No, this post isn’t about authors who are big-headed, although ego does fit loosely into the equation. This post contains a message that I think all aspiring authors need to hear.
If you’ve kept up with recent posts then you’ll know that I’m submitting my novel, Seas of Vengeance, to publishers and agents. I’ve already received a couple of rejections from agents. I’ve already gotten over it too.
Then, last week, something wonderful happened. A publishing company I’d submitted to got in touch to say that they saw the marketing potential in my work and would pass the manuscript onto one of their senior editors. This week, they got in touch again to say they were happy to proceed with publishing my work and had attached the contract to the email. All I needed to do was sign it and that would be that.
Well, no, it isn’t actually.
You see, the publisher that contacted me was the publisher that I’d always expected to contact me. Why had I expected them to contact me? Because it was immediately apparent that this publisher was the one thing that all authors are vehemently warned not to go near: a vanity publisher.
A simple Google search will tell you exactly what a vanity publisher is, but I’ll give it to you in layman’s terms: a vanity publisher will publish your book… for a fee!
Immediately, that should set alarm bells ringing. If it hasn’t set them ringing, if you’re thinking “That’s not so bad if they’re guaranteed to sell your book as you’ll make the money back through sales” then I’ll elaborate further. Vanity publishers will not willingly hand over the cash from book sales. They’ll pocket the money you invested in order to get the book published (and tell you that was the cost simply to do that) and then they’ll structure everything in any way they can to prevent you seeing any financial gain.
Here’s a reasonable paradigm: the publisher will publish your book in whatever way you’ve paid to have it published (they’ll give you options in this regard; the more you pay, the more formats your book will be published in) and then they’ll set a benchmark on sales. You won’t see a penny in royalties until your book has sold x number of copies. Once your book has sold x number of copies, you’ll be entitled to a percentage of the net income from sales. Note the word net. What that basically means is that you’ll get a percentage of the profits after deductions have been taken off. That would include things like printing, shipping, ‘admin fees’, and the like. You’ll get a percentage of what’s left after the publisher has deducted all those fees, fees that they will set the price for. In essence, they’ll keep the lions share of the money from the gross profit to pay for their deductions and then they’ll give you a bit of the small sum of money left over. I guarantee you they’ll take a larger percentage of that net sum for themselves than they give you too.
That’s not all you get where vanity publishers are concerned. They’ll often force you to sign exclusivity deals, whereupon you agree to sell your work only through them, or, even worse, they’ll coerce you into relinquishing your copyrights on the manuscript, which will essentially mean that the manuscript then belongs to them.
Are you getting the picture? Vanity publishers are not your friends. They’re out to promise the world on a silver platter to authors, especially new and previously unpublished authors, and then bleed them of every penny they can. They stroke your ego and fool you into thinking you’ll be the next JK Rowling. They’re about as unscrupulous as an entity can get.
Novum, the publisher who wanted to publish my work, intrigued me simply because I wanted to see for myself how vanity publishers work. Suffice to say, Novum operate in exactly the way that I’d been warned in all the blog posts, articles, and forums I’ve visited. They wanted my money—a lot of my money—in exchange for a guaranteed best-seller. They also wanted the book to sell seven hundred and fifty (750) copies before I’d see a brass button of the net. Following are screen shots of the response I sent back to Novum’s representative, Bianca Bendra.
I’m glad I conducted this experiment. I’m also glad that I did my research beforehand and had the wherewithal to know that I was basically being scammed. What these vanity publishers do might well be within the law, but it is a scam. These people are unethical and immoral.
If you have enough confidence in your work that you’ll definitely see a return on your investment by publishing through them then, by all means, see what they can offer. Just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for others. All I’ll say is that no author should ever have to pay someone to publish their work. If you’re that confident your story will be the making of you then hire an editor and self-publish instead. It’ll cost you a damn sight less to do it that way and market the book yourself than hand thousands of pounds over to a publisher whose only aim it is to make money off you in whatever way they can.