Sunday, July 12, 2015

Writing Tip #15: Vanity Presses

There will come a time when you've finished drafting your novel and you're ready to put it out there in the world. You have two choices when it comes to publishing: self-publishing and traditional publishing. There's a post in the "Writing Tips" tab called Self-Publishing is Hard Work which I suggest you check out for more information. You can do it now or later, either way is fine.

If you're still with me: I mention in Self-Publishing is Hard Work something called "Vanity Presses." More specifically, I say to avoid vanity presses. For those that don't know: a vanity press is a publication company that says they'll publish your book for you. Sounds good, right? It's not. When something sounds too good to be true then it usually is.

Before anyone asks, YES, I did publish through a vanity press. Tale of the Twins Book 1 was originally published by AuthorHouse in March 2010. So yes, I do know what I'm talking about. Below you will see a list because lists keep concepts neat and tidy. There's a lot to go through.

1) Money

When someone asks YOU to pay for publishing your book: RED FLAG. Money should only be dealt out on cover designs and editing because, hey, they have to be paid too. Now, a vanity press will charge you exuberant amounts of money to do a lot of what you can do on your own. You will be spending anywhere from two to five times the amount of money publishing your book if you go with a vanity press.

Yes, they will give you an ISBN. But you can get it for free.

Yes, they will give you promotional material. But it won't come with how to use said promotional material and said material is normally bookmarks, postcards, and business cards centered around this ONE book. This is fine if all you're ever looking to do is publish ONE book and not make a brand.

Yes, they will give you hard and soft cover copies of your book. Yes, it will be more expensive then getting them printed somewhere else. And yes, there has been cases when they HAVE NOT delivered on printed books.

Yes, they will do other promotional stuff...for a price.

Oh, and those prices you see on their websites? Mm, yeah, they don't include the cost of editing.

And the stuff they might list under marketing? Mmm, yeah, you can totally do it on your own for free.

2) Marketing

Despite what any vanity presses' website says: They will not market your book. Oh, they'll put out some news releases and put you on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a few other sites. But that's all they'll do. And sure, they'll talk to Kirkus for you to get a review but only if you're willing to shell out $5000 for the whole package. Kirkus charges $425. Let's say editing is about $2000, cover is around $'re all ready saving by NOT going through a vanity press.

Sorry, we're on marketing. Oh, you might get a social media set up guide. So, they'll give you a list of what social media sites to sign up on and might even sign you up themselves. That is not marketing my friend. They will give you an account and you have to take care of it.

If you really shell out some cash you can do a couple of video interviews and get some stand-alone ads on Google...both of which won't work if no one knows who you are anyway. Interviews and videos only work if you can show people where those interviews and videos are, that is PROMOTE YOURSELF.

Don't buy into anything they say about marketing. You will be on your own and out a couple thousand dollars.

3) Your "Team"

A lot of these vanity presses talk about your personal "team" of people working on your novel. You get your own book consultant, cover design team, editor and EVERYTHING! In the four years I was with AuthorHouse I went through about ten book consultants, NOT through my own doing. They just got changed and I never saw the guy or girl before again. My cover design team got switched on me mid-cover design. I'm pretty sure my editor no longer works there. Personal team? Nope.

You will continually get people who know nothing about your book trying to sell you more hard copies of your book so they can get paid and you can sit there trying to figure out what to do. You are not a special member of their Publication House. You are a number and nothing more.

4) MORE Money

Every so often I'd get these calls from AuthorHouse telling me I was a special little snowflake that had been selected to participate in an event to promote my book. I fell into the trap and flew all the way to Los Angels for a Book-To-Screen event.

You are NOT a special little snowflake. You're number 54 of the thousands of authors in their "House" they've tried calling and who has said "yes" to doing said event. You will be shelling out MORE money to participate in the event then you will have to pay for your way TO the event, as well as your lodging AT the event.

My trip to Los Angeles wasn't a total bust (I did get a replica Saber Tooth Cat fang and to see a Tim Burton exhibit) but it did cost about $3000. What did I get out of it? The knowledge that some people thought my book was "too similar to Twilight", a replica Saber Tooth Cat fang, to see the Tim Burton exhibit, to say I've been to LA, a cool cab driver story, and to meet 149 other authors. Was it worth the $3000? Nope. Would I do it again? Nope.

Later that year I got a call about shelling out another $3000 to go to a book signing event in some park in Toronto with another 150 authors. Um, yes half a million people would be going through said park. No, just because I would be there wouldn't mean people would take copies of my free book. Yes, free. I wouldn't be making any money while there. I would just be gaining a readership. Oh, did I mention I would have had to BUY copies of my own book before going? No? Well yes, I would have had to buy copies of my book to hand out for free. Think about that for a minute. Yeah.

5) Your Rights

The cool thing about being self-published is you get to keep your rights. The not-so-cool thing about going traditional is you don't keep your rights. Vanity presses SAY you can keep your rights but if you decided to stop publishing through them you don't get to use anything with their name on it. What does that mean? Oh, the cover, the inside EDITED version of your book, the bookmarks, postcards, business cards, posters, and any other "promotional" material is null and void.

Why yes, that does mean you shelled out thousands of dollars to give up your rights and be back where you started before meeting said vanity press if you break contract. If you want to be able to use the cover, INSIDE EDITED VERSION OF YOUR BOOK, or anything else you have to pay a fee. Yes, that's right: you have to pay a fee. I suppose it's only fair. I mean they did do all this work setting you up with people and what not. But after spending $10,000 with them that extra fee felt like a kick to the groin.

Worse yet, if you want to self-publish on Amazon, you really can't. Why? Because THEY have all ready made a page for your other book and it would look stupid to have two separate accounts. That's not good for branding.

Did I mention you can't control your pricing? Well you can. But you can't offer the book in any kind of promotional deal with other books you might self-publish because you don't have access to the vanity press' book through Amazon. You can't offer that book for free because then you're throwing money out the window and THEY won't let you. And if you want to make any REAL money through them you've got to charge at least a dollar or more than other authors to make the same amount as them.

Do they tell you when your book is coming off their shelves? Nope. Do they deliver the files you paid for in a prompt and efficient manner before taking your book off their shelves? Nope. As of this writing (January 23), Tale of the Twins is no longer available on the AuthorHouse website but I still haven't gotten any of my files even though I paid the fee on January 9th. Yeah. Think about that for a minute.

So, an update to the file thing. I finally had to call to see where the Hell my files were. When did I call? March 23. March 23 after paying for my files on January 9. What did I get? A PDF of my novel. No cover. And no, not a Word doc which is easily editable for any excess pages, a PDF which when you convert over to a Word doc. you have to reformat everything. I'm currently in the process of reformatting line-by-stinking-line because there were excess pages, wonky paragraph tags, and a bunch of other crap I can't get rid of unless I literally bring a line into the paragraph before then do a hard return. Yeah. What did I pay $150 for? More work and needing a new cover.

In conclusion:


I will admit there have been some authors who have had success with vanity presses but they are few and far between. In order to be a success with a vanity press you have to have disposable income and you have to be able to promote yourself...which are the EXACT same things you need for self-publishing. Except with self-publishing you get to keep your rights. You'll also get to stick with one cover designer and editor who you'll grow to like and keep doing business with. A vanity press can't give you a permanent team. You can give yourself one.

I know it might not seem like it at first glance but it's MUCH, MUCH cheaper and better for you to self-publish without a vanity press. If you're going to self-publish you want as much control as possible so that your book will come out perfect. A vanity press can't offer you that.

And a funny note: There is a company out there who helps you to self-publish. They look like a vanity press but there are major differences. To be honest, I haven't checked them out as much as I normally do but they do offer a discount if you're trying to re-publish your book after being with a vanity press. Think about THAT for a minute. Yeah.

A note for those thinking I'm being bitter: AuthorSolutions (AuthorHouse and iUniverse for those curious) had a class action law suit filed against them. There's a section in Self-Publishing is Hard that talks about research. ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don't fall into the same trap I did.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

No comments:

Post a Comment