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  1. #1
    Art Edwards
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  2. #2
    Cathy C
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    First, for the record, I actually think self-publishing can be a good path for an author. But I have some concerns with your blog post.

    Now, I've never been a fan of the term 'vanity' as it places a negative connotation on the author so on this point I agree with you.

    However, you've presented your own take on the reality of the business, rather than what actually occurs, so on that I'll take issue with your opinion. This, for example,

    One final point. What always gets lost in these conversations is the end user: the book buyer. Strauss's blog doesn't pretend to address this, so this isn't a criticism of the ideas therein. But amongst all of the turmoil about "self-publishing" versus "traditional publishing" versus "vanity publishing," the most important person in the equation, the book buyer, is simply buying a book. They rarely care how a book is published. They just want a book that appeals to them. That's something every kind of publisher hopes to deliver, and in this important sense, all publishing, even vanity publishing, is equal.

    doesn't state reality. In this sense all publishing isn't equal. It's true that when presented with two books of: a) equal size; b) equal price; c) equal content and d) in the same location---then yes, the books compete equally and the buyer can choose at their discretion. But the fault in this argument comes down to b), c) and d).

    Regarding b), subsidy books are often substantially higher in price than a similar length of book by a commercial publisher. Subsidy publishers frequently add in the price of the production of the book, so that a $14.95 trade softcover published by a NY publisher could be $19.95 to $24.95 for the same length and format (trade softcover is the most common form of subsidy printing because it's what digital printers are set up for.)

    Regarding c), The variation in quality of book, from grammar and composition to tightness of plot and characterization can vary wildly from product to product with subsidy pubs. It's not until the reader picks up the book and thumbs through it that they know whether it will hold their interest. Of course, the same is true of commercial publishers. It all depends on the buyer picking it up (versus ordering sight-unseen) to see it. That brings us to:

    Regarding d), Subsidy books are seldom in the same place as commercial published books, where buyers are buying. They're not in secondary markets (WalMart, Target, grocery stores), they're not in the major chains except where consigned or placed by the author, and they're often not on sites frequented by buyers (Amazon.com and such). Much depends on the subsidy publisher and the level of distribution available to them.

    The book buyer IS the most important part of the discussion, and it's wise for authors to remember that buyers are the ones spending their money. They want what they want, where they shop and when they're there. While it's true there are more shoppers now willing to order online and wait to have an item shipped, books are still, for the most part, impulse buys. That requires the availability where people shop so they can see and touch it. It requires a price that cost-conscious buyers are willing to pay. If you ask a buyer to jump through hoops of location or price for a similar product, the likelihood of failure increases.

    From what I've investigated to date, until there's a method to level the playing field on distribution, subsidy publishing can't truly compete with commercial publishing. That's not to say there aren't exceptions. It happens. But the quantity of successes versus the quantity of subsidy published books per year isn't a number that gives me hope of it happening anytime soon

    JMHO, as always.

  3. #3
    Art Edwards
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    Thanks for your opinion. No doubt your chances of sales are much higher at a commercial house.

    Art

  4. #4
    Lorelei Armstrong
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    At the end of the day for me, everything depends on who decides the book should be in print. If it's the author, that's vanity publishing, whether you call it vanity, subsidy, self-publishing, or whatever. This definition collects the scams like PublishAmerica, which offers a nominal $1 advance to try to convince their victims that they're really published. At the same time they admit that they'll publish anything. So if you're the one calling the shots, whatever the set-up, you're vanity published.

  5. #5
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    Isn't it more than who decides the book should be published. That's a big part of it, but it's also who pays for the book to be published. On this scale, PublishAmerica isn't a vanity press or a scam--it pays for the book to be printed (although it bugs the heck out of the author to sell enough to cover PA's production costs), it's just a very bad publisher.

  6. #6
    Lorelei Armstrong
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    It's POD. They don't print anything until they are paid. They've even stopped sending the three author copies they used to offer. So until they are paid for their vastly overpriced paperbacks, they are not out one thin dime. They even overcharge for shipping (per book costs). By the time you have one 200-page paperback in your hands, you're out thirty bucks or more. And they're falling behind on production, too, with many orders for Christmas still not filled. So no, don't imagine PublishAmerica assumes any upfront costs. Or any back-end costs, either. They exist to separate the ill-informed and desperate from their credit cards, period.

  7. #7
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    I don't have to imagine PA covers the "up front" costs, because they do (minus the editing part). What do YOU think the up-front costs of putting a book into production are?

    The author doesn't have to pay the "up front" costs with PA--and there's a pretty big expense to set up print-on-demand plates and a cover (they don't just drop out of the sky), which PA, not the author, is paying for. This is by no means an advertisement for PA, but you don't seem to know what the costs are that have to be paid up front in a POD publishing process. I say if you just want a print book available for some friends to buy, PA isn't a bad way to go--compared to having to self-publish and swallow all of the set-up costs yourself and most likely wind up with an even more inferior product and at a greter cost because you don't have the expertise and can't take advantage of volume cost-efficient processes.

    Again, what do you think the up-front costs are in getting a book set up for print-on-demand?

  8. #8
    Lorelei Armstrong
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    Plates? How about PDF to a large Xerox? As for the covers, they use Jupiter Images, and there's a great game of concentration to be played matching up their recycling:

    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...d.php?t=129878

    They recently moved out of a brownstone, from which they have been producing 150+ books a week. You tell me how much work they're putting in.

  9. #9
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    And these plus the wages of those doing it and the administration support costs and the cost of maintaining the Web site they are offered on are paid for by whom? Again, it just drops from heaven. These are costs before the first unit is sold. Who is covering them in a PA product?

    Not the author. That's why it isn't a vanity press. It's just a bad publisher (assuming the author wants to use the book as a stepping stone in any direction) within its paradigm.

    You are bending over too far backward in this.

  10. #10
    Lorelei Armstrong
    Guest

    Re: "Subsidy" or "Vanity" Publishing?

    Their costs are paid by selling books back to their writers at hideously inflated prices. PA is not honest about what they are. When writers discover what they are many are heartbroken and some swear off writing. PA's contract is seven years long, they don't allow e-publishing of their titles or the look inside feature on Amazon, and the last time an author complained on their message board, PA's own infocenter told them "hush baby."

    Here's one: if you're really published, your publisher does not know your credit card number.

    Here's two: the fact that I don't agree with you does not mean I'm bending over too far backward. PA's writers are the ones getting bent over.

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