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  1. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Types of Publishing/Publishers (grrrrr, vanity presses!)

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by BayView, Nov 25, 2017.

    There are a variety of different ways to get your book off your computer and in front of the public. Most of them have passionate supporters; one of them is a total scam. The terminology can get a big muddy (partly because of the "scam" aspect, partly because authors like to play with words, partly because... elves? mischievous elves?), but in general terms, we're looking at:

    Traditional/Gate-Keeper/"Real"/Legacy/Trade Publishing/A Publisher (no qualifications)
    If you go to your local bookstore, most of the books on the shelves will have gotten there by this general method. An author writes a book, sends it to her agent (or, in a limited number of cases, directly to the publisher), the publisher reads the book and rejects it or accepts it based on its marketability (expectation that the publisher will make a profit). If the publisher wants the book, they negotiate a contract, generally offer an advance, and then pay royalties once the advance is satisfied.

    But within this category, things can be complicated. A couple sub-categories:
    Big Five: the really big publishing houses, made up of smaller imprints (eg. Berkley is an imprint of Penguin Random House). Big advances, big distribution, but hard to get into.
    Independent Publishers (fun with terminology begins - some self-publishers call themselves Independents): publishers of various sizes that follow the "traditional" model of publishing outlined in the paragraph above, but that aren't part of the Big Five. This category can be tricky, because there are Independent Publishers with great reputations and fantastic sales, and there are tiny one-person operations that open and close practically overnight, destroying their authors' dreams, and there are loads of companies somewhere between the two extremes. You need to do some serious research if you're looking at an Independent Publisher. The smaller Independent houses are unlikely to have bookstore distribution, but may sell well on-line.

    Self-Publishing/"Indies"/Independent Authors/Independent Publishers
    For clarity, I never use any term connected to "independent" for this category because that term is already being used to make an important distinction elsewhere. There's nothing wrong with the term or the practice of "self-publishing".
    It's pretty rare for self-published books to get much bookstore distribution. Your local store may stock some copies if you ask nicely, but that's probably as far as you'll get. Most sales will likely be online, or through "hand-selling". That said, there are a lot of books being sold online today, and a good chunk of them are self-published.
    If you're self-publishing, you don't have to worry about getting anyone else to accept your book; you're good to go. (This can be a blessing and a curse). You can either do your own editing, covers, and formatting or you can trade services with someone or you can pay someone. You get your produce ready to go, you upload (to Amazon, and maybe elsewhere) and you join the throng of authors trying to get notice for their work.

    A sub-category here might be Assisted Self-Publishing. I include this term with great trepidation, because most companies offering Assisted Self-Publishing are total scams, but I wanted to at least acknowledge that, in theory, this could be done without being a scam. If you want someone to take care of the details of publishing your book for you, there are companies that will do that. But be very, very careful of how much you're paying, and make sure they're not flattering you into using them.

    I found an example of what could be legit Assisted Self-Publishing at http://askthepublishingguru.com/ under Publishing and Editing Services. It seems like a list of services they'll provide to you, with some pretty extravagant fees, but not a total scam, until I found the line: you'll "have the knowledge that your book is up to the standards of any traditionally published work." And that's where you can see the flattery working its way in. If your MS is total crap, paying $200 for an "Editorial Critique" is not going to get it up to the standards of a good book. They're lying, and that introduces us to:

    Vanity Publishing/Vanity Presses
    I could be here all day if I tried to reproduce all the different terms vanity presses use to disguise their slime, so I'm just going to call them all Vanity Publishing. They generally come with lots of horror stories about how impossible it is to get published these days, etc. - a lot of their rhetoric sound really similar to the most virulent of the self-publishing cheerleaders, but while the self-publishing guys seem to really believe what they're saying and don't take a profit off it all, the vanity presses are absolutely taking authors' frustration to the bank.

    Lots of vanity presses will cloak themselves in a "submission" process that mimics that of legitimate publishers, but really they accept every manuscript they see. I don't really know how an author can guard against vanity presses at this stage (except by doing loads of research on publishers before submitting to them) but it's the next stage where things become clear.

    Because vanity presses will ask the author for money. Loads of money. Vanity presses stay in business by taking fees from authors, not by selling books to the public. They charge thousands and thousands of dollars, make promises about promotion and distribution that never materializes, and break authors' hearts. I think back to how happy I was when I got my first publishing contract and then I imagine how I'd have felt if that had turned out to be a scam, and I just... yikes. I HATE vanity publishing.

    So, as soon as a publisher asks for money, you know you're not dealing with a real publisher. A lot of them will wait until really late in the process to hit you with the fees, because they're bastards. They tell you your MS is being considered, oh, they really like it but they need to be sure it's a good fit, they get back to you and yeah! they're going to take it, you're going to be published, and you tell everyone you know and go out for a celebration dinner and start dreaming about quitting the day job, and then they tell you it'll be $4 000 to get started. (To get STARTED - there'll be more later, don't worry).


    How to avoid scams?

    Be wary of publishers who focus on "finding new authors" or "making authors' dreams come true". You want your publisher to be focused on selling books to readers.

    Do your research. Search Bewares and Background Checks at the AW Water Cooler (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?22-Bewares-Recommendations-amp-Background-Check) and the SFWA's Writer's Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/). Google the name of the publisher and the word "complaints" or "vanity".

    Most of all, keep things straight in your mind. If you want to self-publish, self-publish. If you're not self-publishing, there's absolutely no reason to ever pay money to get published. Real publishers pay you, not the other way around. Make your choice and stick to it. Vanity Presses prey on the wavering and unwary.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you for this. It rather goes with your signature :)
     
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  3. InsaneXade

    InsaneXade Member

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    Thank you for this informative post. Sadly, I got taken on a vanity publisher when Tate Publishing went belly up. Never again. Your post has helped me immensely. I suppose the only real way to get published is the old fashioned way with agents and stuff or self-publishing and hope someone buys your book.

    What gets me is sometimes they'll contact you. I have this one publishing house (referred to me by Tate) constantly asking me how "Aden the Reluctant Wizardry" is doing when they got the title completely wrong it's "Aden's Reluctant Wizardry" Although if I can come up with another title I might change it since Aden is only reluctant in the first part of the book. I'll have to rely on my new test reader to tell me if the title is apt enough or not.
     
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  4. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Yeah, they're crafty - they know how bad authors want to be published, and they're taking advantage.
     
  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll "It's a messy business." :P Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting. Well I guess I better start writing the most cliched
    thing I can think of if I want to get trad-pubbed. :p

    I remember reading about this fee for MS before, but I can't
    remember where I had read it. While I have never seen any
    that want to 'make your dreams come true' types in my wandering
    about, it only makes sense that they would be out there.
    Gotta be desperate to pay to get pubbed. :)
     
  6. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for your OP in this thread @BayView. I read a personal account of someone who got caught up with one of these vanity publishing companies when she was trying to get her first children’s story published.

    She kept getting a sweep of aggressive non-stop phone calls from the company she published with every day. They were trying to get her to buy a lot of very expensive marketing packages including unrealistic ones such as they were going to get her work on the big screen. The phone calls wouldn’t stop and she was getting lots of abuse from her own representative and marketing agent. He was using all sorts of tactics to try to get her to buy into the marketing packages and was belittling the status of her work. She tried to report her agent to upper levels of the company but she was getting no where. She was getting so much aggression from them that she even wanted to get her published book removed from the market since she was published with that company in order to get the phone calls to stop.

    Mind you, her writing’s done really well to open other people’s eyes to the realities of being involved with a publishers like that. I think it’s done well for her book sales too, since she used her experience with these vanity publishers to warn people about them. I believe every single word. And same with your OP too. Please people. Do not believe them.

    If I find her page again, I’ll include the website in this thread since people might be interested in hearing a first hand account of what goes on.
     
  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    A first-hand link would be great.

    The whole thing is so sad.
     
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  8. dbesim

    dbesim Contributor Contributor

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  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    it's a good summary - but I would note that indie is an established term for self published authors who do it properly (to distinguish between them and people who just slap an unedited draft with a home made cover on amazon then wonder why it's not selling) - the Alliance of Independent Authors has been running for at least 6 years
     
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  10. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned Supporter

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    Are they worth joining?
    I've had it drilled in to me that "money flows to the author," and while $75-$140/yr isn't much to me, I'm pretty dedicated to the idea of "get what you pay for, and pay for what you get."
     
  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Alli are a representative body so they sit outside the money flow thing which is in ref of publishers - I'm a member and I think its a worthwhile expense but its not going to pay back in cold hard cash (you do get some discounts such as no set up fee on ingram spark , but you're not going to save more than it costs. I view it as being like joining a union in an employment situation - they are there to speak for self/indie authors)

    The money flows to the author thing is predominantly about how you tell a trad deal from a vanity.. ie that Random Penguin or whoever will pay your royalties they won't charge you to publish. Unlike say Austin Mcaulley, or Xlibris etc

    Self/indie publishing is different because since you unless you are multi talented you won't be doing every last thing yourself and you are responsible for it all yourself you have legitimate expenses, editors, cover designers, advertising etc - so money flows from and to the author. The trick as in any business is to have more flowing in than flowing out (in terms of avoiding vanity I'd fight shy of services that offer to do it all for you for 'only' some insane amount of money)
     
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  12. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned Supporter

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    Thanks, I'll probably join.

    Unpublished authors can be such a desperate breed, there's no end of jackals waiting to prey on us. Ya gotta be careful.
     
  13. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    The very first book I finished was picked up by a vanity press (I think I've ranted about them on here many multiple times). What I don't often mention is I was absolutely going to take the deal. I had just won a stupid amount of money off a writing competition, and I was absolutely prepared to invest the £2300 they were asking for if it would get my book published.

    Thing is, this was the first acceptance I'd had. I was sixteen, I think, or seventeen. I THOUGHT THIS WAS HOW TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING WORKED. It was only when I showed the contract they'd sent to my dad that he said "this doesn't sound right" and I realised... Hang on, no of course it doesn't. I was excited to be "accepted", and I assumed (since I'd never seen anything other than "no thanks" or "we'd like to see the rest of your manuscript" followed by "no thanks", that this was just the standard process.

    The biggest fear, for me, is that other people will go into this with the same naivety and get caught without someone telling them "don't be an idiot".

    It's frustrating being constantly rejected, but surely it's better to go through a thousand rejections if, after however much hard work and stress and pain, you finally get picked up by a real, genuine publisher. Bear in mind I'm not raising any arguments against self-publishing and don't see it as any less valid than traditional (I mean I'm self-published myself so wouldn't be a great move). But vanity publishers... Ugh. Put the work in, don't give up through the rejections, and you'll get there.

    Besides, come on. I was seventeen.

    The book was shite.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I just bought and read the Alli book Choosing the Best Self-Publishing Companies and Services 2018, by Jim Giammatteo. It was incredibly informative regarding many of the issues being discussed on this thread.

    However, it is also out of date. I think it was actually written in 2017. And CreateSpace, which he promotes and discusses at length, no longer exists as such.

    Do you know if/when this book will be updated? I would really like to get hold of an updated version.
     
  15. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    There's a job vacancy down with the local vanity publisher. Description, the deal to market in the care homes, and build a network among the Fallen Oaks and visit unfortunately, putting all the dribble and grunting accounts of Spitfires tumbling from the skies into coherent plot; giving the words the 'Young Adult wash' or a 'romantic slant' for these dying people to pass a hardback to descendants that can read a little. It's mainly commission. The joy in their eyes when you pass the dummy copy across the table is 'quite imperceptible,' apparently.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2019
  16. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It says in the blurb that its updated annually by the Alli watchdog team so I'd assume that the 2019 copy will be out shortly. That said I don't recommend using any "self publishing company" a lot of them are thinly disguised vanities and even the legit ones like bookbaby are charging a lot for things you can easily learn to do yourself or pay a freelancer to do. (those books are free to Alli members but I haven't actually bothered with them)

    Personally (YMMV) I'd say legit expenses are Editor/proof reader , Cover design (I actually do my own but I have twenty odd years experience with photoshop), and advertising fees to AMS/Facebook/book bub, and promo fees to Kobo and people like freebooksy, bargain booksy and so forth.

    When service companies start talking about how they'll "ensure your book is listed on the biggest retailers" it generally translates as "we'll list it on amazon" which you can do yourself.

    Print wise your basic options for POD are KDP print or Ingram Spark - KDP doesn't cost anything up front and although ingram spark charge a set up fee there are usually discount codes to get it free... alli members get it free, and until the end of the month theres a Nanowrimo code (NANO I believe)… after that there'll be another one along shortly
     

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