October 19, 2007
Vanity Publishing: Extreme Makeover Edition
Vanity publishing. It even sounds a bit sleazy, doesn't it? Paying a "publisher" to print and distribute your work has always had negative connotations in publishing. If a legitimate firm won't produce your book, there must be something wrong with it. Right? Either it is commercially unviable or editorially substandard. It means someone is doing it just to satisfy their vanity.
No more. Vanity publishing has had an extreme makeover.
Earlier I wrote about the need for authors to establish a platform, that is create a place from which they can be seen by the reading public. Publishers now rely on authors to obtain endorsements from well-known people the authors have personal contact with, to have access to snail mail and email lists they can use to publicize the book, to write blogs to keep touch with their readership, to be speaking regularly to groups where their books can be sold, and much more. And even when an author does all that, sometimes a publisher still will not believe that an author has a sufficient platform to justify publication economically. So the book is turned down.
What is left for an author to do? Self-publish. Technology has made self-publishing easier than ever. And if the book succeeds, there is absolute proof to a publisher that the author has a platform. And publishers have realized that. Some publishers even scour the landscape for successful self-published books they can acquire.
If an author is succeeding with self-publishing, why would he or she want to go with an established publisher? Possibly such authors wouldn't. Obviously, they are likely to take in much more per book than just a royalty percentage. And with online sellers like Amazon.com being willing to take on self-published books, authors can reach a wide readership.
But often printing, warehousing, shipping and billing is just too much of a hassle. Authors may still have trouble getting into many traditional outlets such as bookstores. In addition, even with lots of design software out there, the final product may just not look as professional as what an established publisher is capable of.
InterVarsity Press has taken on several books which were previously self-published successfully and made them into even more successful publishing efforts. Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden and Short-Term Missions Workbook by Tim Dearborn both had strong histories before they ever came our way and have become stronger sellers since. Other publishers are experiencing the same thing.
Of course successful self-publishing does not automatically turn into successful traditional publishing. Sometimes instead of creating a market, self-publishing can exhaust a market. So some caution is in order. But the days of automatically consigning self-published books to the reject pile are over.
Are you an author having trouble getting a publisher to accept your book for publication? Self-publishing might be your next best bet.
Are you a publisher looking for books you can count on to be successful? Seeking self-published books with a proven track record might be the right thing for you.