Indie Authors, Simon & Schuster And Vanity Presses

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

For those of you who haven’t heard, Simon & Schuster is partnering with Author Solutions to help indie authors who want to self-publish.  It’s a called Archway Publishing.  David Gaughran has a great post on why indie authors should run from what Simon & Schuster is offering, so I won’t rehash this, but I am going to comment on some things I find interesting.

Indie Authors Explode On The Scene

It’s no secret that independently published authors (who I refer to as indie authors) are changing the publishing scene.  In some ways this is a great thing, but it also means more competition and much more work to get discovered (more on this below).  But one thing hasn’t changed…

Indie Authors And Desperation

For those of you who don’t know, Author Solutions, Simon & Schuster and many other archway publishingpublishing sites are referred to as vanity presses.  Why do you think they have this name?  Because many authors vainly (and desperately) want to see their names in print.  Now there’s nothing wrong with this…however, many people who seek out vanity presses (and now Amazon and other ebook publishers) do so mainly because they don’t want to traditionally publish and/or they can’t get an agent or mainstream publisher.  At the core of this, for many, is this: their books aren’t good enough to be published (which is why they can’t get an agent or publisher)…

Now before you harp on me with there are great self-published works out there that never would have been discovered without self-publishing (which I completely agree with), let’s be honest.  There are a lot of books being independently published that shouldn’t see the light of day, at least not without some serious editing for content, grammar, style and more.  Which leads me to vanity presses…

Indie Authors And Vanity Presses

So what will a vanity press do to help you?  Will they help you improve your works and make them publishable?

In a statement, Carolyn Reidy, president and chief executive officer of Simon & Schuster, said, “Self-publishing has become a viable and popular route to publication for many authors, and increasingly a source of content for traditional publishers.  We’re excited that we’ll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing.”

But how are they helping?  Getting a book published by a vanity press means nothing more than your book is in print.  They won’t help with marketing, it’s no guarantee that your book will be in stores, and worse yet, do you think a vanity press is going to help you polish your book(s)?  Nope (read what David Gaughran says about Author Solutions’s editors).  Vanity presses want your money, that’s it…and they’re getting it.

Author Solutions, based in Bloomington, Ind., says it has published more than 190,000 books by 150,000 writers since going into business in 2007.

Indie Authors And Simon & Schuster

And this brings me back to Simon & Schuster.  If you are an indie author who would consider using their publishing services (with the exorbitant price tag), let me politely say that you, at bare minimum, need to educate yourself about the publishing industry.  If you’re considering using any vanity press, please reconsider.  Your money is better spent elsewhere.  Read the nightmare stories on the Internet (or those referenced in Gaughran’s post) if you don’t believe me.

Indie Authors – Don’t Get Screwed

indie author - don't get screwedVanity publishers have been bilking ignorant indie authors for years.  And this is easily avoided if the indie author would take the time to research publishing before laying down their hard-earned dollars.  Along these same lines, unscrupulous agents have been screwing authors for years as well.  If you are desperate to see your book(s) in print, so much so that you would pay these kinds of prices without finding out what you’re getting yourself into, you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • why do you need to see your book(s) in print? what will this do for you?
  • if you say you don’t care about selling books, why do you want them up on Amazon and other sites? why not just print copies on your home printer and distribute them to your family and friends?
  • are your books really that good? what makes you think they are?
  • if you want to publish for money and fame, do you realize how few authors ever achieve either?

If you feel you’re ready to publish, there are better alternatives than vanity presses.  And in this new age of publishing, some of the same advice I heard years ago still applies:

  • read some books on writing and the writing craft so you can get an idea of what you’re doing (believe me, you might think you know what you’re doing, but you probably don’t, at least not in the beginning)
  • talk with other authors about writing and the business of writing
  • if you’re considering getting an agent, research them before you query them (Writer Beware, on SFWA’s site, is a great resource for this, with ratings of agents, publishers and more)
  • consider a critique group
  • consult Writer’s Market, even older editions, for great advice on what agents and publishers are looking for -this will help you understand writing (believe it or not, it will)
  • don’t quit your day job
  • stay current on what is going on in the publishing world

Indie Authors And Amanda Hocking

That last point is key, and it’s why I refer to Amanda Hocking (more on her in a future post).  I read an article a few weeks ago that really perturbed me.  It talked about how Amanda Hocking’s book sales took off once she discovered book bloggers.  I’m not going to link to this one because I found the advice to be so outdated, it was disturbing.  Yes, soliciting book bloggers for reviews is still a great way to get some reviews for your books, but…

Getting book bloggers to review her books, thus contributing to skyrocketing sales, worked for Amanda Hocking…in the fall of 2010.  It’s over two years later and things have changed drastically.  There are way more indie authors publishing (competition), which means there are way more indie authors soliciting book bloggers.  There is also the reputation of self-published books…although it’s changing, there are still a lot of book bloggers who don’t want self-published books.

What worked two years ago, or a year, or six months, probably won’t now (at least not on the same scale).  Educate yourself, stay current.  They’re the best things you can do for yourself…besides writing great books :).

Have you had a bad experience with a vanity press?  Please share your story with us.

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
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4 Responses to Indie Authors, Simon & Schuster And Vanity Presses

  1. James Ross says:

    It is sort of a double edged sword in the publishing industry. The large publishers want agents to screen manuscripts for them. However, finding an agent is next to impossible when virtually all of them don’t return messages, are tough to contact and generally treat new writers with very little respect.

    Even if an agent opens a door with a larger publisher the author will still have to market. Getting in a book store is no guarantee either. First, if a book sits on a shelf the store won’t re-order. Secondly why would a reader buy a book from an author that isn’t recognizable?

    The e-book world, vanity presses and self-publishing houses are really the only choice for many that want to write a book.

  2. Excellent post, Renée. I can only hope those who need to will heed your fair warning.

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