It’s Sunday and I’m writing this as I sit at my dealer’s table at LosCon. This, by the way, is a terrible idea; never type a blog post while you’re trying to run a table. It takes your focus away from potential customers and lowers your sales.
Anyways, something has come up a number of times when speaking with aspiring authors during the course of this convention, and I feel the need to say something about it. I honestly didn’t even think this was still a problem, but I’ve heard from three different people and apparently it is.
So here we go.
The job of an author is to write a thing. Once they have written a thing, it has value. How much value? No idea, it depends on the thing and the market. But it has value.
The job of a publisher is to take the thing from the author and use it to generate revenue. Some of that revenue is given to the author, either up front, as royalties, or some mix of the two. The publisher keeps the remaining money.
In other words, in a relationship between publisher and author, the money only flows in one direction. Money should go from the publisher and to the author.
There are a number of “publishers” who sell their services to authors. Want to be published? Send us your word .doc and some cash, and we’ll send you back some books. We’ll put a cover (largely generic-looking) on it and you’ll be a published author! Yay you! These companies are not, in fact, publishers; they are vanity presses, and there’s a big difference.
This violates the cardinal rule that defines a publisher. Because in this scenario, money is flowing from the author to the vanity press.
This is very bad for the author. And not just because she’s out the money.
See, in an actual publishing relationship, the author is, in effect, the product. The publisher packages and markets the product. The profits of both parties rely on how well the publisher does this. It is therefore in the interest of the publisher to market the book, because only in this way will the publisher profit. The two goals align.
In a vanity press arrangement, the author is not the product. The author is the customer. A vanity press could care less who buys the work–their job is complete once there’s a box of books out the door. They’re more interested in finding the next aspiring author to sucker.
I have been asked, multiple times at this convention, how much I would charge an author to publish them. And I haven’t wanted to say it, but I’ve been offended at the suggestion. With Impulsive Walrus, the answer will always be nothing. I may not accept a book because I don’t think we can profit off of it. I will never, ever, ever, charge someone money to publish their book.
And it concerns me greatly that there are people who think this is the way it’s done. Who are shopping around trying to find a better deal. Do not, do not, do not, do not pay to have your book published. Submit it to an actual publisher, instead of a vanity press. You’ll thank me.