Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Look up 'vanity' in the dictionary - please

Every day, either in a group or forum, there's some person who says 'buy my book', 'finally published', or somesuch.

I want to congratulate them, I really do. But every time I click a link, it's to a vanity press, most often, Publish America. The few who haven't gone the vanity route tend to have self published through Lulu.

I've nothing against self publishing, particularly. Heck, even vanity presses don't really bother me (PA is another story entirely).

But why lie to yourself and others? Paying to see your work in print makes you no more published than me writing these blogs counts as publication.

Does that mean these books aren't worth reading, or are doomed to failure? The easy answer is -


Depends upon the creator's definition of success, what they're writing, what they expect to get out of it.

If the entire goal is to have a bound copy of your work on your very own shelf - congratulations! It's a modest goal, but there's no reason not to be happy.

Perhaps you want a bound book of poetry to hawk after all those readings. Cool! Carpe Libre and go with your bad self. (Insert finger snapping here.)

Maybe you're an expert on something really, really weird or obscure, and want to reach others with the same interests - or you lecture on said topic, and want your own text to go with it. (How many books on the sexual habits of the Dodo birds could there actually be?)

The problem starts with all these announcements invariably being for works of fiction. On duotrope alone, there are over 2300 markets listed for fiction.

Chances are, if this thing is in any way worth reading, one of over two thousand publishers would have had an interest.

Yeah, yeah, the dreaded 'slushpile'. Have you ever actually read a slushpile? It's pretty scary. Besides not knowing how to craft a story, most of a slushpile hasn't been introduced to basic grammar or spellcheck.

As a beginning writer, this should actually make you happy. If you can write with basic grammar skills and know how to use spellcheck, you've already launched yourself into the top ten percent of submissions.

For real.

The flip side of this, is that it really has one skeptical of the writing 'genius' in these vanity books.

If anyone wants to send me one for review, I will. Be warned, it will be a completely honest, unbiased review. I am not going to assume your work is awful because it's self pubbed.

But I won't assume it's brilliant just because it's yours.

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