Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Vanity Publishing In Disguise

Vanity presses masquerade as legitimate commercial publishers and encourage misconceptions about how they operate. Here are just a few that I’ve read this week.

“This has to be a legitimate publisher: their books are available from Amazon!”

So are Atlanta Nights and Crack of Death, both sting manuscripts written to prove that Publish America will accept pretty much anything for publication. Amazon (and other online book sellers) will list any book with an ISBN, so a presence there doesn’t mean much. The biggie for a good publisher is getting books onto the shelves in book shops nationwide so that people can see the book and perhaps read a few pages before they buy—and that depends on the publisher having a proper distribution deal in place.

“I did see a remark about limited stock, which indicates small print runs.”

It also indicates a classic sales ploy—“buy them quick before stock runs out”. I bet these books are POD.

“You can't expect a publisher to take all the risk these days, you have to share the cost.”

Why should a writer risk their money as well as the time that they've already invested in the book? Publishers invest money in publishing knowing that they're pretty likely to make money for themselves and their writers. Vanity publishers take your money and in return print up a couple of copies of your book. They're in profit from the moment you send in your cheque. Just where is the risk for them?

“But even if it is a dodgy outfit, it’s a publication.”

Better to not be published at all than published badly. If this is a nasty outfit the taste of it could follow you round for years.


Anonymous said...

This is very useful information that every would-be published writer should take on board. For one of my many book-related jobs, I have to decide whether a small publisher I have been told about is a conventional publisher, albeit small or a vanity/POD organisation. The dividing line is very narrow but I always look to see where the money comes from and whether the firm has a bone fide distributor.

It was easier when I worked for a famous chain of booksellers. If the publisher had four asterisks against their name it was code for. 'do not deal with them even if a customer asks because they don't offer sale-or-return and don't give discounts.' In other words, they aren't 'proper' publishers.

Jane Smith said...

Sally, thanks for that. If only the big bookstores would make public the list of publishers which they won't buy from: it might save a lot of writers from making a horrible mistake.