Sunday, 19 May 2013

Writing, rip offs and boutique publishing.

Hi Guys,

New topic this time - writing, and more specifically rip offs.

As some of you will know I contribute to a number of writing fora, partly out of interest and partly to learn a little more of my craft. And on these fora I often find myself fascinated by what other writers have come across in their journeys. In particular a week or so ago I came across a post in which a new writer had decided to take his first steps into the world of publishing through a boutique POD publisher, all for the one off price of $2000.

Now this is not a new thing. Prior to the advent of Amazon's Kindle many people used to use vanity publishers as they were called, desperate to get into print any way they could. And it almost never worked. They got a few bound copies of their book, the book never went anywhere near a bookstore, no one ever heard of them, and their pockets got lightened. I have actually heard horror stories of people paying a lot more than this guy.

However, I have to wonder how these companies still operate, and more importantly, why people still use them.

It seems to me that these companies basically prey on the vulnerabilities of people. That they offer services to those who are desperate to see their books in print and too gullible to realise that they can now do everything for themselves for free. In short they prey on the same people they always have. But the question is, why are these people still unaware of self publishing? Or as an alternative, if they are aware of what they can do, why do they feel they need someone else to do the publishing for them? Is it just timidness? Lack of confidence?

My thought is that in the last few years the world of writing has changed significantly. Self publishing has taken hold and an entire new universe of written words has appeared on our computer screens and smart phones. And while many people may pour scorn on the self publisher for not having a traditional deal with an agent etc, it does not change the fact that a great many new books have arrived which would never have been seen without it. Sure some of it may be crap, much of it may not be up to the standards of a trade published work, but there's a trade off. For a long time agents and publishers have been gate keepers to the world of what people read. They decided what people could read, because lets face it, if they thought a work wasn't commercial, they didn't publish it. Those days are gone and I think that's a good thing.

However to return to the topic at hand and boutique POD publishing, I'm guessing that not everyone has caught up with the writing revolution. And I'm also guessing that the world being what it is, there will always be desperate people, aching with every fibre of their being to see their book in print. I understand this, and prior to the self publishing revolution I was one of them, just thankfully a little too smart to fall for the sharks out there. (Though I did get a couple of letters from one such shark early on.)

So my message to all those out there desperate to see their work in print (or on a digital screen) is don't fall for this. The golden rule for all writers when publishing must be that you are the writer. It's your work. The money should always flow to you. It doesn't matter whether its a lot or a little, you don't pay. So if an agent comes back at you with a "reading fee", don't go there. Chances are he's not legit. If a publisher offers to print your book for a few thousand bucks, definitely don't go there.

And if you don't really understand the world of publishing, don't know what to do, and are frightened of taking that plunge half arsed, just keep these words in mind - You Can Do It.

It may require some new skills, editing and cover design being top of the list for any self publisher, but these are things you can do. Skills you can gain for a little effort. Or if you are truly desperate and don't have any friends or family with the ability, skills you can hire as you need them. And usually for a lot less than a POD publisher will charge.

Also, join some writing fora. They are invaluable.

Cheers, Greg.