Every wary writer will have heard of vanity publishing. It occupies the shadier side of the publishing business, and involves less-than-scrupulous publishers charging writers for publication. In vanity publication, the quality of the work is never considered, just the willingness and ability of the writers concerned to hand over large chunks of their cash. The books are often shoddily produced and rarely make any decent level of sales: the good writing is published alongside the bad, and while the vanity publishers make money out of the deal, the writers almost never do.
Jonathon Clifford came up with the term of "vanity publishing" a few decades ago, and has worked ever since to expose the truth about vanity publishing. He's written numerous articles about vanity publishing for the mainstream press, and is widely acknowledged as the primary expert on this nasty subject.
My thanks to him for this post.
As an aspiring author it isn’t writing your book that is the problem, it is when (without guidance) you come to search for a publisher that you risk being ensnared by those determined to take your money while giving you little or nothing in return.
So who am I to offer you guidance?
For eighteen years I have carried out a one-man campaign to clean up the world of vanity publishing. During that time I have been sent copies of hundreds of their promotional letters, editorial reports, quotations and contracts. Through this material it has been proved to the satisfaction of the courts that many vanity publishers are guilty of “gross misrepresentation of their services”. As a result many authors have—with my advice—successfully sued the vanity publisher with whom they had become embroiled.
In 1996 I was invited to our House of Lords for lunch to speak about the need to change the law to control vanity publishing. Fifty-eight Members of Parliament answered my call for support, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the law had been sufficiently altered to allow those bodies who wished to take action against dishonest vanity publishers. In 2000 I organised an Awareness Campaign backed by a website and free advice pack (which may be freely downloaded from my website) giving advice on Finding a Mainstream Publisher, Internet Publishing, the Market for Short Stories, Self-Publishing, Copy Editing, Proof Reading and Vanity Publishing
I have also made programmes for both regional and national BBC and Commercial TV, have taken part in a host of national and regional radio programmes and there have been articles about my work in magazines and newspapers both in the UK and around the world.
How (very easily) can you be taken in?
You find an advertisement in a newspaper or magazine which asks for manuscripts to be submitted. You send off yours and it is ‘accepted’.
But you do not appreciate that almost anyone who submits anything gets it accepted and, in the euphoria of that ‘acceptance’, your brain goes out of the window! You do not see the £ sign followed by the noughts. You fail to remember (if you ever knew) that the only publishers who ever advertise for authors are vanity publishers who are there to make money out of the unsuspecting author, not from the sale of copies of the books they publish - for once they have received your final payment they have all the money they are going to make out of you and promotion and marketing would cost some of it.
Along with the ‘acceptance’ of your manuscript you must also wary of two other phrases: ‘Print-on-Demand’ and ‘Self-Publisher’.
The honest print-on-demand outlet is extremely useful, but it is a phrase that can be misleading. If the publisher does not implement an effective promotion and marketing strategy for your book there is little or no demand for it, other than from your own efforts. He can then quite legally print only the very few copies ordered by your friends and family—whatever you may have paid!
Self-publishing cannot by definition be done for you by a third party and there have already been cases in the UK where vanity publishers masquerading as ‘Self-Publishers’ have been taken to task by the Advertising Standards Authority.
However the required payment is described, it is you who are going to pay for your book—not (as you are led to believe) a part of, or a share of, or a subsidy towards, but all of the cost plus a handsome profit and once it has been ‘published’ it will no doubt simply disappear into the woodwork.
Publishing your book should be an enjoyable and stimulating experience, not the fiendish nightmare created by so many vanity publishers. So before you answer an advertisement, go to my website and request a copy of my Advice Pack which is available to all—at no cost.
© Johnathon Clifford May 2009