Saturday, July 29, 2006

All About Vanity

Having read a lot about publishing during the two decades I have been trying to get my own fiction published, I always dismissed vanity presses as wastes of money at best and scams at worst, but I'm wondering with the new forces at work if things are changing just a bit. Case in point: Lulu, which apparently allows authors to publish books more affordably (no set-up fees, no minimum orders). It also allows authors to retain rights of their books. Lulu does take a commission cut of any books sold, but authors get royalties as well on any books sold.

I don't know too much about the service, although I did notice it seems as if the books get sold through Lulu -- I would only imagine that's the case if Lulu takes a commission. It had occurred to me it would be nice to be able to get the added exposure through, for example, but I'm not sure if that's the way it works.

Anyway, it's just food for thought (and I'd be curious if anyone out there has used Lulu and can give more information about how useful it is to authors). I'd imagine that anybody who decided to use it would have to make a real grassroots effort to market their own work, but that's not very difficult in these days of blogging and word-of-mouth marketing that's happening on the Internet.

Another thought I've had is the publishing industry kind of deserves it if talent is starting to become more self directed. It seems to me that the publishing industry has become a marketing machine more than a literary one, eager to churn out blockbusters with little literary value (case in point: The Da Vinci Code). Then there's the story that infuriated me a few months ago: that of the Harvard student who got the book deal (without a book!) -- with an alleged half-million dollar advance from Little, Brown to write it. I'm not sure which was more insulting, the fact that her completed work turned up many instances of plagiarism, or the fact that a major publisher would give a half-million dollar advance to an untried teenager. It kind of disgusted me as a writer who has worked for years to hone my craft and has never made a red cent. Meanwhile, it made it obvious that in many cases, publishers are putting "marketability" ahead of talent and have every intention on throwing money into a huge marketing campaign -- that's the marketing machine element I mentioned above. The big, corporate publishers aren't doing literature any favors with stunts like that one. It makes you want to look at any "blockbuster" novel with a jaundiced eye.

Rant, anyone? I guess the good news is, big publishing houses aren't the only way to go these days. It's sort of sad, though, because us writers had also steered clear of self publishing because we sort of wanted to prove to ourselves that we had "talent" according to someone else's standards, I guess. Now that technology is changing the way that distribution (and marketing) works, I guess the new question might be: Who decides what is "good"? Maybe soon, the actual readers will hold exponentially more power, rather than the big publishers or ivory tower critics.

Thanks for reading and keep on writing,



Blogger Hebdomeros said...

Interesting...since you retain the rights to your work, it may not be so bad an option.

The only vanity-style press I've really heard good things about is I-Universe, which I think is through Barnes and Noble. A number of small, indie lit mags have started using them. These are primarily mags that have been around for awhile and use I-Universe for the print-on-demand and distribution options. Promotion is up to you, though, so probably not the best option for someone putting out that first book.

9:56 AM  
Blogger LadyLitBlitzin said...

Oh yeah, I forgot about I-Universe! That's cool that some small indie lit mags are going that route.

8:29 PM  

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