Monday, April 03, 2006

Vanity, thy name is AuthorHouse (and Dorrance and PublishAmerica and...)

I've not yet tried self-publishing. I thought about it at one time and did a thorough investigation. I have several books on self-publishing and book promotion on my reference shelves. I've interviewed people who have self-published. Out of all of this research came the decision that self-publishing wasn't right for me, not with the book I was considering and the time I had to dedicate to such a project.

But if I do ever self-publish, which might be my choice in the future with the right project, I already know what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to answer one of the advertisements in the backs of writing magazines for the vanity presses. You know the ones, those full-page color ads with glowing testimonials, and promises that you can be a published author for "only" several hundred dollars.

This article explains just a few reasons why: Publishing Basics… for the self publisher » Why can’t I make money with a POD Publisher? The only quibble I have with this author is that I'd like to preserve the distinction between POD (a technology) and vanity presses (a venue). I know the vanities are calling themselves "POD publishers," but those who know better need to help preserve the distinction.

If you really want to self-publish (and there are good reasons to do so with the right project), become your own publisher, because that's what "self-publishing" is. Find yourself a good printing service, find out how to get an ISBN number, hire an editor if you need one, and take total charge of your book. Learn how to run a small business, because publishing is a business. It may be just you and a few books, but to the IRS, it's a business. One place to begin your research is with , which has a highly educational website.

If you're not interested in marketing plans and the book business and just want to get copies of your books to family, friends, and a few fans, try a straightforward POD service such as or . (See why I want to preserve the distinction between PODs and vanities? Though I'm still not entirely clear which Lulu is.)

I wouldn't have an argument with the vanities if they were honest about what they do. But all too often, they're not. They tell you what a success you could be, not what you'll probably be, considering the quality of most vanity-published books (and I don't mean just the writing), the book market as it is today, and your chances of getting distributors and bookstores to carry your books. They make glowing promises and deliver little. In the bad old days before POD (print on demand) technology, they'd deliver a several cases of books with no marketing support. I've met many authors who still have boxes of books moldering away in their basements, books they can't even give away, books they keep threatening to burn for fuel in the winter. Now with POD technology, you don't even get that much.

Though I try to bite my tongue, I can't help but get irritated with people who send their books off to vanities, they run around counseling others to do the same, gushing about "how easy it is to get published!" It's a little like running into someone who won a handful of cash from a slot machine and is now running around telling everyone that "playing the slots is a great investment! It's so easy to make money!" A few -- very few, exceptionally few -- have managed to make some money with the vanities. But those rare exceptions have a responsibility to inform others that they are, indeed, exceptions, and that most people won't have success anywhere near what they experienced.

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