to diversify.
I was pinning my hopes of being a successful writer on a couple big projects which were taking forever to finish… so I turned to blogging as a solution.
My novels still get attention, but in the meantime blogging has been a much quicker path to becoming a paid writer. It's different for sure, but as a writer, you deserve to be paid for your talent.
That doesn't mean Dorrance isn't a valid option, it's just about timing and what's right for you.
Blogging is also a way to connect with other writers and learn about digital publishing and marketing strategies which are critical today to becoming a successful writer.
And for a little fun (hey, we all need a break every now and then) you can also make some money online by doing simple surveys.
Inbox Dollars even pays you for doing things you may do online online anyway, like watching videos, visiting websites, and playing games.
Of course, you don't want those things to interfere too much with writing, but it's a great way to get outside of your head for a moment. Another strategy I plan to write a blog post about is how writers can use Uber to combine writing with making money.
For example, I like writing in my car. I did outside sales for many years and my car is a comfort zone. So I set myself up with Uber and whenever I decide I need a short break, I can turn on the Uber app and make a few bucks.
And to be honest, with a family, I'm a more productive writer when I get out of the house for a few hours.
Anyway, I went off on a tangent there, but that's what we writers do… we write 😀
Alright, enough said about that…
Now, onto another question I'm sure you're curious about.
Is Dorrance Publishing A Scam?
So… is Dorrance Publishing a scam? To fully understand why you might think it is, you'll want to read this section to the end.
Having started in 1920, just after the first World War… Dorrance Publishing was a secret government program whose purpose was to gather and investigate literary works of the era to determine political affiliations and religious beliefs.
Today, social media has replaced Dorrance Publishing as the preferred method of spying on citizens, but Dorrance Publishing is still relevant in gathering information regarding foreign agendas of specific fringe groups. Is that a scam?
Well… if it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. 😀
I'm sorry… everyone likes a good conspiracy and as a writer, a little drama to make an otherwise emotionless review come alive is always fun.
I hope you don't mind.
In all seriousness though, Dorrance Publishing is NOT a scam, no. In fact, with nearly 100 years of publishing history, I was surprised that people were even calling them a scam.
An aggressive quest for profit has certainly caused some clients to feel as though they’ve been ripped off… but I’m not sure that’s enough to call Dorrance Publishing a scam.
And to be fair, saying an aggressive quest for profit is also subjective because we don't know what their actual costs are.
For example, below is a complaint from an author stating he had been “taken by” Dorrance Publishing.
Dorrance's responded to the complaint (excerpt below).
“The fee for these services is based on the number of hours of work required of the writing coach, not the number of manuscript pages. We do our best to estimate what would best suit each author's…needs. Unfortunately, it seems that Mr. *********'s manuscript required much more work than we originally thought, and the original writing coach hours he had purchased were only able to cover a portion of his manuscript.”
The takeaway here is not that Dorrance Publishing is a scam, but that due diligence is required up front when working with them. We don’t know the facts about this complaint, and it’s entirely possible that the client is at fault.
Having said that, it's never a good idea to rely only on verbal communication. If you need clarification about something, request the information via email. You could potentially be spending ten to twenty thousand dollars or more, so make sure you have written records of all correspondence along the way.
I've also shared some examples of positive reviews which are found a little further down the page.
Additional Cause for Suspicion
Returning to the topic of vanity book publishing and self-publishing, there is another reason people are suspicious of Dorrance and ask if they are a scam?
They don’t provide pricing or contractual information on their website so you don’t know what you’re getting into. There's a sense of secrecy here. I'm not saying that's their intent. It could simply be an oversite.
Unlike several other book publishers though, Dorrance does not provide a copy of their agreement or author contract online… and it’s absolutely critical that these legal details are spelled out “before” you send Dorrance Publishing your manuscript in my opinion. Not after.
Using what might be considered old school sales tactics, Dorrance only provides an online form that asks for your phone number and best time to call.
There’s nothing wrong that, but people today are accustomed to going online and finding out what they need to know.
They don’t want to get on the phone with a publishing services consultant who may also be a salesperson.
There’s no reason Dorrance can’t provide base package pricing, confirm “copyright details” and explain their ISBN (International Standard Book Number) allocation policy.
That is, unless they have something to hide.
According to The Independent Publishing Magazine, when allocating the ISBN, Dorrance registers themselves as the publisher of origin. And, since the ISBN number is required to sell your book online and in bookstores, it’s reasonable to assume Dorrance Publishing will control the distribution rights.
This may never be an issue if your book only sells a few copies.
But, if it were a best seller with big screen potential and spin offs… do you want Dorrance Publishing to own the distribution rights? The content may be yours, but if your book has to go through Dorrance first, you’ll be paying them for every copy sold.
If you were self-publishing, you would pay for your book to be printed and it would be yours. No strings attached.
According to the Dorrance Publishing website, you are only locked into a 2-year contract. Fair enough… but again, they provide no legal documents up front indicating the specifics of that contract. Or what they release when the contract expires.
And I'm sure if they knew they had a best-seller on their hands they wouldn't be so eager to let it go.
It just feels a little deceptive in my opinion. I'm NOT saying they're being deceptive, it would just be helpful if Dorrance made their intentions clear up front and fewer people would question if they're a scam.
To be clear, I'm not trying to discourage you from working with Dorrance, but to protect yourself, I am recommending that you be thorough and review all contracts as well as document everything before you sign any papers.
In a proper transaction where both parties benefit, your due diligence should benefit both you and Dorrance.
How Does Self-Publishing With Dorrance Work?
Becoming a published author is the dream of many (myself included). Who doesn't want their name on a book cover? So… copyright details aside, getting started with Dorrance Publishing begins with a simple form.
This will put you in touch with a project coordinator (on the phone) who will eventually become familiar with your book (from first draft to final copy).
Before that point, however, they will review your manuscript and present you with publishing options and additional services.
Prices per package can range from a few thousand, to twenty thousand and even more.
They do offer a payment plan, but your book is not released until everything is paid. In other words, you can't use the sale of your book to pay Dorrance Publishing back.
From details such as book style, paper sizes, and binding type, to secondary services such as promotion and distribution… the price can escalate quickly.
To their credit, Dorrance says up front that “you should proceed with Dorrance because you want to see your work in print, not because of expectation of sales. Typically, self-published books do not earn enough from sales to recoup the expense of publishing.”
Here are some more specific services they provide.
- Basic (or mechanical) editing only, which includes spelling, punctuation and some grammar. They do not review plot points, continuity errors, character development, motivations, etc.
- Produce both hard copies, and e-book versions.
- Cover Design
- Copyright Registration
- Assign an LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number) and ISBN.
- Prepare a press kit which includes a publicity release, hi-res cover and synopsis.
- Notify Booksellers your book is available.
- Submit your book to the Bibliography Tool for Libraries and Sellers.
- Prepare a Google Adwords campaign.
- Submit your listing to the Dorrance and Amazon bookstore
- They will process and ship orders that have been purchased either from the Dorrance bookstore, as well as third party sellers such as Amazon, Ingram Lightning and Baker & Taylor.
- Merchandising to local areas where you (the author) are actively promoting.
If you’re still in the research phase and not ready to have a manuscript published, there are other options to making money from home.
Publishing Terms and Fees
As mentioned earlier, complete package pricing is difficult to determine.
However there are some fixed costs that Dorrance publishes on their website.
Royalties on printed books sold through Dorrance Publishing’s bookstore are 40%. On E-Books sold through Dorrance the royalties are 80%.
When sold through a third party such as Amazon, the royalties paid for printed books are 20%, and 40% for E-books.
Dorrance decides the retail price, and you are locked into a 2-year contract.
It's also important to point out that, although it would be nice if they published base package pricing so you at least have a rough idea where the price begins, the final cost will require you to provide more details.
How much should you expect to pay?
This is Dorrance's answer that question…
Correct me if I'm wrong, but what they're saying is that they need to see your manuscript to determine things like binding type required, page size and number of illustrations before they can give you a price.
Of course that makes sense, they need to know what their costs will be before they can give you your cost.
I guess what I'm curious about though (and again, correct me if I'm wrong), I'm not sure why they need to see your manuscript to determine those things.
Word counts, page counts, number of illustrations, available binding options and page sizes are all things that can be discussed on a phone or through email… and as long the information you give them is accurate, I don't see why they couldn't give you a pretty close estimate of your cost before you send them your manuscript.
Maybe there's something I'm missing here though, and my apologies if I am.
Dorrance Complaints and Reviews
If you dream of becoming an author, but don’t have an agreement with a traditional publishing house, self-publishing is an option. But… it’s not cheap and as Dorrance states on their website, it'll be difficult to recoup those cost, never mind making a profit.
Most of the complaints online regarding cost are not about the total cost. Usually, the complaint is because someone was unable to keep up with their payments, so their book ends up trapped in publishing purgatory.
Not Ready to Be Published
Another complaint you will find is from authors who have had books published with errors. Certainly, if you’re paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to have your book published… it should at least be error free.
In addition to the complaint discussed earlier (about Dorrance “taking” an author by asking for additional money post-contract)… a similar complaint was posted by another author.
In this instance , the claim is that the original contract included promotion, but when the book was published, Dorrance said they required more money stating that promotional services were not part of the original contract.
Again, it’s an absolute must that you get everything you need in writing so you’re not debating it after the fact.
I should also make my opinion clear. Dorrance Publishing has been around longer than any of us (unless you're approaching 100). We don't have those original contracts to validate these claims, so we also can't accuse Dorrance of any wrongdoing here.
It’s absolutely possible the authors of both complaints mentioned above are at fault for misunderstanding the terms. Dorrance has responded to both complaints offering their version of the contract.
In other words, these are simply complaints, not judgments. In my opinion, this was probably a misinterpretation of the contract, rather than a breach of contract.
Poor Customer Service
Like some of the other complaints, these are also subjective. Clients whose calls were never returned for example, or refunds that were not given, and so on…
If you review the complaints on the Better Business Bureau website one thing you'll notice, as I mentioned a moment ago, is that Dorrance Publishing’s has responded to those complaints. Whether or not it’s what the client wanted to hear, I can’t say. But at least their complaints were not ignored.
As I made note of in the beginning of this review, every company gets positive and negative feedback and there are always two sides to a story. I don't want to give the impression that every review is negative and that every customer has a complaint, because that's not true.
There are many positive reviews about Dorrance as well. Here are a few examples take from the BBB website.
What I Like About Dorrance Publishing
- As someone who loves to write (and has a couple novels far too long in progress 😀 ), I like that Dorrance offers an alternative method of getting published for those who haven’t yet been noticed by traditional publishing houses. It’s a dream for so many to become a published author, and if money is not an issue, companies like Dorrance can fulfill that dream.
- Although it'll cost a pretty penny, Dorrance does offer a wide range of services. They don’t simply print your book, hand you the number of copies you paid for, and say goodbye.
- They’ve been around for almost a century. Despite the complaints and scam accusations, they must be doing something right to survive 100 years.
What I Don’t Like
- The high cost. In some cases, authors have reported 20 to 30 thousand dollars for services. Twenty years ago, these prices may have made sense. But today, with digital distribution and on-demand printing, they're difficult to justify. In fact, you could outsource your editing and cover design, and publish your book on Kindle for next to nothing.
- The number of complaints against Dorrance. Of course, they may not be responsible for all of those complaints… but where there's smoke, there's often fire. Certainly, some of those complaints and negative reviews could be legitimate. Not all, but perhaps some.
- I don’t like the secrecy. I don’t see why they can’t publish their terms online, as well as provide base package pricing so authors at least have an idea what’s involved.
To be honest, I’m not sure Dorrance has kept up with the times. It’s possible, like record stores… that Dorrance becomes completely irrelevant over the next 5-10 years (maybe less).
Not only can individuals self-publish on platforms such as Kindle, but with companies like Uber and AirBNB showing us how disruptive technology can be to traditional businesses, it’s almost certain that old school publishing houses will soon have their backs against the wall (if they don’t already)
Finally, I must revisit the topic of cost. Dorrance Publishing is definitely not a scam, but before you send in your manuscript it would be nice to have a rough idea of how much you're spending.
According to some other authors, it can be well into the thousands.
That's definitely too rich for my blood. At least when you compare it to the digital options that are available today. But I get it. Having your name on a real book you can hold is special, and just because I find it a little pricey doesn't mean you will.
One option might be to publish it digitally first and see what kind of response you get. You can promote it using online marketing strategies and if people like it, using a publisher like Dorrance is easier to justify financially.
Writing and Earning a Living Online
Earning a living as a successful author, in many ways, has never been easier. Writers can now publish and promote their work online. It's a game-changer for everyone and opens you up to dozens of new opportunities. Why limit yourself to a single product or book?
To truly build multiple streams of passive income and a future you love, online marketing shouldn't be overlooked. It's not just about selling. It's about building a fan base and your own distribution network so you can share your work directly. Imagine the possibilities.
Finding a legit system with all the scams out there though, can be a pain. I spent many months testing different training programs. My top recommendation is Wealthy Affiliate but fair warning… it's not a get-rich-quick scheme or make-money “system”. It's an educational platform that requires time and effort (but I don't know any writer who's afraid of time and effort?)
I hope my Dorrance Publishing review was helpful, and if you have any comments, questions, or even a mini-review of your own… please share in the comments section below. 😀