Self-publishing savant and scourge of seamy publishing practices David Gaughran has launched a broadside on Twitter against publisher and book fair support of vanity press and promotional scams targeting naive self-publishing authors. And as testament to how serious he is, he’s made the whole rant accessible in a single archive, here.
This parallels a post Gaughran recently made on the Self Publishing Advice site, about the Combined Book Exhibit, which offers self-published authors, for a mere $299 and with the support of the organizers of the London Book Fair, the New Title Showcase, “a place where their titles, and available rights, can be easily found by the 25,000-strong LBF audience.” Combined Book Exhibit offers show packages worldwide from Beijing to Bologna, at up to $895 each. But, as Gaughran warns, “no agent will peruse this fusty display looking for clients. No publisher will thumb through the tired collection of novels looking for the next big thing.” And, as he adds on Twitter, “the events know this, @CombinedBook knows this, but everyone is making money so who cares, right?”
Combined Book, Gaughran explains, also operates through reselling partnerships with vanity self-publishing scams like Author Solutions, which since its exit from Penguin Random House, has set itself up as a third-party provider of direct-to-author “self-publishing” solutions from major publishing houses. And publishers, major book fairs, publishing trade press, and professional associations all collude in and endorse the practice.
“The events (LBF, Frankfurt, BEA) don’t care about this re-selling and price gouging, or about the unethical high-pressure sales methods,” continues Gaughran. “Of course @PublishersWkly is partnered with BOTH Combined Book and Author Solutions. Those guys never said no to a grubby dollar. And, of course, Publishing Perspectives is owned by the Frankfurt Book Fair, which profits from this practice directly too, so…” And, he adds, ” the Frankfurt Book Fair is owned by the German Book Office, itself a subsidiary of the German Publishers & Booksellers Assoc. They know the shady crap that goes on at these fairs, the low level hustles to squeeze writers. They don’t care. No one does.”
Except Gaughran, maybe. And you certainly should. Any self-published, or other, author out there needs to be reminded just what kind of business ethics Big Publishing and its supporting organizations and associated scams operate under. Ethics? Maybe that’s a word Big Publishing’s own lexicons somehow missed out …
Big Publishing is hardly the greatest evil for authors. The real evil doers are vanity publishers who pretend to be a writer’s friend for ‘just a little money.’ Their ranks are hopefully fading as the benefits of genuine self-publishing become more widely known, but they’re still around.
One example is a friend who desperatedly wanted to publish his book-length discussion of a blockbuster movie. A vanity press offered their assistance. They’d publish it if he’d agree to buy 1,000 copies at $10. each. That’s $10,000 for those who know their math, and about five times what printing those books cost the vanity publisher. Having made a hefty sum from the author, it had no reason to promote his book. His best efforts to self-promote still left his garage littered with books and his family budget strained.
In contrast, what harm to those big publishers do? Yes, they compete for book sales with independent authors, but so do the small publisher and so do computer games and a host of other distractions. Almost any activity competes with reading a particular author’s book. Am I going to hate all of them? There are better things to do with my time.
And yes, I abhor how some of their mega-selling authors write. Is their success due to huge advertising budgets or readers with dreadful taste? I don’t know and don’t care. I did start one of James Patterson’s books, one that only listed him as the author. I quickly lost interest. I’d rather be poor and struggling than write like I considered by my readers idiots. ‘”I’m going to kill you,” said John, angrily’—that sort of thing. Duh, is he going to say that sweetly?
Read me, and you’ll have to think and that’s good. For the one I’m working on now, I open the book by warning readers that I’m hoping to make them become more sensitive about a rarely mentioned problem, embarrassment in hospitals, by showing how that hurts the more sensitive patients. I intend to make them uncomfortable, I warn so they change. That’s not soft, easily read escapism. Some of those I write about died as children or teens. I want those who read me to run to the problems in life and solve them, not run away from them into the illusionary gah-gah land of many romances and thrillers.
I share J. R. R. Tolkien’s point of view about books and their critics. Quite a few reviewers did not like the seeming ‘long ago and far away’ escapism they saw in his fantasy, instead preferring the “realism” of books in which modern people live screwed up lives. That’s OK, I paraphrase Tolkien, I loate the books they like as much as they loathe mine. We’re even.
And for good or ill, I tend to display the same willingness to see my books make it on their own without a lot of bother and expense as parents who’re eager to see their kids empty from the nest. Only with the completion of what will soon be four books that’d be great for medical and nursing student to read, am I considering do a little promotion of the set. The idea of paying hundreds of dollars to have a book booth that competes with a hundred other such booths at a book faire turns me off. If I go to London, it’ll be to see the city again not to shill my books.
I also happen to believe that nothing will destroy your life and render it unproductive like wallowing in envy and victimhood. I regard both as “just another word for loser.”
–Michael W. Perry, author of My Nights with Leukemia, the first of those medical/nursing books.
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