Tag Archives: Scams

The difference between traditional press, vanity/subsidy press, and self-publishing

Recently I’ve had friends of friends approached by vanity presses trying to lure them into buying their overpriced mediocre services.  The story is always the same–a newbie writer has just written a first book, is not a member of any sort of national writer’s organization, and has absolutely no clue of how the business side of publishing works.

Then there was the whole uproar over the creation of vanity/subsidy press Harlequin Horizons (see the link about it at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for the most info.  But be warned, the comment section now stands at over 830 comments!) I’ve read quite a number of comments on this controversy, and was troubled by the number of people who didn’t know the difference between traditional vs. vanity/subsidy vs. self-publishing.

I think Writer Beware at SFWA does a terrific job of explaining the differences.  Here’s a link to their publisher definitions page.  Once you read this, you’ll know how to tell which press is which.

The Novelists Inc. blog has a post which lists several websites to help understand the hazards of vanity publishing.

My rule of thumb is “keep control of the money.”

In self-publishing, a writer gets competing bids from the best freelancers she can find for every part of the process (editing, art, making the book, publicity, e-book versions, etc.), keeps copyright and controls ISBN, and gets to keep all money made from sales.   You don’t get to do those things with a vanity/subsidy press–and on top of that you shell out large sums of money while they shell out little, and then you have to deal with them taking a huge cut of the money from sales as well.  A vanity/subsidy press makes its money off of writers, not book sales.

A traditional publisher pays the writer.   They take care of all of the expenses, which is why they get a big chunk of the sales.   Some writers exchange being paid an advance by an e-publisher in order to get a higher royalty rate (usually about 35%).   But those writers don’t pay the e-publisher, ever.

Writing is an art, publishing is a business.  Publishing presses are like any other business–there are great ones, good ones, mediocre ones, and slimy ones.   Shop around.

Publishing Industry Gossip: Absolute Write Water Cooler, Galleycat, and Publisher’s Weekly

If you decide to sell your work, you’ll have to get familiar with the publishing industry.  A few weeks back I blogged about doing a thorough background check of a potential agent or publisher to make sure they’re not a scammer (or just plain incompetent), and forgot to mention the helpful forums at Absolute Write Water Cooler (you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find the search tool).  Do a search on the forum content using the name of the person or company you want to investigate.  I’ve noticed that the Writer Beware bloggers hang out there on occasion.

To keep up with publishing industry gossip, I find Publisher’s Weekly and Galleycat useful.   You can also sign up for free daily or weekly e-newsletters from Publisher’s Weekly.

My one piece of advice in using these three websites is to wait until the end of your workday to visit them, instead of first thing in the morning. It’s too easy to get distracted or start fretting about the economy when you should be focusing on your writing instead.  Save them as a reward for a productive day.

Avoiding Scams in Publishing-Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors

Just in case someone stumbles onto this blog who isn’t already aware of the rip-off artists out there, I’m going to blog about scams.

If you keep these four key points in mind, it’ll help protect you from most of the scammers you’ll run into who prey on new writers:

1)  Money flows from a typical publisher to you, not from you to it.  Little to no money should flow from you to an agent.  I strongly advise reading the essay on agent fees at Writer Beware to get a sense of what a legitimate fee is and what it is not.

2)  Do a background check of any agent, editor, writer’s contest program, or publisher you’re thinking of signing a contract with.   What’s their track record like?  How long have they been around?  Thanks to Google, and websites like Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware this is easy to do.

3) If you decide to self-publish, you are now a small publishing company of one.  There are good e-book services, print-on-demand services, and traditional printers out there, but there are also sleazy companies that grossly overcharge newbie writers and/or  have unreasonable contracts.  You need to put on your CEO hat, and research your industry to find out what the reasonable costs of production are.  You need to learn about contracts, copyright, distribution, and marketing.  You need to find and hire a good freelance editor to go over your work.

4) If it sounds too good or too easy to be true, it probably is.

Any writer can benefit from taking the time to read the various articles at Writer Beware about the common practices, pitfalls, and controversies of the publishing industry.