Vanity publishing is dead. Crappy publishing isn’t.

30 years ago, there were only two ways to get your book published: one, by a trade publisher like Random House or Penguin and two, by a vanity publisher. Books in those days could only be produced in printed form and could only be sold in bookshops or, in the case of a vanity published book, by the author direct.

vanity publishing versus professional self publishing

It’s not hard to tell the difference between a professionally produced book, and a crappy one

Many people today believe that anything other than traditional trade publishing is vanity publishing.

But it’s not. Truthfully.

The internet and digital technology have turned the entire book publishing world upside down and opened up a number of new options not only in how to produce a book, but also in how and where to sell it. [Read more…]

Vanity publishing: mirror, mirror, on the wall…

Nearly everyone has heard about – and laughed at – “vanity publishing,” but amazingly enough these companies are still around, osmosing money from unwitting wannabee authors, like the bottom-feeding pond life they are.

Vanity publishing: mirror, mirror, on the wallEssentially they flatter you into parting with a large sum of money in exchange for which they “publish” your book. Because usually they’re glorified jobbing printers they put your text straight out as it comes in with no editing or checking, print it up, bind the books and deliver them to you in boxes, leaving you to do whatever you want with them. Promises of marketing and distribution are seldom fulfilled. Needless to say this is an expensive and usually disappointing way to publish your book, unless you’re not short of cash and want an ego-trip.

The latest incarnation of vanity publishing is particularly clever, and downright cruel to newbie authors who have a treasured novel in a drawer. Just for fun I investigated one of these publishers and to all intents and purposes, the initial phases of negotiation were just as you would expect from a conventional publisher. I had to submit proposals with three sample chapters; after several weeks I received an email from them saying that they were now passing my proposals on to their chief editor.

Another few weeks and I got a letter saying that the chief editor believed my stuff showed promise although I would have to do more work on the book, that I would be expected to make a “small contribution” towards the cost of the book’s production, and please would I telephone her to discuss this in more detail.

Aha, here we go, harsh truth coming up…

I had smelled a rat some time before, but the “small contribution” really set the alarm off. I dialed the number and the phone was answered by a woman with a growling voice like an 80-year-old pipe smoker … “yes, this is she.” We skittered around the subject for a few minutes and eventually I thought, let’s not waste any more time here, so asked what she meant by the “small contribution.”

Well of course, as publishers we invest at least £10,000 pounds in producing a new book and getting it out to the markets,” she rumbled, “and all we would ask from you is just £2,600.

(Nearly $4,000 US.) That was for a print run of a few hundred paperback copies…

What really irked me about this obvious vanity publishing scam was the way that they used conventional publishing techniques at first, to get me on the hook. Less cynical authors could well find the early part of the process really gratifying – “oh, at long last someone thinks my book is good enough to publish” – and once they eventually get to the crunch point where money changes hands, they’re too emotionally committed to the project to back out.

Needless to say I had no hesitation in backing out, and took pleasure in telling the old foghorn what I thought of her business practice.

So be warned. Even in our current era of massive opportunities for low-cost self-publishing in book print and eBook formats, these vultures are still lurking and I’m sure are thinking up new ways to scam gullible authors even as I write this.

Have you come across these scamsters? How did they try to get you “on the hook?” Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.

Turn your writing from “vanity” into “sanity” …

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“How To Write Winning Non-fiction”…all you need to know to write a good non-fiction book and get it published

photo credit: Helga Weber via photopin cc

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