Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vanity? Publishing

So Simon and Schuster announced a partnership with Author Solutions to form a new company, Archway, geared to help authors with self-publishing (article here). It will be a 'premium' service that offers packages of editing/cover design/etc. Nothing really new there except that it's one of the big 6 trade publishers that's getting into the game. But what surprises me is that I've already seen a couple industry professionals refer to this as vanity publishing (in a clearly dismissive way).

Now, I do get the concept of vanity publishing. If you write a book and try to get someone to publish it and everyone rejects you and you decide to publish it with your own money anyway - there could be some vanity involved. But to consider everyone who believes in their own work enough to self-publish is only doing it because they're vain just flies in the face of reason.

Trade publishers provide a service (editing/marketing/cover design/etc.) and they charge you money for it (you don't have to pay up front, but you definitely pay). Self-publishing can involve the exact same things except that you pay the people who perform those services up front and directly. It's a very simple business proposition - you can choose to accept the financial risk and pay for things yourself in the hopes of getting a greater return. This same situation and choice happens in pretty much every industry out there. Why is it considered such a bad thing in the literary world?

My opinion - and take it for what it's worth - is that way too many people in the publishing world think they're special. That books is different than widgets. That it's not an industry but a calling. That they are doing important works. They are necessary and vital to the betterment of society. I think they're wrong.

(For the record, I think many writers think they're special and are wrong for all the same reasons. I believe I am special, but not because I write, not because of how I earn a living, but because of who I am and how I interact with the world and the people in it. Writers and publishers (and agents, editors, cover artists, etc.) might be special, too, but not because of their career choice.)

I have self-published some things. I plan to self-publish more. My main writing goal is still to go through a trade publisher (hopefully a big 6) and utilize their valuable services. I like their business model. But the arrogance to suggest that it's the only way and anyone who believes enough in themselves to spend money on their work is to be looked down upon - well, that's just vain.

1 comment:

  1. I am the proud producer of a self-published poetry/short story anthology, and I'm darn proud of it! You're right. There's so much vanity going around and then there's the notorious "better-than-thou" syndrome. I've known very humble people who became so full of them selves and knew it all once their works were published. These days, I've actually been purchasing more self-pubbed books than I have traditional books. Writing is about the love of it, not being above all of it.