Monday, May 20, 2013

Sometimes It's Better Not To Be Published: A Vanity Post

Being published is something I've been dreaming of for years. That dream may have been below becoming a singer on my dream job list, but it was always there. In the last few years, my life changed and so did what I wanted for myself. That's when that little dream became a true goal in my life. So I sat down and began writing. Not only did I start to put words on a page, but I also began researching how publishing is supposed to work and how to do it. That includes traditional and self-publishing, because I'm never counting either of those choices out.

Research is something I feel like everyone should do no matter what they're doing. So imagine my surprise when I heard about a classmate's parent who is having their book published. Automatically I was like, "Wow! That's wonderful! I'm so happy for them!" But then I had to ask the normal questions of, "So, what did they write?" and "Who's publishing it?" The autobiography part really didn't shock me, but the publisher did. Believe me folks when I say the publisher that is so graciously publishing their book, (for a whopping $19.95 with typos,) is vanity at its finest.

So of course when they said who they were told the publisher was, (I checked and they were correct,) I was like this:

Research was definitely not done in this case obviously. And here I am, sick at my stomach because I know that what they think is their big chance to get their story out to the world isn't what it's being sold as. For those of you who don't already know what a vanity publisher is, please click HERE to find out. Safe to say, this isn't how you want your words to greet the world.

Yog's Law is something all authors should know by heart. Money flows toward the author, not away. Live it, love it, breathe it. The only case I'm going to say this isn't 100% correct is in self-publishing. I understand you'll have to put your own money out for editing and cover art. Heck! I'll even give you paying for promotion because that's how you'll reach readers. But self-publishers are the ones I give this to. If you've signed with a publisher and they're asking for you to pay for editing, cover art, promotion, or even asking/demanding you to buy your own books; RUN! That's a huge red flag and isn't how publishing works.

But you want to be published and they're not asking for that much money. You've already heard how dead and horrible traditional publishing is and self-publishing is too much work. These nice people are going to do all the work for you and all you have to do is give them a few hundred bucks and wait for your royalties to come rolling in. Here's the thing, they won't. Vanity publishers hike prices up beyond market prices or are so poorly edited that people refuse to buy them. They're hardly ever in brick and mortar stores such as B&N so readers won't even know you exist. And if you ever hope to get a real publisher or agent, it may make it harder to be done. In short:

If you can't afford the money to self-publish or you don't want to go that direction because a publisher is what you want, then please do your research. Absolute Write is a wonderful place to look up publishers and agents and see the good and bad from authors who've dealt with them. Google is also a friend. Remember that there's a reason the saying, "It's better not to be published at all than to be published badly," is around. Please, don't allow your words to be published badly. Allow them to greet your reader with their best outfit and smile on. That is truly the way traditional and self-publishing should be.

As for my classmate's parent, I kind of didn't know what to say to the person who told me. I mean, how do you handle this type of situation? I've managed to help a friend not to fall prey to a bad agent and publisher, but this person has went a step farther. It's a tough spot to be in, but I knew I had to do something. So I told them that I recognized the publisher and it wasn't for a good reason. I instructed them to have my classmate go to Absolute Write and look the publisher up. When this shared friend asked why I was saying this, all I could do was say that the press was a vanity press and they should look it up.

It's too late for them to get out of their contract, but if I've saved them from having to spend any more money, then I've done something good. I hated being the downer on their publishing parade, but I felt it was my duty as a friend and fellow author to let them know what they were dealing with. Maybe I'm wrong, but it just felt and still feels like the right thing to do.

Have you or a friend ever dealt with a vanity or bad publisher or agent? What did you do? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, happy reading and writing everyone!