A response to a comment...

This is a response to a comment I received in my blog about the Harlequin Horizons vanity press venture. I won’t post her comment here (you can read it here if you want to), but basically, the commentor in question was refuting the fact that Harl Ho was vanity press, saying it was ‘assisted publishing’ instead. I did respond to her comments there, but I thought it worth putting up here on the main blog page, because given some of the comments I’ve read elsewhere online, she’s not alone in thinking ‘assisted publishing’ is a different kettle of fish to vanity press. So, here goes:

Eva, Harl Horizons (Or Dellarte Press as they’re now calling themselves), is NOT assisted publishing. It’s vanity publishing, pure and simple. YOU PAY THEM to publish your books, and then you give them half of your royalties as well. That does not sound like a good deal to me. How our they assisting you? All they’re doing is providing editorial services (at a cost), printing your book (at a cost) and providing distribution services (at a cost). And those distribution services are nothing that you, as a self pubbed author, cannot do yourself (amazon don’t charge authors to list books–anyone can do it if you have an isbn). I have nothing against self or vanity publishing if that’s the route you want to go, but please be aware that there are cheaper options out there.

As for your comments on traditional publishing and royalties–5% is on the low side. Most authors get around 8%. Which might not sound much, but consider the fact that with traditional publishers you’re getting your books in store and online–with self/vanity publishing, you’re only available online, and then only minimally. Also, trad publishing provides all the publicity and backing, and they’re taking the risk cost wise, not the author. The author is paid an advance and may never get more than that, but at least they have money in hand, up front. With a self/vanity publisher, the author shells out money upfront, and takes all the risk themselves. They may never make their money back, let alone a profit, as the average number of sales for a self/vanity press book is around 79 copies sold. The average trad published author will sell at least several thousand (although if they only sold that, it’d be unlikely they’d be offered another contract).

Agents are worth their weight in gold, and don’t ever believe otherwise. For a start, they get your books in front of editors. Most traditional houses nowadays don’t take unsolicited manuscripts, and unless you’ve got an agent your market options has shrunk considerably. Plus, they often not only negotiate better money, but better contract conditions–a vital service in this day and age of publishers wanting everything they can get, believe me! And they also handle overseas sales–which can be a legal minefield for those who have no idea (which is most of us, lets be honest)

As for those figures you quoted–did you actually read the full breakdown? Because yeah, it may cost a publisher $58,000 for a Trade, and $90 000 to publish a hardcover, but those figures include author royalties of $15 000 and $25 000. So as a self/vanity press author, you can deduct that figure for a start. You can also greatly reduce the printing and binding costs, because they’d be based on print runs of at least ten thousand, which no self/vanity author would generally do. Warehousing costs can also be taken out because why would you need to rent a warehouse when a garage or a room in your house will do? Because I’m not sure whether the sales mentioned is sale staff costs, or not, I’ll leave that in. Which brings the totals down to $18 000 and $26 000, and that is the type of money I’ve seen some self / vanity authors spend. The major difference is, in one model, the author is taking all the risks, shells out all the money, and has very little hope of getting any returns. In the other, the publisher is taking the risk, the publisher is providing the warehousing and staff, the publisher is providing the marketing, and the publisher is offering the means of getting your book onto store shelves. Which, despite the kindle, e-readers, and the advent of online sales and stores, is still where 95% of book purchases occur.

As for your comments about second class authors, well, I’ll just say I very much doubt any agent or editor has ever said that. Yes, they more than likely have said your work is not ready for publication, but that’s something every published author has heard more than once in their publishing career. Hell, I read those words in rejection letters for at least ten years. And they were right! My work wasn’t ready for publication, even if I thought otherwise at the time.

As I said, I have nothing against authors choosing to go the self published or vanity press route, but I certainly wish more would see past the glossy images and carefully worded promises offered on glossy websites.

edited to add–for those wanting to check out Rachelle Gardner’s post of the cost of publishing, head here