Monday, October 13, 2008
Ways to recognize a vanity press
Most authors these days know that paying to be published is a sure sign of vanity publication, where the only book that matters is the author's checkbook. So some vanity presses disguise what they are (e.g. by shifting fees to the back end) or come up with an array of reasons as to why it's necessary for an author to pay.
No matter how much smoke and mirrors are produced, though, there are several sure signs of a vanity press. If anything in the checklist applies, investigate further. Some of these are signs of amateur presses or inexperienced micro-publishers as well.
___ The publisher charges an upfront fee before the manuscript will be accepted
___ When questioned about this fee, the publisher responds that it is an investment or necessary contribution on the part of the author
___ The publisher charges for any other aspect of book production and marketing
___ The publisher responds very quickly to manuscript submission, sometimes accepting the manuscript in under a week.
3. Types of manuscripts accepted from unpublished writers
___ Collections of poetry
___ Collections of short stories
___ Non-fiction from writers without a platform
___ Fiction of almost any length and all genres
___ Editing is minimal, often limited to a spellcheck
___ The author is given the option to have the book printed without editing
___ This is couched in positive terms such as the author having complete control over the process or the publisher not altering the author’s unique voice
5. Book covers
___ Authors are asked to write their own blurbs for the back covers. These do not receive editorial input
___ The publisher does not send review copies out in advance of the book’s release
___ The publisher says it may send review copies out, provided reviewers request such copies
___ Authors routinely provide each other with positive feedback, which is accepted as a substitute for professional reviews
7. Sales of books
___ The publisher relies mostly or exclusively on POD
___ The publisher says that its distributors are Ingram and Baker & Taylor
___ The publisher assures authors that their books will be available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com and the publisher’s own online store, and this is presented as an adequate substitute for bookstores
___ The publisher offers discounts to authors if they buy their own books, but does not offer the same or better discounts to bookstores.
___ The publisher encourages authors to buy their own books, especially in bulk
___ The publisher does not make the previous relevant experience of its staff available
___ The publisher provides full names and bios of the staff, but they have no industry experience listed
___ Authors work for the publisher, e.g. reading slush
9. Publisher claims and achievements
___ The publisher claims membership in organizations whose requirements have nothing to do with the way authors are treated, e.g. the BBB, Mensa, etc.
___ The publisher claims to have signed up the largest number of previously unpublished authors, but says little or nothing about the number of books sold
___ The publisher’s advertising is geared to authors, e.g. making their dreams come true
___ The publisher refers to itself and its authors as a family
___ When asked whether it is a vanity press, the publisher responds that it is a traditional publisher, self-publisher, subsidy publisher or co-investment publisher
As long as you credit me for it, please feel free to share this checklist with anyone who might need it.