Friday, 18 July 2008

Subsidy And Cooperative Publishing

It’s easy to understand how naïve writers are sometimes parted from their cash. Times are hard. This we know. So, when a publisher claims that print sales are not what they were, and that most publishers are struggling just to stay afloat, it’s easy to stretch that into believing that publishers could bring out just a few more titles each year if only they could share a little of the upfront investment—in return for which they’d be happy to share the resulting profits.

After all, why should the publisher shoulder all the risk? Shouldn’t the writer invest a little something too? By subsidising the cost of publishing their own book, or by taking part in the cooperative publication of their book, a writer will end up with their book in their hands which wouldn't otherwise have been published.

They will also be several hundreds of pounds poorer, because both these schemes are disguises for vanity presses, and don’t represent any sort of publishing credit. Their books are highly unlikely to be stocked by any real bookshop (online bookshops are another thing entirely). And they’ll be lucky if they sell even a hundred copies in the end.

Writers invest their time in the books that they write, and should not invest their money too. They take their share of the risk when they write their work. It’s a publisher’s job to pay for publication and if none are prepared to buy a particular book, then it’s because the book just isn’t good enough to sell.


Marian Perera said...

I decided to write a blog entry about the ways in which writers justify spending money upfront to see their books in print. Not even the after-the-fact payments common to vanity presses like PA, but an outright request for cash before the book is printed.

I'm at way # 12 and there's more to go. One writer actually claimed that J. K. Rowling was poor until "her later books", and said that this had happened to other commercially published authors. That's the ultimate defense of vanity presses - even if the big publishers sign you up and pay you an advance, you'll be poor unless you pay to have your book printed!

Jane Smith said...

Marian, I dithered about starting this blog because I was worried that I might run out of things to say. But each day brings a new crop of misconceptions, and a new batch of things for me to consider.

You're going to get so many more items for that list (and do add a link to it here, when you're done): only last week I spoke with a writer who had been convinced that her "publisher" wasn't a vanity outfit because her writing was "too good for that". It's heartbreaking. And it goes on and on and on.