By Tara McClendon, the Despicable Muse of Indie U
If you're planning to self publish a novel, you will find that you need to use some type of publisher or create e-books. Both ways will give you a tangible (or real) product that you can sell; however, scammers run rampant in this industry.
The History of Vanity Presses
Once upon a time, vanity presses had a horrible reputation. Truth be told, they still do. Unfortunately, any non-traditional publisher often gets lumped into this category. So, what's so bad about a vanity publisher? Well, back in the day, vanity presses would send writers acceptance letters claiming they wanted to publish the individual's novel. They would offer a contract for the writer, and the end result was that the writer wound up paying 100 percent of the publishing costs.
In return for their investment, writers wound up with buckets full of empty promises. Instead of fulfilled marketing campaigns, authors who used vanity presses had a book to put on their shelf. According to statistics from Aeonix Publishing Group, most vanity presses sold less than 100 books per author. Ouch!
The New Face of Vanity Publishers
Vanity presses, sometimes called subsidiary presses, have made money off innocent writers for years. With the web, it's has become easier to find the unethical companies from those full-service publishers that are offering legitimate services. This change had led the scammers to keep pace, and many have shifted their focus (i.e. their marketing) to keep pace with the changes in technology.
The new face of many vanity publishers now involves POD printing, or print-on-demand printing. Keep in mind that some POD publishers are legitimate. They offer services and do exactly as they say they will do. But, scammers are still scammers. Some claim that POD printing is a free way to publish your book. Read between the lines: scam!
So, what is the indie publisher to do? Here are some tips to help you find a reputable publisher to help you with your writing business.
Tip 1: Remember the golden rule. If it sounds too good to be true, something isn't right.
Even though the Internet has reduced the cost of producing a book, nobody gets anything for free. You also won't get the moon if you're only paying a few hundred dollars. Put your common sense to use, and question everything that seems off kilter.
Tip 2: Do your research. Google can help you find results about a company's success rate within minutes. It may surprise you to find out how often Google will auto fill "scam" at the back of a word if it has several negative reports on file. Even if Google doesn't autofill, you can usually find the dirt by scanning a few of the results. For a faster search, type in "cons of" or "complaints" along with the publisher's name. This can help you find information that tends to be buried in the search results.
Tip 3: Examine all contractual agreements. Shady characters will try to get as much from you as possible without raising any type of flag. More than one author has signed away rights to work in a contract that looked legitimate. When in doubt, talk with a lawyer about certain conditions. If you can't afford legal fees, consider joining an organization with legal help, such as the SCBWI.
Tip 4: Compare your costs. Some people who use POD printers actually wind up paying more than they would have paid if they had used a full-service publisher.
Tip 5: Make sure your cover art and any other graphics are original. Some publishers will offer you cover art; however, they are using stock photos that you can find for a minimal cost on your own. If you're going to pay money for a cover, make sure you get your value's worth. Nothing is worse than putting together an awesome cover and having a competitor use it on a similar book.
Tip 6: Don't be naïve. Unethical people often find loopholes that will allow them to escape legal ramifications. The only way to protect your rights is to be savvy. Publication is a great goal, but it isn't worth your book's future to make a poor decision at the beginning stages of your writing career.
Have you experienced an unethical publisher? If so, be sure to leave a comment. You may be the person who helps this community avoid a costly error.