Saturday, March 21, 2015

Vanity Presses Are Cool Again?

It's the Year of Our Lord 2015, and I've seen the defense of vanity presses from multiple people.

The entire recent discussion on vanity presses stems from David Gaughran's article on Barnes & Noble's partnership with Author Solutions and Nook Press. When I say vanity presses in the plural, that concerns itself with mostly Author Solutions, the vanity press run by Penguin Random House has a lot of different names. Let another tweet by Gaughran demonstrate:

What makes this article so newsworthy is that Barnes & Noble did its best to hide the fact they outsource to Author Solutions. By doing this, Author Solutions gets all the personal information of those who use those services labeled Nook Press, which one would assume was done in-house by Barnes & Noble's Nook operation itself. This means Author Solutions can spam and aggressively push packages on unsuspecting writers. And unsuspecting is the keyword, as no where does it say Authors Solutions on the Nook Press website.

We all know about vanity presses right? They're bad. A big no-no we learned in Becoming an Author 101. Why? Because publishing has always been free. No one pays for an agent. Publishers do not (although some do. Hint, Hint, Hydra Contract. Cough, Random House, cough.) have the author shoulder any editing, cover, or marketing cost. If those two things are broken, they are not legitimate and authors should stay far away.

Self-publishing is also free. There is no charge to put a book on Kindle. There is no charge through Smashwords and Direct 2 Drive to put an ebook on all retailers. The author must pay for any editing, cover art, and marketing themselves, but that is because they are assuming the publishers role. Get it, self-publishing? Whatever.

The point is, Barnes & Noble has teamed up with the big bad vanity press of today, and they kept quiet about it. They know Author Solutions has a bad reputation. No one wants to be associated with it. What I don't get is how all of a sudden some authors are vanity press sympathizers.

Listen, publishing has many options for authors right now, more than any other time. The industry is working for the author much more, when previously authors slaved for the industry. If you want an agent and big contract, go for it. That's a fine choice. If you want to self-publish and hold on to all your rights and control, go for it. That's a fine choice. Paying a company who offers little to no value in publishing isn't a good choice. Just because some go into it willingly (While most don't know any better, and are incorrectly led to believe this will help them get noticed by a big publisher.), doesn't make it any less predatory.

"Some people are happy with [Insert Vanity Press Name Here]'s services," is not valid, never has been valid, and never will be valid. "Those authors should have known better," can also be thrown in the trash bin. 

And that's the very thing, most people do throw the idea of a vanity press into the trash, but vanity presses still exist by catching the unwary and pulling huge profits out of them. It is definitely not a case where we can stand by and talk down to these writers. That's not the kind of example I want to set.

I don't know if this is towing a company line, or it's being said because one doesn't want to bad mouth an extension of a publisher and have it come back to bite them in the ass. Maybe they just don't care in the end.

I've met writers who used vanity presses and left, writers who no longer control their publishing rights on certain books, and writers who were screwed out of $2,000+ and nothing to show for it. I'm not silent on vanity presses