I’m an active supporter of self and independent publishing. Writers should have a say in how much control they want to have in a book, and investing money in your writing should be treated the same as investing money in a small business. It’s not self-centered. It’s entrepreneurial (hence the term “authorpreneur” to refer to self-published writers). But I also know the stigma towards Vanity Press. People who want to be writers but don’t have what it takes buy their way through and then brag about being authors. There is a difference, but sometimes it can be hard to discern. Independently published books look and sound an awful lot like Vanity Press, and many argue that they’re one in the same. How are we to know they’re not?
It’s a hard question to answer. Personally, I think a lot of the difference lies in motive and method. While both groups want to be authors, Vanity Press people often don’t consider themselves writers. They have an idea and write it, and then pay whatever it takes to have it published. They want to skip as much of the sweat and grime as possible. Independently published authors, on the contrary, are willing to do more than their fair share of the work. They are the author, the publisher, the publicist and agent, all rolled into one. Self-publishing isn’t lazy–it’s a full-time job.
Along with that, independently published authors aren’t afraid to do research, network, and ask others for help. It isn’t glamorous or easy. There are a number of semi-validated publishing scams that prey on authors. These are often the first websites that pop up when researching ways to get a book self-published–Xlibris, Xulon, and iUniverse, to name a few. (Hint: if it’s affiliated with Author Solutions, it’s probably a scam). Many Vanity Press writers don’t think twice about publishing with these groups. They offer ease and glamor and are owned by “real” publishing companies like Random House–like a back door to author celebrity-hood.
Independently published authors fight to keep their rights and their control. They don’t want to be affiliated with any publishing company at all because they have pride in knowing what they have worked hard to accomplish.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Please comment below on what differences you perceive between Vanity Press and Self-Publishing, if any! I look forward to hearing from you.