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Writer, Beware

July 22nd, 2009 (04:16 pm)

current mood: annoyed

It's scary, how many companies out there are trying to take advantage of naive new writers who desperately want to see their work in print. I'm on several listserves and online networking groups, and a surprising number of the messages posted are from people who call themselves publishers and say they're looking to publish new writers, who just have to be willing to pay a small fee to get the ball rolling.... Others are not quite as upfront. Hidden somewhere in the middle of a long paragraph about what a great opportunity they're providing is a throwaway line that includes the words "author-subsidized." Such posts always include the sentence, "We are not a vanity press," but most of them are, or are close to it.

I've tried responding to these things by posting a note saying the publisher is supposed to pay the author, not the other way around. Inevitably, someone retaliates with a rant about how I obviously don't know what I'm talking about, because this is a great way for a writer to break into the field. Sometimes the so-called publisher responds by slamming traditional publishing and claiming that traditional publishers are the ones trying to rip you off. Traditional publishing is not going to make most of us rich. In fact, it pays really, really badly (unless your name is, say "J.K. Rowling," or "Dan Brown." Or you were Michael Jackson's pharmacist.) But at least it pays something.

Beginning writers: I know how much you want to see your work in print. But this is not the way to go. If you want it badly enough to pay for it, you might consider self-publishing; at least you'd have some control over the final product. (If you do self-publish, do your homework first, and be sure you understand what it will entail and what the benefits and downfalls are.) These fake publishers will print your book. They might even print up a catalog that lists the books they've printed, and send that catalog to a few bookstores or newspapers, and call it marketing. But they have no distribution. They make their money by charging fees to authors, not by selling books.

If you don't believe me, go to the website of every major writer's organization, or look in any reputable writing and publishing reference book. They'll tell you what I just did.



Posted by: Tiptoe39 (tiptoe39)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 08:48 pm (UTC)

You're awesome.

Posted by: dragonet2 (dragonet2)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
This is a cause that is dear to my heart because I hates

the vanity publishers, I do hates them. (Dad gave my address to Vantage Press once upon a time and it took three address changes to lose them....)

You're doing good works here! Blessings.

Here are some links:

Writer Beware! (SFWA)

Preditors and Editors:

ABsolute Write is not only a good place to register and read in, you can also ask about publishers.

New writers, remember Yog's Law - "Money should always flow TOWARD the writer."

On the other hand, if you have a family cookbook or something that is merely personal interest, lulu.com is an honest, fair site that lets you be your own print on demand person. YOu can publish online for really chea; and if you want a hard copy, it is still fairly cheap. If you can format the hard copy, it is even better. Their prices are setup prices, and in the $10s of dollars, not $1,000s.

Paula Helm Murray

Posted by: the artist formerly known as kytyn (melydia)
Posted at: July 22nd, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
Re: This is a cause that is dear to my heart because I hates

Actually, lulu's prices aren't even setup prices: you only pay if you purchase a copy of the book. Yes, it's more if you want an ISBN and a listing on Amazon, but technically you can put your book out there for free. I've used them numerous times for personal printing. Nice quality books.

Posted by: Kate of Kintail (katekintail)
Posted at: July 27th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Kermit Writes

Absolutely! I was taught by my high school creative writing teacher to never ever ever pay a publisher to publish your work. It's supposed to work the other way around. (The exception being reputable awards/prizes with an application fee)

My boss just had a short story published this past weekend in an online journal. Even that paid her $25.

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