Yes, I’m late this morning. I’ve been fighting a cold–and I really do mean fighting–so I’ve been going to bed early and completely forgot to post my blog.
How do I fight a cold? I sleep more, take Airborne and E-merge-C (not sure on the spelling, but it’s essentially Airborne with Vitamin C) and zinc. The cold is there, but it’s subdued and going through its cycle sort of behind the curtain or in the background. This has worked for me for almost every cold for the last couple years as long as I start it up at the first sign of that tingle in the back of my throat . . .
So I titled this blog “Whoops” thinking that I’d apologize, ramble a bit, and then ask a question because I really didn’t want to talk about vanity presses and self-publishing anymore (And yes, there IS a difference, even though I do not generally encourage writers to self-publish.) If you’re a writer, you’ve really been off-line if you don’t know that Harlequin has partnered with Author Solutions to funnel rejected writers to a vanity publishing scheme.
But then I realized that “Whoops” fit for the Harlequin move, so reluctantly decided to summarize this week’s big news.
When all major writers organizations (RWA, MWA, SFWA and this morning Novelists, Inc) come out and oppose the move AND remove Harlequin from their approved publisher lists, you know this is a big deal.
I don’t want to go into all the details because frankly, I’m tired of it and last night was the only time I got any productive writing done since Wednesday night, partly because of the cold and partly because of the thousands of emails I’ve received from various writers groups. I blogged about it at Murder She Writes on Thursday
I’m posting NINC’s public statement here (it’s not yet on the website but I just received the email) because I think it’s the best argument against vanity publishing, and provides links to more information:
Novelists, Inc. Responds to Disturbing Developments in Publishing:
Vanity publishing is not new, although the Internet has become a lucrative feeding ground for vanity publishers. Presented with enough enthusiastic jargon and color graphics, a hopeful author might well be convinced that he has stumbled upon a fantastic new way of bringing his stories, his voice, to the reading public.
Alas, the truth is that vanity publishing is still the same old opportunistic hag dressed up in new clothing, with the added flash and dash of savvy marketing. It still exists to part dreamers from their money, with very little hope of return. The dangled bait never changes, the creatively couched language suggesting that all these good things “could, may, might possibly, perhaps” happen for you if you choose one from column A and two from Column B on their à la carte menu of pricey services.
There is now a new, deeply disturbing twist being applied to this age-old money grab. Publishers with brand names, currently enjoying respectable reputations within the industry and with the reading public, are putting both on the chopping block in order to get a share of the vanity publishing market.
It takes years to build a respected name and reputation in this industry. Losing that respect happens much more quickly, sometimes overnight.
No authors’ organization can prevent a publisher from setting up a vanity publishing division. Writers’ organizations can, however, speak firmly and clearly about the sort of egregious business practices that reflect badly on our entire industry.
Ninc strongly advocates that any and all publishing houses that now operate or are in the planning stages of creating vanity publishing arms do so ethically and responsibly, while adhering to accepted standards of full disclosure. This includes not using the same or a similar name for the vanity division of their royalty-paying publishing house.
Ninc further strongly advocates that these houses either cease and desist or do not institute the practice of steering hopeful writers who are rejected by the royalty-paying divisions of their companies into the open arms of their vanity publishing offshoot.
To do otherwise demeans the publisher’s brand and robs credibility from every one of its conventional, contracted authors.
For Those Considering Vanity Publishing
Novelists, Inc. (Ninc) is an international organization devoted to the needs of multi-published authors of novel-length popular fiction. Ninc has no unpublished members; all are experienced, savvy, and educated in the various perils and pitfalls that await the unwary writer in search of an audience.
So why is Ninc addressing the subject of vanity publishing? That’s simple. We care about writers. All writers. And we care equally for their audiences, the book buying public.
Vanity publishing, by definition, involves bringing together a writer eager to have his work in print and a company eager to charge that writer for printing the copies. Vanity publishers don’t care if the book is good or bad. Vanity publishers will print anything the writer will pay them to print. Quality and sales potential of the work are not priorities; in fact, they aren’t considered at all.
Ninc’s advice to hopeful authors remains what it has always been: work hard, learn your craft, and network with other writers to share knowledge and information. And remember, if an offer to publish your previously rejected novel and thus become a “real author” by handing over a check sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.
As long as there are people desperate to be published, vanity publishers will exist, and profit-motive companies, no matter the size or prior reputation, may at some point decide that if a starry-eyed dreamer and his money are soon to be parted, why not hold out a hand for their share. All Ninc and other professional writers’ organizations and consumer advocates can do, and thankfully are doing, is to educate people on the subject of vanity publishing. Please, before you open your wallet, take some time to open your eyes. Here are some places to begin educating yourself:
http://www.panmacmillan.com/Authors Illustrators/displayPage.asp?PageTitle=An Easy Way to Lose Money
Publishing is not easy; no one said it would be. The only people I’ve found who are upset with RWA and the other organization for making a stand against Harlequin (and Thomas Nelson’s West Bow vanity press deal with A/S) are unpublished writers who seem to think that we’re trying to stop them from being published. If you do your research and understand that you’ll be spending thousands and thousands of dollars and have to do all the work yourself (writing, editing, marketing, distributing, selling, yada yada) and probably not sell more than 100 copies, then hey, it’s your money. But know that not only after you pay them to print (and pay them to edit and pay them to cover design) they still take anywhere from 25-50% of the NET PROCEEDS.
Self-publishing differs in that the author essentially is the end customer–they have the books printed, warehouse the books, market and sell the books, but once they have that book in their hands the self-publishing press doesn’t get another dime. All money made from the sale goes to the author. And if an author wants to be a bookseller and sell out of their trunk or online store, hey, that too is your right. It’s not as bad as vanity publishing, and actually a good idea for some projects like church devotionals and school fundraisers and family histories and some special niche market books–but for most commercial fiction and non-fiction, this is a very difficult path to follow. Some people want to do everything. I, personally, don’t. I want to write. That’s all I want to do. That I have to update my website and do book signings is part of the business, but it’s not the reason I became I writer. Writers write. So if you go into self-publishing with your eyes open, fine, but it’s not easy and it’s a rare writer who is successful in earning back their outlay.
I know there’ll be people coming up trying to defend each model. I got in one tiff with a writers who said that self-publishing and traditional publishing are simply two equal choices. Nope, they’re not. In traditional publishing, money goes TO the author. Writers get PAID. In self-publishing, the writer PAYS EVERYTHING. End of story. Not equal choices as far as I’m concerned. And Vanity Publishing? The writer pays MORE for everything and loses half the “profits” as well.
My favorite blog on the issue comes from Ashley Grayson, a literary agent. Though the whole blog is worth reading, in part he said:
“Publishing a successful book requires editorial judgment, investment of resources, dealing with book-selling channels that increasingly demand a bigger share of the cash flow, and appealing to fickle readers. The self-publishing model is sooo much simpler. There’s only one customer, the author, and he or she buys all the books which are never manufactured until purchased. Of course this is a growing segment of publishing; the publisher gets money, takes no risk and retailers are not actively involved.”
So what do you think?