PSA and reminder for hopeful writers

This needs to be said every now and then:

If someone calls themselves a publisher, you DO NOT PAY them. Ever. End. Of.

A publisher takes risks on your behalf. They invest in the presentation and advertising of your book. They make money from selling that book, not from selling their services to you.

If you want to take on your own risk (aka “self-publishing”), and you do not want to get into the nitty-gritty of the production and marketing process, there are companies that will edit, format and design the book for you. This is a service from them to you, you pay for it, but they do NOT NOT NOT call themselves a publisher.

Why is this so important?

Well, everyone wants their book to sell, right?

Who has the most interest in selling your book? That would be the person who invested in the book, right? If the publisher pays an advance, the saying goes, the bigger advance, the more they’re going to do to advertise it (aka “recoup their investment”).

If you’ve paid to publish (aka “vanity publishing” although they may dress it up as “partnership publishing”), the “publisher” has finished their business commitment once you’ve signed off on the book, have taken delivery of 1000 copies to sit in your garage, once you have purchased their “publicity plan”, and once they have sent out what they agreed to send, their commitment is over. Done.

From that point, you’re on your own, dude, because this “publisher” will care most about signing on the next sucker to be milked. They DGAF about your book and the success or failure thereof. Their business model is to charge you twice, three, four, five times as much for the same stuff you can source yourself, but pretend they are a legit publisher, because “we arrange distribution to bookshops”.

Here’s a hint: EVERYBODY can list their books in catalogues where bookshops can buy. That part is easy.

The hard part is making sure that bookshops actually, you know, order the books.

That is the job of a real publisher. If they’re not out there batting for your book (because they paid you an advance and they bloody well want their money back) then they have zero business calling themselves a publisher.

Do NOT sign with them.

They don’t do anything illegal, but they give you hope that you’re somehow getting the full treatment. If you sign, you are self-publishing. Except you’re being charged far too much for services that, in one case I have seen, are second-rate. As in, the writer handed over thousands and the editing job they got was poor. I could have told the writer numerous places where editing would have cost $500 and would have been of better quality.

They give you the impression that if you buy one of their marketing packages, the book will sell. It won’t.

Lemme tell you this: marketing books is hard.

Marketing books is a long-term commitment and no company will do it beyond some “press releases” and a few ads unless they have money invested in it. A vanity press has recouped its money the moment your book is out the door. They’re done.

They don’t give a fuck.

About your book.

Not a single little fuck.

They’re just looking for the next person with a book.

Don’t deal with these businesses.

Please?

If you want to self-publish, contact me. The comments on this blog are closed, but this post is syndicated to my Facebook page, where you can ask for advice.

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Why vanity presses will never go away

With apologies to David Gaughran.

A year or two ago, an ex-colleague of my husband’s (he works as contractor in IT, changes jobs a LOT, so there is nothing dramatic about the ex bit) mentioned that he was writing a book. The book was historical fiction and he wanted to know how to publish it.

My husband passed him my email and I wrote him with some pointers about publishing and self-publishing.

Today, my husband met him. He’d published his book–with a vanity press.

Whywhywhywhywhywhy?

I can hear people cry.

Well…

The book he got is nicely designed. He received promotional materials, postcards and bookmarks. He didn’t have to shop for and negotiate with an editor. He didn’t need to figure out how to format an ebook, and buy software to do it.

He didn’t even need to open an Amazon account, or do all the tax stuff that’s related to it.

Likely, he paid thousands.

Could he have done it cheaper? Sure, but it would have cost him time. This is someone who has no interest in the business side of writing. Someone who has a really good job, I might add.

But what about the false hope these companies sell?

Well, he got a “launch package”. Not sure how much it cost, but he thinks it’s cool. He gets to invite his friends and be the centre of attention for a night, while he reads from the book and signs copies.

He’s hoping the book will take off on its own. Well, loads of people who self-publish believe that their books will take off, too. They didn’t pay thousands, but spent a lot of time on producing their books.

One way or the other, they’re unlikely to sell unless the author does the hard work. At the start, the author probably has unrealistic hopes.

My husband’s ex-colleague spoke to me, and I told him what I do. He chose to go with a vanity press, because what I do is a lot of work (like, a metric shit-tonne of work), and he had no time or wish to do it. He just wanted the book. He had no trouble paying (through the nose) for a one-stop shop.

That’s why there is a place for vanity presses. Of course it’s heartbreaking when people spend wads of money they can’t afford to lose, but really, how much do we need to protect people from their own stupidity anyway? Like, if you don’t have the money, don’t gamble with it in any shape or form. Some people really just want the book, want their hands held and don’t care about the money.