Vanity Presses are all well and good, but…

As you know if you follow me on social media, I’ve spent most of July researching indie publishers to send Broken Patterns to. For the most part, it has been a really great experience. The submission process is similar to that of a literary agent, so it’s not much of a transition. Many places have online submission forms which make my job just that much easier. (Though, word to the wise, most online forms ask for the same info you’d put into a query packet. So, no slacking there.) I’ll be doing an in depth behind the scenes piece about submitting to indie publishers soon.

Not today, though. Today, I have to issue a warning.

In the process of submitting to indie publishers, I came across one that seemed legit. It had an online form that I so love, accepted fantasy novels and seemed to be a legitimate company. I filled everything out with the same amount of care and excitement that I always feel when submitting one of my pieces. It might be the big one, it’s always going be the big one. The one that really gets my name out there and makes me a ‘someone’.

Not so much.

I realized literally minutes after I’d submitted to the company that something was wrong. I received an acceptance letter, a nice long one, right away. The editor asked me to clean up my bio a little and send it back.

Then she informed me that, as indie publishing was a hard business, she asked her writers to purchase at least 50 copies of their book, at a reduced rate of course, to sell myself.

I’m sure you understand what’s happening here. I had not found a legitimate publisher. I’d found a vanity press.

Now, I have nothing against vanity presses. I am self-publishing a series (more on that later this week), and I will probably use something similar to print copies of my book to sell.

But when I do that, I’ll know what I’m getting into.

See, a company like that can do many things that a traditional publisher will do. They might have editors and copywriters. They might have fact checkers. Some even have artists to do cover art for you, or even their own stores. If you’ve decided to independently publish your book there are lots of options and resources out there to help you get that done.

But it’s you that’s getting that done, in that case. You’re investing your money, time and energy. You’re creating a product that you will then yourself, sell. A traditional publisher is a totally different animal. They technically own your book. They pay you, and they ask you to do edits and appearances. The financial pressure is off of you, and so is the selling. You already sold your book to them; they’re going to take it from there.

I like both ways, and intend to pursue both. What I don’t like, is when a vanity press pretends to be a traditional publisher.

I need to know what I’m getting into, and so do you. If I’m responsible for my book then I need to know that, going in.

Fortunately, I have been in this field for a while, and I’ve learned (painfully) that not everyone out there wants to help me publish my book. Some people want to dick me, and other writers, over. Thankfully I never lost money in these lessons, but other writers have. Here, then, are some tips to keep you safe on your publishing journey.

Don’t give anyone money outright.

Literary agents don’t as for money from the writer. Neither do traditional publishers. Self-publishing companies do, but that’s to be understood, and you’ve got a clear contract dictating what you’re getting for your money. Any agent or publisher that charges ‘reading fees’ or ‘office fees’ is not a legitimate company. Those are not things that are charged in this business, end of story.

Don’t believe someone who tells you that you must purchase a certain amount of books yourself.

Again, traditional publishers exist to sell your book to readers. They don’t want to make money off of you. They want you to make books that they can then make money off of. No valid traditional publisher wants you to buy copies, and in fact will possibly send you a few copies for free.

Always check Predators and Editors.

I have this page bookmarked, and you should to. Not only can you find the dirt on bad ‘editors’, you can report companies that you’ve found that are doing writers wrong. (Don’t worry, not every little gripe and burn is up here.)

Be safe out there, whatever road to publishing you take.

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