Vanity Presses in Sheep's Clothing

Dog Dressed as a "Woof in Sheep's Clothin... I've self-published a few books (some more successful than others) and even though I may not have a best seller out there I'm pretty happy selling a few hundred books or so, building a following, and if it takes me years to build toward that best seller, then so be it.

If I don't become a best seller, then I'm not really that put out either.

Once in a while I will receive an e-mail from a "publisher" or an "agent" saying that they would love to publish something that I write in the future, always mentioning their publishing house and always touting the awesomeness of my work.

Be careful here.

A naive novelist might get all giddy and nearly have a back spasm at a letter such as that, but let me be the first to warn you: they may be a vanity press masquerading as a publisher.

Remember these rules:

  1. Real publishers/agents never ask for money, they pay you royalties or an advance and agents get paid only if you do.
  2. Check them out before you do anything.  If their website (if they have one) has anything to say about a "service" or a program that will publish you no matter what, then you are looking at a vanity press.  Also, Google the name of their "publishing house" with the words "writer beware" or "complaints" and you will usually figure them out pretty quick.
  3. Ask for references.  If they are a major house or even a minor one, they will have published authors that you can check out, and a track record for success with their books.
  4. They should explain themselves courteously and not with vagaries and mixed words.  If they are afraid to give the names of people they work with, then they probably are not real.

And why not self-publish?  I absolutely love it.  I get to control what I do, publish what I want, focus on the fan base that I want to, be my own boss, and see most of the profits from that enterprise...plus I own everything.

Does this mean that I scrimp on quality?  By all means, no!  I strain my work through the sieve of many experts, hone it down to something that is worthy of my readers and do all the social media I can.  It's a lot of work, but it is absolutely worth it.

One day I'll get a letter (maybe) from a legit publisher or agent, but until then I'm cheerfully cranking out novels (one a year) and it is what I live for.  My small fan base is pleased with it as well, and that fan base grows a little each day.

So don't lose heart if you get one of those letters.  Consider it, be smart about it, and don't get suckered into paying thousands of dollars for a profit that you should be having rather than some group of strangers.