Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vanity Publishing v Self Publishing

In the latest issue of the Romance Writers of New Zealand (RWNZ) newsletter, writer Laura Resnick compares vanity and self pubishing and their marked dissimilarity to the traditional publishing model. Resnick defines both self-publishing and vanity publishing as forms of printing, not publishing. Self-publishing, she says, is an honest business, while vanity publishing is 'the perfect con, preying on the dreams of desperate aspiring writers who are uneducated about how publishing works.'

Resnick goes on to say that: 'If your business arrangement with a company calls for you to contribute any money-any money at all-toward the production of your book then you are dealing with a print model, not a publishing model.'

I concurr with Resnick's comments. I've been instrumental in several self-publishing ventures. I would not, however, enter into any agreement whereby I'd pay an individual or organisation to publish (print) my writing. Read Resnick's enlightening blog Publishing, Printing or Scam.

People who self-publish often can't see any further than getting their work into print. Consequently there are countless books stored under beds, in cupboards and garages all over the world. Sadly, there are not countless customers with fists full of dollars waiting for your book to appear.

Take it from me, selling self-published books is frustrating, time-consuming work. It can be soul-destroying. If you're self-publishing family histories or a memoir, marketing may not be important but if you need to get a return on your outgoings, be scrupulous about investigating many different marketing possibilities before printing your book; print the minimum number and/or look at e-publishing options-or abandon the idea entirely, polish your writing skills and continue to submit manuscripts to established publishing companies.

Were my self-publishing ventures successful? Financially, no. The two books I self-published with my partner were, however, rewarding in that they opened the door for him to gain his first significant publishing contract and a relationship with his publishers which continues to this day. We also published a bi-monthly magazine from a home office for several years before selling to a larger publishing company. The magazine has since been sold again and is still popular with its niche readership 17 years after the first issue came off the press - I think that effort also deserves a 'successful' label, although that 'success' came at a high cost. Would I self-publish again? Probably, but with extreme caution.

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