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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vanity Publishing Is Making a Comeback

WARNING! Angry Sheep rant dead ahead!

Before this rant gets started, let me be clear on what my definitions of the various types of publishing are:

Legacy/Traditional Publishing is where the writer licenses her story's copyright to a third party for an advance, advance plus royalties, or royalties alone. The third party is responsible for costs of producing a book, regardless of the final format(s) of the item, i.e. digital file, bound paper, etc.. The third party then seeks to recoup costs and make a profit by selling the licensed final product to the public or certain sections thereof.

Indie Publishing/Self-publishing is where the writer assumes the costs of producing a book, again regardless of the final format(s) of the item. The writer may do certain production tasks herself, or she may subcontract production tasks. The writer then seeks recoup her costs and make a profit by selling her product to the public or certain sections thereof.

Vanity publishing is where a third party charges a writer for ALL production costs. These charges are often well above the market rate. The third party may or may not produce a book. If the third party does produce a book, they may or may not try to sell that book to the public or certain sections thereof. The third party relies primarily on charging the writer for any profit it makes.


In any gold rush, there are people who have no interest in the hard work of mining, but have no problem finding ways to make money off the miners, i.e. scamming them. The same is true as the publishing industry shifts from a primarily legacy publishing model to a self-publishing model. New companies are popping up everyday to take advantage of the naive writers who are unsure of what to do or the lazy writers who want to be taken care of.

The following rant is for the naive writers. I already know the lazy writers won't listen and will be taken advantage of.

My #1 rule when a new writer asks me for advice: Writing is a business. Treat it like one.

If you've stumbled across my blog accidentally, looking for the secret of the publishing universe, that's it. It means lots of research and hard work. If you're not willing to do either, then you will be taken advantage of. Hell, even my husband suggested I start publishing other writers who were too scared to do the research and learn new techniques; we could make some serious moola off their insecurity.

As much as I found that idea abhorrent, I knew there were others whose scruples were not...how do I put this...as mired in legal ethics classes as mine were. Since that discussion with DH, Penguin Random House bought Author Solutions. If you don't know who AS is, go read David Gaughran's blog.

Part of the reason PRH bought AS was to prop up their own sagging profits. They believed their name would counteract AS's negative reputation. However, in the U.S., the opposite has been true. Also, as writers become more educated in the working of the publishing industry, AS hasn't been bringing in as much money as PRH thought they would.

AS's growth is flat partly because they've become notorious in American writers' circles. If you're a visitor and a writer from outside of the U.S., please spread the word far and wide to your friends and colleagues. AS uses high pressure tactics on writers because this is where a majority of their income comes from. Writers.

Not book sales.

Writers.

Now, with more and more writers taking a chance with indie publishing, especially the growing e-book market (Don't let news reports of stagnate sales fool you. Most news outlets are owned by the same conglomerates that own the biggest legacy publishers.), a new breed of vanity publishers are popping up. These companies prey on the writers who aren't tech savvy. The ones who write long-hand because they don't understand or are afraid of their computers. The ones who don't know the difference between HTML and WORD.

(If you're one of them, your education starts now. HTML is a programming language that is the basis for most e-books. WORD is document processing software produced by Microsoft Corp. See that wasn't so bad, was it?)

What scares writers the most is formatting an e-book or creating a cover. These are not difficult tasks, but they are time consuming if you haven't done them before.

I strongly suggest that you try doing it yourself first, preferably on a short story or novella. Why? You don't go out and run a marathon when you've been a couch all your life, do you? By learning the basics, you'll know when you're getting ripped off.

If you still don't feel comfortable, ask for referrals. Seriously, the indie publishing community is very supportive. You'll get recommendations for knowledgeable editors, formatters and artists who charge reasonable prices.

By reasonable, I mean even if you subcontract every task, it shouldn't cost you $1000 to publish your book. Nor should any of your contractors EVER have control of your retail accounts!

I'm starting to get e-mails from companies doing exactly. Like DH, they see the money-making potential of growing self-publishing movement. The latest was from a firm called Publish Wholesale. They format a print book, create a cover, purchase an ISBN, send you one proof copy, list your book under their Amazon, B&N, etc., accounts, and a staff member to hold your hand through the process. All for the bargain price of $959.

That's right. You're handing them control of YOUR book and YOUR money for a measly $959.

And that doesn't even include e-book production.

Please understand something. I'm not saying don't get help if you need it.

For example, I'm way behind in my own writing and production schedule thanks to the move from hell. I've already talked to a formatter who will do the e-book and print formatting for the last three books in the Bloodlines series, as well as redo the e-book formatting and format for print the first six books in the series.

That's right. I'm getting nine books done, both e-book and print, for what the bozos at Publish Warehouse will charge you for one.

Think about it for a minute.

I'm getting books formatted, no one's holding my hand, and I control the money. Not my subcontractor. ME!

That's the difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

So, as the day shift briefing sergeant, Phil Esterhaus, would say before his people left the police station on Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there."

Angry Sheep signing off.

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