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Author Topic: VANITY PUBLISHING!  (Read 11969 times)
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« on: July 07, 2009, 02:57:35 PM »

Good idea?  Bad idea?  Waste of money?  Stops a writer being taken seriously?  Works as a foot in the door?  I personally, think, that if I did it, it wouldn't feel I'd "earned it".  Although, after discovering this site: http://www.lulu.com/uk/services/bundle_basic.php it seems like you get the tools to put your work 'out there'.

Anyway...DISCUSS!

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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2009, 03:32:04 PM »

Almost always a bad idea, IMO. Call it 99% of the time in the case of early self pubbed story collections and first novels.

Putting your work out there isn't what it's about, either. Not even close. Most self pubbed books sell waaaay less than 100 copies. You'd get your work 'out there' more with a leaflet drop, or some graffitti. More people would read your work if you spent the money instead on getting a local newspaper to publish a short story or two in their pages.

Far better, IMO, to keep plugging away at the normal channels than give up and do it yourself. If you feel you have to do it, then make it the last resort after exhausting every other option first.
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2009, 04:45:15 PM »

Have to agree with Ed. It's like you said yourself - you wouldn't feel you earned it. I met a girl at boot camp down at the hotel bar. We discussed publishing a bit while waiting four our lunches. I'd looked her up already and so knew that she'd published a short story collection. She talked a bit about struggling to get published and I said:

"But you're already published, aren't you?"

"Self published," she said with a shrug.

It was as if she knew it didn't carry as much weight.

Might be the way to go if it was going to be a novelty thing and you wanted to get your work to family and friends.
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2009, 07:06:40 PM »

Personally I come down on the other side of the coin to Ed and elay2433. BUT, IMO, it is important how you go about it.

If you create a piece of work and then publish it, without any other effort, it will be as Ed and elay have said.

However, if you create a piece and then decide to fund a professional edit and re-draft, have an idea about how to market it and follow through, and finally do all the leg work to interest retailers, then I believe the approach is warranted. You've done everything a traditional publisher would do, barring funding the physical copies to go to the outlets - which you can also do. And it's something you would do if you are committed to your work.

There are a few notable people that have followed this process, only to be picked up by traditional publishers when success has followed - and this particular tack speaks volumes - these days traditional publishers (TPs) are looking at the financial value rather than any literary merit, something that, perhaps, will not significantly lift their bottom line.

In recent years we've seen the TPs produce new stuff that wholly relates to what is going on in the tabloids - the fairly recent slew of "abuse lit", the personal stories of "How I was abused by my parents"; the ghost written autobiographies of people who have not even reached their mid-twenties such as Rooney and Jade Goody (although the merit of this does relate to a raising in awareness of cervical cancer - but was covered more than adequately by the all newspapers anyway).

The notables I was alluding to earlier are "Shadowmancer" by G P Taylor and "A Year in the Merde" by Stephen Clarke, but it didn't start there. Self publishing goes way back to the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, who in 1831, publishes his and Elam Bliss's work "Poems" according to Penguin Classic's Edgar Allan Poe "The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings"

And then there are the anthologies, well commented upon in forums such as this, that accept submissions and publish them as printed anthologies - are all these published by TPs or are they published by people who believe that written works, such as the accepted submissions, ought to be out there? Is this not self published work only removed by one degree of separation?

Could I decide to produce an antho. and as long as it didn't include anything I've done; it then be considered acceptable as "non-vanity; non-self published"? The demarcation really isn't as clear as it's always stated.

It's been said to me, when I've used GP Taylor as an example of someone who took the Vanity press route, in discussions like this, that he doesn't count because "who wouldn't take on a vicar that's written a Christian allegory?" [quote paraphrased] using that as an excuse to dismiss how the stories were published in the first place.

Going back to TPs taking on what's contemporary to raise their bottom line: In the writing group I belong to there is a person who wrote a novel about a child going missing on holiday - she sent it off and duly received rejections from all the TPs she sent it to. Fine.
But she was persuaded, by our writing group, and me, to try again. The second time she tried was after the disappearance of Madeline McCann and suddenly the TPs are interested - yes, she's now a published author with a story that apparently wasn't worth anything the first time around.

It's this kind of hypocrisy that warrants self-publishing and devalues anything the TPs represent.

Go the self-publishing route, but don't be a dick; make sure what you do is quality and invest in that - stories will always be judged subjectively.

« Last Edit: July 07, 2009, 07:08:38 PM by Woody » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2009, 07:47:11 PM »

It certainly is a can of worms to open up, this discussion. I've looked at it from all angles, and I know all the arguments inside out. I actually very nearly went down the vanity publishing route myself, many years ago, but I'm so glad I didn't do it now.

The thing is, for every half decent self published book there's at least a hundred bad ones that are nothing short of a waste of paper. For every self published author who got their work picked up by a TP there are literally thousands who didn't. Probably tens of thousands in fact.

True, throw enough 'if's at the subject and you can make a viable go at self-pubbing. But they're big ifs, and they're mostly to do with quality and committment, and the above facts still stand. Plus you're often left with a book that prices itself out of the market at something ridiculous like £12 a copy for a trade paperback, which is competing with best selling authors who put out professionally produced books at half the price.

Also true, small press operating out of POD publishers are only one step removed from self pubbing, and many do both, and many are no better than the worst self publishers, with poorly edited and proofread MS combined with piss poor paper and binding. Books that not only look bad, but read badly and are likely to fall to pieces before you get fed up reading them and decide to toss them anyway. The whole thing's a minefield. undecided
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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2009, 08:10:17 PM »

It certainly is a can of worms to open up, this discussion. I've looked at it from all angles, and I know all the arguments inside out. I actually very nearly went down the vanity publishing route myself, many years ago, but I'm so glad I didn't do it now.

The thing is, for every half decent self published book there's at least a hundred bad ones that are nothing short of a waste of paper. For every self published author who got their work picked up by a TP there are literally thousands who didn't. Probably tens of thousands in fact.

True, throw enough 'if's at the subject and you can make a viable go at self-pubbing. But they're big ifs, and they're mostly to do with quality and committment, and the above facts still stand. Plus you're often left with a book that prices itself out of the market at something ridiculous like £12 a copy for a trade paperback, which is competing with best selling authors who put out professionally produced books at half the price.

Also true, small press operating out of POD publishers are only one step removed from self pubbing, and many do both, and many are no better than the worst self publishers, with poorly edited and proofread MS combined with piss poor paper and binding. Books that not only look bad, but read badly and are likely to fall to pieces before you get fed up reading them and decide to toss them anyway. The whole thing's a minefield. undecided

The only think I disagree with Ed is the POD piece. THe only difference between me going with a print shop down the street and a POD is that with a POD I don't have a ton of my money tied up in books waiting to sell.

Big time publishing houses don't have printing presses in their basements, they contract it out to professional book printers. I know you know the difference, but a lot of people confuse printing and publishing and a lot of people are down on POD when it is a smart business model and about the only way a small company can survive. Now some POD is lower quality than others and LULU has a bad name all the way around.

Regardless of how the book looks, your point about small press is valid. Small press is small business and most people are doing this as a second job, or third. I have up to four people proof reading and I still put out product with a few mistakes. My stuff won't ever be at the level of Cemetery Dance because I don't have the money to pay a professional and don't have 40 hours a week to devote to it.

As to self publishing, please don't do it. I have talked to a lot of people that have and now have books published through traditional channels, and they are embarrassed about the self published book. It's now a reprint and no one wants it because it's tainted, regardless of how good it is. There are so many small press publishers out there that are reputable, that if you exhaust all those options, then it might just be the book. 
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2009, 08:19:08 PM »

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I have been struggling with this issue myself for the past five years!

Here's what I have learned about the self publishing process.

I was originally going to go through Trafford Publishing based in British Columbia, they had a lot of great ideas as well as means of promoting the book, The book would be registered through the library of Canada with a number and everything like that. but the issues I found later one were not to my liking.

I was called every six months.
Some where just a courtesy call asking how the book was going, then they brought up the contract that is e-mailed to you in the trafford guide to publishing. I thought they were very pushy in that area and grew uncomfortable with such contact.

It is expensive as heck!
Depending on the package you would go towards, it would cost over a thousand dollars for the basic packaging, not including the tax and shipping. My mom and friend later brought up the idea you would be better off registering as a small business in order to reduce costs as well, you are the one selling the book, not the company unless you pay for it.

Lulu is another option, however I found that it was confusing as to how to get the book to look. But I also got to thinking for myself.

What is the reason why I was rejected?

Was there a validation for it?

Could the story be stronger?

Answer to all of that is yes!

I took a break from my novel for some time and focused on establishing other characters for later on in the series. I then went back to the novel with a fresh pair of eyes and began to tear it down and building it up once more. I have also joined a site over a year ago by the name of Authonomy. Harper Collins runs the site.
Someone pointed out to me that the prolog needed to be reworked in order to grab one's attention. I looked it over and agreed completely (after reading Twilight, I found it to be too settling and started to add in suspense and some more blood shed)

Anywho.

I am no longer considering the self publishing option. I am going to look for a publisher and make it that way, it's to verify to myself that my story is good enough to be printed. If I have to self publish, something is up with the story and needs to be corrected.
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« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2009, 08:30:21 PM »

The thing is, for every half decent self published book there's at least a hundred bad ones that are nothing short of a waste of paper. For every self published author who got their work picked up by a TP there are literally thousands who didn't. Probably tens of thousands in fact.
If this statement is anything, it is a truism - something indisputable, an absolute. To a lesser degree, because of the processes that TPs automatically use, the twaddle produced by TPs is vastly reduced; there are no such processes for the vanity press - it is dependant on the person vanity-pressing and hence the subsequent lack of quality. But not a reason, per se, not to do it.

You have to know what's possible and how to obtain a realistic price point if you're going to match equivalent productions from the TPs.

For certain, there is no scope for believing what you've done is better than anything else out there - this would be sheer arrogance - you are a newbie, someone no one else has ever heard of; and in reality require more PR than if your work was produced by a well known TP. You don't have the luxury of having Harper Collins, Penguin or Pan on the spine of your book.

And I believe that's the crux of the matter - you either mean it and are willing to put in every effort a TP would, or you're the vanity sort who doesn't care, so long as what you've done is printed.

And this is where the commitment to your work really kicks in - those self-pubbers that have done just that are not interested, or have no idea, that there is more to making a mark than having 250 folios of perfect bound pages.

At the end of the day the choice is yours - rewards can flow from your effort, but forget the whole thing if "effort" is not in your lexicon: don't do vanity - do publishing.
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2009, 09:03:48 PM »

As to self publishing, please don't do it. I have talked to a lot of people that have and now have books published through traditional channels, and they are embarrassed about the self published book.
Why? If they're embarrassed then this alone speaks volumes - it's rubbish in their own eyes - shouldn't even have obtained the printed page. They shouldn't have gone there in the first place. And this fact says a lot - they've not funded professional editing or any other aspect to give their piece some level of quality, they just did it anyway.

For me self-publishing is fine, so long as you've accomplished everything that would happen in a traditional publisher.

And again the nay sayers forego commenting on any self-publisher and the long history of well renowned authors that have taken this route - with the only intention to dissuade those that want to try from trying: attempting to thwart potential literary gems, leaving the decisions to a minority of cash rich individuals. Why not close all the writing forums so we can be told what we should and should not be reading - this is the only alternative tack that's being proposed.
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« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2009, 02:01:54 AM »

For myself, I agree with Ed and RS McCoy: I would never engage in self-publishing. Either I'll figure out how to write well enough to attract the TPs or I won't inflict my stories on the unsuspecting public.  Wink

I also think that for the vast majority of people going with vanity- and self-publishers (some argue there *is* a difference), one or more of several possible misconceptions are firmly in place when they sign the contract: 1) their book is crap but they don't realize it 2) their selected publisher will not mount a vigorous marketing campaign on behalf of their book despite promises to the contrary 3) the public is not beating a path to the selected publisher's website to purchase e-books or POD copies, despite promises to the contrary 4) the publisher is not going to produce a finished product that will rival the quality of the stuff on bookshelves in brick and mortar stores

Given some time and perspective, many (most?) authors *will* recover from their misconceptions, and that's when the embarrassment sinks in...

That being said, I reluctantly admit that Woody has a point about an author who is dedicated enough to duplicate the steps a TP would take in producing the book. I'm not sure if you're all aware of the story of how Christopher Paolini self-published and then tirelessly marketed and promoted Eragon, but the fact that he spent a couple of years peddling it all over the Pacific Northwest and sold a couple of thousand copies on his own, library by library, school by school didn't hurt his cause. When Knopf got involved, they were apparently not deterred by the fact that he had self-published. Though in his case, "self-published" is a bit more accurate than the norm, given that his parents owned the small press that put out his book. They had helped him edit it in the first place, too.

But just because one exceptional person (or even a small handful of exceptional people) manage to beat the odds, that doesn't make self-publishing a wise or advisable course for the average author. People win the lottery (lotto) on a regular basis, as well, but that doesn't make gambling all your extra money on tickets a wise or advisable investment.
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« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2009, 03:18:11 AM »


The only think I disagree with Ed is the POD piece. THe only difference between me going with a print shop down the street and a POD is that with a POD I don't have a ton of my money tied up in books waiting to sell.

 

This is the reason why I said 'many of them' - there are a few exceptions, but I could point at several people (there are many, many more) who have set themselves up as publishers, and then slip their own not so great short stories into anthologies they put out, and also publish a narrow lineup of novel titles written by themselves and their close friends. They call themselves publishers, but you could argue they're just thinly disguised self publishers who are creating a buzz around their own stuff by involving other authors in their anthos.


For me self-publishing is fine, so long as you've accomplished everything that would happen in a traditional publisher.

And again the nay sayers forego commenting on any self-publisher and the long history of well renowned authors that have taken this route - with the only intention to dissuade those that want to try from trying: attempting to thwart potential literary gems, leaving the decisions to a minority of cash rich individuals. Why not close all the writing forums so we can be told what we should and should not be reading - this is the only alternative tack that's being proposed.

I can understand you being defensive about it, Woody, but most of the people who go into vanity publishing don't do these things. They publish a book on a shoestring budget, full of typos, bad grammar, mis spellings, passive prose and lacking in any spark of originality. These are the people who make it hard for everybody else to sell their book that they've done the right way. A hell of a lot of them also sit back and wait for the phone to ring with an off of a three book deal with a major publishing house after they've bought a copy each for their mum, gran and neighbour. Completely delusional.

The long history of renowned authors who self pubbed and made a success out of it is a very short list in the history of the written word. The reason for this is they had a talent and the means at their disposal to make a half decent book, which arguably is what you need to get your work published by a TP in the first place. Vanity press isn't the easy way out, or a get rich quick option that the majority of people who go into it seem to think it is.


But just because one exceptional person (or even a small handful of exceptional people) manage to beat the odds, that doesn't make self-publishing a wise or advisable course for the average author. People win the lottery (lotto) on a regular basis, as well, but that doesn't make gambling all your extra money on tickets a wise or advisable investment.


I think that's the crux of the matter.
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« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2009, 03:29:19 AM »



I am no longer considering the self publishing option. I am going to look for a publisher and make it that way, it's to verify to myself that my story is good enough to be printed. If I have to self publish, something is up with the story and needs to be corrected.

Hi Shannon.

I think you're doing the right thing and being professional about it. If I was a publisher I would be more impressed by that than somebody handing me a vanity publication. But the thing is it's also true that you can write a great book and have it overlooked by publisher after publisher. The first Harry Potter novel was rejected by something like 50 traditional publishers before one picked it up.

A lot of people also run away with the idea that being a published author will make you rich, but the reality is your first advance is likely to be less than you would have earned stacking shelves in Tesco in the time it took to write the novel and get it out to agents and publishers. It's more a labour of love than anything else.
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« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2009, 04:58:59 AM »

My take on Vanity / Self-Publishing / POD is that it's horses for courses and a great thing for some people. Take my uncle, who, as a labour of love is putting together a small book on the history of his village, photographs of all the houses, a few mini biographies a bit of local colour. It's not a for profit book, it's not an attempt to get his name out there and start a career in writing, it's just him capturing a bit of history for the village. How great is it that he has a number of options open to him now to publish such a book and maybe get a hundred copies printed or sold via a POD service? I think it's wonderful.

Then take someone like Matthew Reilly who self published his own book, then took it to local shops, got it stocked and selling, and eventually was picked up by one the majors. I've never read any of his stuff, but how great is it that such an avenue is open to him? He's now all over the Tesco bookshelves. Of course, I'm sure he worked hard to produce a decent book in the first place.

But I agree, that for most people who are working seriously on their fiction and not getting anywhere, they're better off looking at why, working out what's stopping them getting through each gate, and making the necessary changes. There's never a guarantee, of course, as Ed pointed out with the Harry Potter example, but vanity publishing isn't the answer in those cases.

Derek

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« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2009, 05:48:55 AM »

I'm really pleased this topic has garnered such intelligent responses.  The only reason I think I would give it a go is if a) I had shedloads of money and b) an insane amount of time to properly publicise it in as many places as possible.  And also, a greater level of self-belief bordering on arrogance haha

I've had some real decent feedback about a novel I've got out there in the ether, but basically, it ended up being 'right editor wrong publisher', which gave me a boost of self-esteem to keep sending it out, as well as working on other things.  However, I still think it might need a little extra work - in fact will probably need extra work - so I'd hesitate to self-publish it, despite it apparently being decent.

Now, my point is, I've had decent feedback, so if I lived in a land of chocolate rivers and a lollypop sun (ie a fantasy world) I'd use vanity/self publishing to generate 'review copies' to see what sort of reviews it might garner, and then use those to show that the work is a decent piece of literature.

Obviously, this is a ridiculous idea.  I like the theory, but it presumes too much.  As had been noted, publishers, whatever the size, are businesses, and that comes before anything else.  I (I say 'I' but this could easily apply someone else) might get good/decent/great reviews.  Or, truly awful/indifferent ones.  Whatever; it doesn't tell a publisher that my book will sell, only that critics love/hate it.

This is the only way I thought vanity publishing might come in handy, unless you did have the ability to travel round pimping it, in the slim chance someone'd pick it up.  I hope I've put my point across succintly enough.  I don't mean to sound dangerously naive or anything; I don't know a lot about publishing but I know enough not to get deluded or arrogant  Wink

So, in closing, it comes back to my original comment of 'I wouldn't feel as if I'd earnt it'.   smiley
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« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2009, 07:29:58 AM »

All I can say on this matter is that most writers want validation of their work.

Vanity / Self-publishing doesn't give a writer this.

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