Vanity Press Companies, tramps and thieves

I mentioned in my last post that I had had some interesting experiences with vanity press publishers. I am starting to wonder if I have a sign on my head saying “sucker” or “will give away hard earned cash freely”. Anyway dramatics aside here is a summary of my experiences so far.

About nine months ago I complete my first book manuscript to a state where I was ready to send it out to gain publisher interest (post manuscript assessment and professional edit). I did some research on which publishers accepted this type of manuscript, prepared my synopsis and pitch letter and sent out a “test” application to a large, well-respected publisher.

I had absolutely no response from the publisher. About four months later I received a call from a publisher in the USA (at 1am I will add) indicating that the reputable publisher had forwarded my manuscript to them. It was a wonderful conversation with lots of reassurances that the book was going to be a great seller, that it had wide appeal and that if it did well the reputable publisher would sign me up. All I needed to do was choose a package, pay the (large) fee. The nice man even sent a sample contract to read. I was thrilled! I thought that I’d really caught a break. That was until I researched the company (http://pred-ed.com is a good place to start). I was devastated (it was like a death of a friend). I very politely declined the offer.

The next experience came about when I lodged my manuscript (chapters & synopsis) with a local company that claimed to be a traditional publisher. I had a lovely call from a company representative, who asked some very sensible questions about the book and potential changes. He emphasised that they were a traditional publisher and advised that my submission would be brought to the next editors meeting and he would contact me again in two weeks. There was no mention of the need for any payments from me at all. It sounded legitimate. I was excited and hopeful again. (I should’ve been suspicious when he kept pushing me for information about what I did for living). When I hadn’t received a return call within four weeks, I decided to make a polite follow-up call. The phones were disconnected. I tried their email and website. The site was closed down. Then I saw a series of articles about how the firm was running a scam, and had conned stacks of budding (and established) authors out of tens of thousands of dollars. Great!

My latest experience was a few weeks ago, and was similar to the first story. Only this time it was a medium-sized local publisher. They sent me a lovely “no thanks” email explaining that they liked the book but didn’t have a space for it at the moment. Then came the email from the “publishing-partnership” arm. You should have seen the cost of their “deals”. I didn’t get excited this time, just angry.

So now, in addition to doing the actual writing, my paid work, managing my social media profiles and personal marketing, I need to be constantly on the look-out for shady deals, con artists and crooks. Good thing I like what I do.

What have I learned?

  1. Real, actual publishers don’t ask you for money
  2. They had proper contracts (of varying quality)
  3. They don’t advertise for authors
  4. I need to be constantly vigilant and on the look out for shifty operators
  5. Vanity publisher deals offer nothing more than you can get yourself through self-publishing (and some personal effort and spending on marketing) for a minimum of 5 times the cost.
  6. Set up your own independent publishing arm, and keep working on your manuscripts and trying for an opportunity with a proper company.

If you have any vanity press horror stories please feel free to add them in the comments.  

Indie Publisher and Self-Published Authors: Hidden Gems

During 2015 I read and reviewed over 60 books for this blog. When I looked over what I  read and how they were published, over half of the books were either self published (by an individual or through an author’s personal imprint  – their own publishing arm) or published through small independent press organisations. Of the books I rated as four stars and over (all categories), two-thirds fell into the “indie” pool. (The lowest rated books were split evenly between indie and big commercial publishers – interesting in itself seeing how self-publishing is widely panned as low quality).

It is marvellous to see so many authors publishing their works using a non-traditional path, but equally sad that they are not getting a look-in with the Big 5 (or at least not yet). The big advantage of signing with a Big 5 traditional publisher is the access to marketing and distribution networks – basically the big publicity budget, know-how and contacts.

As a result of only being able to access small-scale marketing and distribution, many excellent works are going unsold and unread. For example, when I contacted  an author of a particularly good book I read last year, to ask if she had print copies for sale (I would have bought five immediately to give to non-kindle users), she advised that she did not have the funds to do a print run (even a relatively cheap POD option through Createspace). Sad but true, and a tale I personally can relate to.

Still it is best to struggle on your own than fall into the trap of paying often in excess of ten thousand dollars to publish with a vanity press company (stories for another day – no I haven’t been suckered in, but I have been approached three times with dodgy deals in the last six months!),

So I guess the take home message here is not to ignore the indie press/self-published offerings. Give the 99 cent book a chance. Review them on Amazon/Good Reads/LibraryThing/site of choice, and most importantly, recommend the book to your friends.

 

Don’t give up and stick to the path!