This Week's Author: Amy Holman
Amy Holman has worked for 13 years on behalf of poets and fiction writers, educating them about the fair practices of publishing and how to be detectives and get their work published. She is co-founder of the Publishing Seminars, writes the online column, Amy Holman's Literary Report and directs the Literary Horizons program all at Poets & Writers, Inc. (www.pw.org), a nonprofit literary organization in New York City.
Amy is also a poet with forthcoming works in Zone 3 and Metropolitan Review. She is currently writing a novel and has two published chapter books, Tissue and Bone and The Cathedral of My Head (1997, 1998 Linear Arts Books).
Literary Horizons is prepared to offer online publishing seminars in the late fall of 1998 and those interested can email Amy Holman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out Issue #9 - Published at Last to read
an author's first-hand experience with investing in self-publishing.
By nature, writers are intuitive travelers, except their journey is towards
publication. Once in a while what appears to be a shortcut is, in fact, a
winding dead end. Vanity/Subsidy press represents a dead end in publishing.
Many writers who fall for this con are honestly trying to get their poetry
and fiction published and distributed, rather than have a product merely
representing success. Vanity may seem like a unfair moniker, but the rush
to publication often tramples quality and reveals a writer's vanity.
The name was applied to this kind of operation by professionals in the
legitimate publishing business a long time ago. Even an episode of "The
Waltons" dealt with John Boy's excessive pride over his unrevised novel
being accepted by a vanity press. "Subsidy" is the name vanity presses prefer,
referring to the author's contribution of money to publication costs. While
some subsidized, or cooperative publishing, is fair and legitimate,
vanity/subsidy press publishing is not.
Legitimate publishing accepts work based on its merit, prints it up in some
form, pays the author, advertises and publicizes the finished product, and
distributes it through the normal magazine and book channels of stores and
libraries. Fair, subsidized publishing does all of the above while also
requiring a contribution of funds to the production costs of the book, or
the time and ideas of the author to the production of all books of the
season. The presses accept the work because they like it and they advertise
and distribute the books when they are printed. The author get royalties
and some copies of the books.
Vanity/subsidy presses do not accept your work based on its merit, nor do
they pay, advertize, publicize, or distribute. They accept everything,
expecting writers to be willing to pay because they are glad to be chosen.
The amount is around $1,500, enough to produce a small print run of books
with attractive covers and readable type. However, the press instead prints
a large print run of books with no cover design–just the title and author's
name on a color–and basic typeset. The author is given an outstanding 40%
royalty on the sale of the books, which are said to be distributed through
supermarkets and airports. Even the paperback romances and mysteries, and
certainly the Oprah Winfrey selection paperbacks, sold at these locations
have art covers. The vanity/subsidy books won't sell.
If a press asks you to contribute money to the costs, yet offers a payment
of only two copies of your book, no royalties, shift into reverse and back
out. Even if they say that you get the same discount on buying more copies
that the bookstores get, you should be making money off the sale of your
books. Royalties serve that function, giving you a fixed rate and percentage
on each book. If a press says that you do not need to contribute to the
costs of printing or production, but after accepting your manuscript for
publication, require you to get 100 prepaid orders before they will actually
make it a book, make a U-turn. In this way, money is contributed, whether
by others or by the author.
Publishing is a basic business deal in which you provide the work that they
will sell and you receive something in return. The publishers choose based on their
tastes and what they believe will sell. If you want to get to the other
side of town with your book and find that you've driven into a dead end,
don't despair. Back out and continue driving.
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