The buzz spilling all over writer and publishing news these past two weeks have been over Harlequin's decision to SELL publishing services to wannabe writers. Said wannabe writers seem to believe this is a good idea. Corporate self publishing execs are patting themselves on the back for providing the "future of publishing." Writers are screaming bloody murder over a scam they've been warning unpublished writers against for decades. My simplified definitions:
"Traditional" publishing means an author gets paid real money, often lots of it, upon signing a legal contract that specifies exactly what the publisher will do and what rights the author retains. The publisher is then obligated to earn that money back by providing professional editing, copyediting, printing, and sales distribution, nationally and sometimes worldwide. The author may or may not keep rights for films, e-publishing, and foreign rights. The reader gets a professional product they can enjoy, put on their shelves, and resell because other people want to read the book. The writer is mostly responsible for simply writing the book. In other words, the writer is a professional whose work is so valued that people pay money to read it.
"Self-publishing" is a relatively new technological alternative whereby an author can place an electronic book on the internet for purchase for a Kindle or other e-reader or for print-on-demand. I am essentially self publishing when I put my backlist on Kindle or sell it on an author co-op site. My costs are minimal and completely of my own choosing. I may pay someone to scan in old books. I may pay someone to do my publicity. I may pay someone to put a cover together for me. I DO NOT pay a publisher for anything, not even the books I'm selling at e-book sites like Belgrave House. Publishers WANT my books and they are willing to pay to acquire them. I do not pay them. Ever. I earn vastly higher royalty rates on these books than through traditional publishing because sales and distribution are much slower and smaller than a huge mass market release, and I have no middle man. It's a viable alternative for old books or for books that traditional publishers can't place, but unless the writer is a superb salesperson or a well known name, it will not put groceries on the table.
"Vanity" publishing means the writer is paying someone to bind their document. Anyone can produce a document of any size or quality and have a vanity press slap a cover on it, as long as the author is willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege of seeing their writing in print. If the "future of publishing" is for everyone to have their very own book on their shelves, than this will be a sad, sad world, because the whole point of books is to share ideas. Unless we can sell those ideas to a large audience, we've defeated the purpose of reading. And vanity press does NOT distribute books. They print books, period. For a fee, they can list books in the same places as any e-book or traditional publisher, but there is no way of recouping the cost because these places discount too heavily. In vanity publishing, the writer must be the writer, the editor, the copyeditor, the publicist, and the sales person going from store to store, hawking their books to booksellers who really don't need another piece of unreturnable inventory on their shelves. Bookstores are in the business to make money, too, and buying a book that hasn't been vetted by professionals is no way to do business. So essentially, vanity press produces products for no one but the person who paid an enormous sum for a dream. Try Kinko's. It's cheaper.
2 hours ago