Pressing On Your Vanity

Photo by Tasha Kamrowski from Pexels

I just received an email acceptance and then the contract from a vanity press for one of the children’s books I wrote (my buddy illustrates them).

Yes, writers of naughty stuff can write other stuff as well. Even stuff 360 degrees from smut.

While this publishing house claimed that they are yards away from what anybody would ever come to consider to be a ‘vanity press,’ I quickly came to realize that this is exactly what they are. For a book that taps out at about 15 pages max. (granted with full-color illustrations) this ‘publisher’ (and I quote that word deliberately) was asking for over two thousand dollars from me, then promised to print the book, make copes, advertise… then they would proceed to take 50% of all profits the book made from any sales and sources. Sure, I get a bunch of author’s copies, and the company claimed they’d do their best to make my book bigger than Happy Potter, but with a vanity press, one has to realize the company already has made money from the author. If they can get the book to sell, that’s icing on the cake, but really why would further sales even really matter?

Besides, who has 2000 dollars?

Enough writers have fallen for this malarkey, if this company’s full roster is any gauge, and the little vanity press that doesn’t consider itself a vanity press turns a nice profit.

I politely demurred for the illustrator and me.

Before this offer, which I am now wise to, I was involved in a couple screw-the-author bait-and-switches. On a different level, so different I didn’t see the bilking coming until too late, I spent money, the publisher made a profit from me, leaving the sale of my book irrelevant.

You might find that you come upon a publisher who cannot pay your for a story that they want to include in an upcoming anthology. This, in and of itself, is not a red flag. Plenty of people get money up front for creating a book, but either don’t have the funds when it comes to paying writers or need to wait on the sale of the book to send royalties. I am usually sympathetic to someone just trying to get a book out that lots of times, I agree to have someone publish a story of mine in exchange for a PDF of the eBook or a contributor’s copy.

No problem there, if the terms are set before hand.

But in some cases, (and again I fell for this so don’t feel bad if you have), the publisher buys the story, or in one case a book of poetry of mine was published by a company far from my home country, and I was given the option to buy copies of the book at a ‘contributor’s price.’

Wow, thanks so much.

I could see if I wanted more than one copy of the book. In fact I’ve never asked for more than one copy of a book where I have not offered to pay for extras, plus postage. But charging me for one and offering it at a discount, so I feel I am getting something special?

Come on.

The there are markets like this one, Grandfalloon Magazine, where they not only sent me a bunch of contributors copies (at no cost to me) but have sent subsequent copies of the magazine (which is more like a book) I didn’t even have a story in. You can find them in the link above and if you do, tell them I sent you.

I never said you were going to get rich at this writer’s thing. But you don’t want to lose money. If you’re going to have a story appear in a book that’s going to see distribution (as I proposed in the last column when I spoke about anthologies), but you’re not being paid for it (or you will receive royalties on books sold), consider this a break-even proposition, at least.

Having a poem, story, article ‘out there’ gives it legs that writing and hiding it on your hard drive won’t. And if it doesn’t cost you money upfront to publish, then go for it, I say. When you are seduced into a pay-to-play scenario, you need to be very careful who you are playing with or not play at all. Because really, as I recall way back when I was attempting to be a never-was rockstar, you should never have to put up money for an agent or club owner to play for them as you should never do so for a publisher who wants to publish you.

Don’t let anyone play on your vanity that having a book published is the very best thing to happen to a writer.

Watch your money at all times.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here