Monday, June 12, 2006

Another Vanity Press Gets Sued

Miss Snark pointed out this interesting lawsuit. It seems that one Leon Koziol, candidate for New York state senate, is suing Amazon.com and it's vanity publishing service, Book Surge, claiming that the book was full of typos and other errors.

I'm of two minds on this issue.

Mind 1: What did you expect? It's a vanity press.

As I've written before, vanity publishing isn't self-publishing. Book Surge is the publisher of this book, not Leon Koziol. Nevertheless, vanity publishers give the authors the impression that they are indeed self-publishing because 1) the author pays for it and 2) the vanity press usually offers little or no editing, unless the author wants to pay extra. Even then, it's up to the author to make the text as clean and sparkling as possible. These days that's true even of traditional publishing.

Koziol complains that the publisher is interested in "quantity over quality." That's the hallmark of the vanity press: to crank out as many books as possible, knowing that they'll be purchased primarily by doting relatives and a few sympathetic friends.

If Koizol wanted different results, he should have educated himself beforehand. Reading a book or two on publishing and on self-publishing would have cleared up his misconceptions regarding what Book Surge could and could not do for him.

Mind 2: Exposing the vanities is a good thing.

Every time I open a copy of Writer's Digest, I cringe. Full-page ads for vanity presses have taken a prominent place in the first few pages of the magazines. I renewed my subscription to the magazine only recently, and I'm ready to drop it again for that reason alone.

Because of advertising programs like these, people with any interest in writing at all are more familiar with vanity presses than they are with traditional publishers. When people think of getting published, often the ad for the vanity is the first thing that springs to mind. I get a lot of people asking me, "How much did it cost you to get published?" and they're surprised when I say, "Nothing. Publishers pay me. That's how the industry is supposed to work."

When cases like this reach the public's attention, I see more queries on the writer's boards from people asking, "I want to get published, but I don't want to get ripped off. What should I do?" Lawsuits against the vanities raise public awareness, which in turn gives writers the opportunity to educate the public about the differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and vanity publishing.

So let Koizol have his tantrum. If it saves someone else from an expensive publishing mistake, then it has done some good.

2 comments:

Blaire said...

What is the difference between self-publishing and using a vanity press?

Karen said...

Rule of thumb:

If you pay to be published under your own imprint -- that is, YOU are the publisher and in control of the entire process, from layout to cover design to choosing a printer, even choosing the paper -- it's self-publishing.

If you pay to be published under someone else's imprint, it's subsidy publishing or, pejoratively, "vanity" publishing.