Vanity Press: or is it?

Following on from the cracking post by KV Taylor regarding the pricing of e-books, I was thinking about vanity press, being as that is seen as much worse than self-publishing. I remember getting my acceptance for my second novel a few years ago along with a £300 fee for god knows what, I can’t remember now, and asking a few in the know for advice. The resounding opinion was that of outrage, that I was being asked to fork out £300 to have my own book published and one of those I spoke to mentioned the self publishing route.

That was even more of a shock to me, as if I was to go out and publish the book myself then what had happened to the whole process of publishing, how could an author just decide that their book was adequately edited and ready for publication and what did that mean for me as a reader?

Two recent cases in point have strengthened my negativity to self-publishing (sorry but I’m not a fan) and that is that two authors who sent books to Morrigan Books and were subsequently rejected by me have suddenly released their books themselves less than a couple of months later. I’m aware I’m off making generalisations again, as merely because these two have done that doesn’t mean that everyone does that but it begs the question when you know it’s self-published, yes?

Something that would sway me would be if someone like Robert Hood were to publish his own novel. Firstly I’d be shocked that he’d done it, mainly because he wouldn’t need to but then I’d be very interested in reading it because it’s Robert Hood (for god’s sake!) and because the work I receive from Rob is generally ready for publication, only minor editing required (“a quick pat on the bum and sent out the door” as an editor I respect once mentioned editing writers like this).

And this brings me back to the early queries I received which are now in print. The rejection was based mainly on shoddy editing, a level I though below par for a book at Morrigan Books, as we want to whip your works into shape, not get ready for a rewrite and extensive editing project. So when I see one of these books on the market, it saddens me and frustrates me, as I gave my comments, explained what needed doing and for it to be released just makes the indie press scene look bad, because someone picking up that book and seeing its flaws might be wary of another indie book and that can’t be a good thing.

However, my post today was supposed to be about something else, as I was going to discuss a mail I got, offering me the chance to be published if I won a competition (yes, only me, you didn’t get the mail did you, suckers?). Oh I love competitions, I’m in, I’m off…but wait a minute you want me to pay $25 for the privilege of me getting a chance to be published? I’m thinking your talking vanity press here, or?

I mean I have entered the 3 Day Novel Contest twice now, being as I think it’s a cracking idea, totally mental and it gets me writing again. OK, I could do the thing on my own but there is something about this event feeling, forums and the like, knowing others are stressing over their terrible manuscripts at the same time I am. There is a prize of publication for the best manuscript sent in after the three days but to be honest it’s not really on the mind when writing, as the book is the focus.

Yet this, was a whole different kettle of fish (I wonder if that’s why Pete found a fish in the percolator):

Like a kettle of fish but different…

I mean, you just send in your manuscript before a certain day and then they pick their best and publish it, no doubt using a POD (Print on Demand) facility and a dodgy cover, meaning their outlay is a fraction of what they received in participation fee. Remembering of course they are not going to spend a cent on marketing either.

And KV Taylor mentioned something about not self-publishing more out of a sense of not being able to maybe push herself enough in the promotion arena, and this is also a very tricky topic as how much do we as writers know about marketing? I mean there are degrees and such for this kind of thing and are you sure you know the border between aggressive marketing and just plain annoying. Again referring back to one of the books we rejected, based on the fact that it needed a very heavy edit (which I don’t believe for a minute was achieved in the two months between rejection and publication) the author in question has engaged in a heavy self-promotion campaign, which involves discussing all the different elements required to self-publish in a way that is painful to read.

I am now aware my post is starting to lose a little focus, mainly because it’s a culmination of a lot of thoughts that have been on my mind for a few months now, and make me fear a little bit about the industry we’re in. I’m sounding pessimistic while at the same time very positive about a lot of things in indie press. I mean we are about to announce three books that are extremely well written, require minor editing and will look very comfortable on your shelf, along with your other Morrigan books, (what do you mean you haven’t got them all yet?) and there are a few new publishers on the scene doing rather interesting things too (a later blog post).

It’s KV Taylor’s fault, she darn got me thinking!

About Mark S. Deniz

English teacher, writer, editor, publisher, reviewer and blogger. Founder of publishing company, Morrigan Books and imprint, Gilgamesh Press. Also cycles, listens to lots and lots of music, reads a ton of books and tries to fit in some TV, film and writing too. View all posts by Mark S. Deniz

5 responses to “Vanity Press: or is it?

  • RJ

    I couldn’t self publish because, for me, it’s the fact someone has decided -‘yes, this is good enough.’ that;s important. Not for my own ego, (well. not just for my own ego) but for the fact it validates what you’re doing.

    Very few writers on the first rungs are in a position to be able to make a sensible decision about their own work.


  • kvtaylor

    not being able to maybe push herself enough in the promotion arena
    Well, yes and no–this post mostly discusses my first reason for it, which is that I’m not good enough. I’m not saying I can’t write, I’m saying I really, truly cannot edit my own work into a proper state. I’m sure some people can–I just read a self-published book that was in a very good state last week. (Though I’m sure that author uses editors both paid and volunteer, and I know she’s really fastidious.) I know I’m not capable of producing something worth reading on my own, though.

    But I do think that if the stuff I wrote was so very, very niche that there was no publisher interested in it, that I would absolutely find a way to get hold of an editor, cover design, etc, and make it happen. I would learn to market myself somehow… I mean you have to do that whether you’re with a big house, smaller house, or alone, right?


    • kvtaylor

      (For the record, the book was Zombie Punter by Zoe E. Whitten. It was zombie crack. Loved it.)


    • Mark S. Deniz

      Yeah I sort of threw that comment out there and then thought about it a little more.

      I am, however, going to tell you something that shocks a lot of the writers and that is that your work is not as niche as you might think it is – sure it’s indie press, as mass market publishers are not going to do what we do, and for good reason. Niche however is the new black, we’re all writing something niche, something different, so it’s about how we do it.

      (By you, I mean the collective you here, not you personally…)

      You know you’re one of my heroines just now, as much for what you write as how you write it and the reason you shouldn’t self-publish is that there’ll always be a market for your work. And if you don’t find it, then hell, I’ll find it for you!


  • Katey

    mass market publishers are not going to do what we do, and for good reason

    I wish I could just put signs that said this everywhere in the world. Alas, that’d be pollution and littering and perhaps overkill. But yes. That.

    But I wouldn’t self publish, because my god, I need help. Lucky I know you, then! You’re the best 😀


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