Thursday, October 7, 2010

Q and A: Differences in publishing?

Q"  Can you tell us about PublishAmerica?
Victoria: Oh boy, Publish America!!! Well, it's a neo-vanity publisher. Which is to say, it doesn't charge a fee, but gets its money on the back end by encouraging writers to buy their own books. Writers aren't required to buy their own books, as some vanity publishers do, but they receive constant incentives to do so, through discounts and special offers. PublishAmerica claims to reject 80% of all submissions. Which, even if true, isn't enough to ensure high quality (commercial publishers reject something like 97%). It does little or no editing, no meaningful book marketing, and its cover prices are the highest of any POD publisher around. It has a poor contract, its staff are rude and unhelpful, especially to writers who have problems or complain. Its books are badly designed and poorly formatted, and often full of errors introduced in the .pdf conversion process. It has also become so notorious as a bad publisher that plenty of people in legitimate publishing have heard of it, which is NOT the case with most other vanity publishers. For many people in the know, PublishAmerica reflects very badly on an author. Which is a shame, because while PA is ready to publish bad books, it's equally willing to accept good ones and there are some good writers who've gotten hijacked by PA and whose books will never, as a result, get the exposure they deserve.
Jan: Really virtually any print on demand set up is a PARTICULARLY bad idea for a children's writer. They cost far too much and cost is a MAJOR deal in children's publishing...ask any publisher. They have no bookstore placement. They don't get reviewed. You could print your books yourself and distribute them to your friends and get as many readers as your average POD publisher, And if you aren't getting readers...and it's costing you money...what is the point?
Victoria: Speaking of reviews, PublishAmerica authors send out so many books to newspapers and magazines that many reviewers simply won't even look at PA books. Some review sites have a policy against reviewing them because PA authors who've gotten bad reviews have gotten so upset and made trouble for them.
Q: what is POD?
Victoria: POD = print on demand. This is a technology that allows a single book to be printed and bound in minutes as opposed to being produced in print runs of several thousands. Unfortunately, print on demand has become associated with vanity publishing because of the big "self-publishing" companies like iUniverse and Xlibris. Nowadays, "POD" is practically synonymous with "vanity".
Jan: But although printing book by book seems cheap (and the initial outlay is less than having a print run) the per book price is well higher than most readers will pay. You really just can't sell these things.
Victoria: Right. It's also not true that POD books are indistinguishable from offset-printed books, as POD advocates often claim. I've seen a lot of POD books, some put out by very reputable independent publishers, and they just look...cheaper, somehow. Really, POD is a glorified Xerox process and you can tell the difference.
Q: What does "subsidy-published" mean?
Victoria: It means "vanity published." There really is no such thing anymore as a subsidy publisher, in the sense of a publisher that contributes something of value to match the writer's financial investment, most publishers that call themselves "subsidy" publishers are trying to put a nicer label on vanity publishing.
Q: S/elf publishing and vanity publishing are not the same?
Victoria: No, not at all. With self-publishing, the writer is like a contractor, he puts all aspects of the job out to bid--design, cover art, formatting, printing and binding and coordinates different service providers to produce the final product. With vanity publishing, the writer pays for a pre-set package of services. There may be some flexibility with design and formatting, but basically he's paying someone else to do it all. Not only can self-publishing be more cost-effective than vanity publishing (since vanity publishers build overhead and profit into the price), it can result in a much higher-quality product. But it's a lot more work. One more thing -- Some POD-based services, like iUniverse, describe themselves as "self-publishing" services, but this is somewhat misleading, since the service they provide is more similar to the packages provided by vanity publishers. Hence the confusion between "self-publishing" and "vanity publishing"
taken from “Choosing Reputable Publishing Professionals”   with Victoria Strauss           Thursday, March 9, 2006

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