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Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Traditional Publishing the New Vanity Publishing?

If you haven't read it yet, go read Kris Rusch's rant of what constitutes a professional writer.  She warns against her, um, vulgarity.  Really, it's pretty mild.  But then, I can and have made Marines blush during my rants so my POV is a little skewed.

Seriously, go read it now.  I'll wait.

Here's what scares me me:  the way traditional publishers are treating mid-list writers is very reminiscent of how the old vanity model works.

Unfortunately vanity publishing and self-publishing got wrapped up together in the blanket of bad ideas, so let's differentiate.

Self-publishing is exactly what a lot of us are doing right now.  We either subcontract certain jobs or do them ourselves in addition to writing the books.  This includes cover art, back cover blurbs, actual printing of the book, etc.  Any marketing anad retailing is the responsibility of the writer.

Vanity publishing is a scam that preys on naive, uneducated writers.  They present themselves as a legimate publisher and make a lot of promises.  But then they ask for money from the writer to actually publish the book.  These sums can easily hit five figures.  The vanity publisher then often produces a badly formatted, unedited tome.  They sometimes require the writer to buy a minimum number of copies.  They do not market the book to retailers, despite insinuations to the contrary.  By the time, everything's said and done, the writer has blown the kids' college fund or his 401K for a garage full of books he can't give away.

From the incidents I've been reading and hearing about, traditional publishers are starting to act like vanity publishers.  Locking naive writers in unteneable contracts designed so that the publisher get all the money and the writer has nothing.  Threatening legal action if the writer protests the unfair treatment.  Verbally abusing the writer if the writer questions anything regarding the process.

And what does the writer end up with?  Well, this time they don't even get a garageful of books.

I'm not saying all publishers are bad or that all publishing deals are bad.  But seriously, talk to an IP attorney BEFORE you sign on the dotted line.

And if I were you, I sure as hell wouldn't talk to Kris AFTER you've signed one of these atrocious contracts.

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