• Publishing advice

    02 February 2023

    A fan got in touch with me today to ask the following question: "I am about to publish my own work and I was wondering did you have to pay something to get your work published? or am I being scammed?"


    By the way the question was framed, I assume she had approached what in the old days we called a VANITY PUBLISHER, which is basically a person or company who charges authors to publish (and sometimes market) their work. While some very famous authors have, in early stages of their careers, gone through vanity publishers in the past (and perhaps some still do), as a general rule of thumb my advice is to avoid them like the plague!! They're fine if you simply want a printing service and have a very defined audience -- for instance, if you write a family history, and want to print 50 or 100 copies of your book to give to family and some friends. But those who pretned to be REAL publishers, who tempt you with the dream of getting your work into bookshops and prominent placing on eBooks stores... the vast majority of those certainly WOULD qualify as scam artists in my opinion.


    For me, there are two viable roads forward for any aspiring author, either one of which can lead to healthy sales and a growing, devoted audience. One is the way of the traditional publishers. You try to get an agent who will submit your works to editors at various publishing houses. If you find one willing to take you on, THEY will pay YOU and cover all publishing and marketing costs. You might not get paid very much, and you might end up disappointed if they fail to land your book on the bestseller lists, but you should NEVER have to pay them anything towards any of the traditional costs associated with launching and marketing a book.


    The other road is that of self-publishing, and that is far simpler and cheaper than it has ever been -- and thanks to eBooks, some writers even enjoy huge sales and massive commercial success when self-publishing. I have two friends, both of who were struggling writers while they were traditionally published. They began self--publishing and both have become bestseller, earning life-changing amounts of money. BUT, as with those who go the traditional route, most self-published writers WON'T enjoy anywhere near that degree of success. As an example, take ME!! I've been self-publishing for a while now, first with my Darren Dash books for adults, more recently with my Archibald Lox series. I've learnt a lot, and got better at it, and managed to slowly grow my base and increase sales, but I haven't sold anywhere near as many books as I have through my traditional publishers, and earn nowhere near enough from those books to be able to write full-time if I was relying on their sales.


    Both roads can be bumpy. Both have pros and cons. Self-publishing requires more research and trial and error, and some authors (like myself) just aren't natural business people and are more suited to traditional publishing, while others will thrive and quickly unlock the secrets of the online publsing world. But BOTH are preferable to paying money to be published by a vanity publisher. The reality is you'll almost certainly sell no more copies by going with a vanity publisher than you will by self-publishing, and you can have a lot more fun by doing it yourself, as well as save yourself an awful lot of money.


    That's my view anyway, though if there are any authors out there who have had a different experience with vanity publishers, and wish to sing their praises, do please feel free to respond and tell me I'm calling it all wrong...


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