Thursday, August 9, 2012

Caveat Author

By Michael Seese

Writing is a tough business. I emphasize the word "business," because that's what I'm focusing on today. It was hard enough back in the day when your only option was to go through an agent, on to a traditional publisher. I'm ignoring for the sake of convenience the process of true self-publishing, that is, paying someone to create a camera-ready copy, and then paying a printer to print books.

But somewhere along the line, we writers were offered a new "option."

Vanity presses.

Back in April, I submitted Dear Diary to a publisher that I found somewhere or other. I won't name the outfit; if you really want to know, leave a comment and I'll write to you personally.

The other day, I received a letter from them. I will highlight -- but quote exactly -- some of the more relevant passages. Any bolding is mine.

"I receive hundreds of these per year and have decided to offer you a few options regarding publishing with us."

"I have been asked for phone consulting from authors on book publishing (print or E-book), marketing, printing, distribution, discounts, distributors, publicity, fulfillment, mailings and dozens of other needs of small publishers and self-published authors. I am willing to spend one session with you on any subject or needs you may have on publishing for a flat $195 minimum for the first hour, and $40 per one quarter hour (charged in fifteen minute increments) after the first hour. Call for an appointment with your credit card. Limited time available so book early."

And, like a good scam, HURRY!

"Our publishing, marketing and distribution agreements are done only with twenty-five authors per year. So if you want to find out how that all works, schedule a consultation."

There are so many things I could say:

- "I don't need to consult about any of those topics. Just publish and distribute my books, and send the checks to the address of record."
- "I don't have my credit card handy. Why don't you take the $195 out of my advance?"

Of course, I won't waste my time. But if he sends me an email, I will reply with, "I appreciate your offer. But I'm not in the market for a vanity publisher. But if I ever am, I will think of you."

If he were to reply to that (and I doubt he would) I could point him to a wonderful reference, a website called Preditors & Editors, which helps us writers with this sort of dilemma. Looking up these folks, I see

"Not recommended. Appears to be a vanity publisher."

So I could add, "Sorry buddy...according to the folks whose opinion matters, you are."

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