Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vanity Press/Publisher

Way back when, when I first decided I wanted to be a writer, someone said something very interesting to me. It was something I'd never heard of before, and was really shocked to hear it then -

"It's costs a lot to get a book published, you know."

Now, I was about 17 or so at the time, and though I would find I had a lot to learn about publishing, the thought of having to pay to have a book published never really crossed my mind. Isn't it the other way around? That's what I thought, but hey - I was 17 and still had a lot to learn...

Well, fast forward x amount of years and I do know better. No. You don't pay to have Avon or Harlequin or Kensington publish your book. You write a great manuscript, and they pay you.

When it costs you to have a book published, you've been published by a vanity press (publisher). Plain and simple. Or, if your book comes out in one format (i.e. -electronic) and there's a setup fee for a print copy of that same book - that's a subsidy publisher. Any time your money flow toward the publisher, you are paying to play and that's vanity publication.

Now, that's not to say it's wrong. In certain situations, for certain niches, vanity publishing is perfectly acceptable. Maybe you wrote a family history and want to give it out in book form at the upcoming family reunion. Well, vanity publishing is fine in this case.

But, if you're a serious writer, hoping to have a career in the field, don't confuse it with commercial publishing. Agents and editors do not consider a vanity publication to count as a legitimate writing credit. A vanity-published book will not gain you entrance into certain writers' organizations - or, might exclude you from the published author factor of certain organizations (such as RWA's PAN - Published Author Network.)

In fact, depending on what vanity publisher you use **coughcough** PublishAmerica **coughcough** , it could, in fact, hurt you. Hurt your credibility as writer. And that's because certain vanity publishers try to give the impression that they are a traditional publisher (which, in fact, was a term that never even existed until a certain vanity publisher - see above mentioned coughs - coined it).

So, bottom line is, if you aren't serious about a writing career, or your book's target audience is so limited that is isn't commercially viable (but not necessarily a bad book, per se) a vanity publisher may be the way to go. But, if you are serious about a writing career, remember this one golden rule, courtesy author James MacDonald - "Money flows toward the writer. Not the other way around."


NarelleB said...

I second (and third) that.

Marian said...

There should be a checklist of some sort, along these lines.

"I have written a book, but... (please tick all that apply)

___ I want it published soon.
___ I just want a few copies for my family and friends.
___ I am not interested in selling it or making money.
___ I don't plan on writing another or having a career in writing.
___ I want it published very soon.
___ I don't want anyone making any changes to it.
___ I don't want to go through the stress of rejection letters.
___ I distrust agents, editors and the publishing industry in general.
___ I want it published NOW.
___ I am not a writer.

If you have ticked one to four of the above, a vanity press may be the best for you. If you have ticked five or more, there's this nice little company in Maryland..."

Angela said...

Good post. I am amazed still and how many people out there are not imformed enough to understand the difference between traditional and self publishing. Worse are the ones who post on writer's sites, thrilled how Publish America has accepted their book and it was the first time they ever submitted a manuscript, can you believe it?

Ugh. Just a small amount of research would save so much heartache. I like seeing posts about this on blogs, because it increases the chances that people will be more informed before sending off work, and who they send it to.

Kim said...

I love the idea of a checklist - who knows how many people it might save from the cesspool of PA. =)

Marian said...

Well, I've added an expanded version of the checklist to my blog! Deals with commercial publication, good vanity presses like Lulu and then the scum like PA.