By Ron Pramschufer, President, Self Publishing, Inc. – Helping Authors Become Publishers Since 1995
It’s hard to believe we are fourteen years into the new millennium already. . It seems like just yesterday that I had a year’s supply of food in the cellar, several cases of batteries and a few bathtubs full of water as we anxiously waited for the clocks to turn, ushering in the new century. Fortunately, Y2K passed quietly on into the history books. The bathtubs were emptied, the food was consumed and batteries, eventually used. Looking back, my friends and I still chuckle at the whole scenario pondering whether my main motivation was the will to survive and be self-sufficient or by paranoia. One thing for sure, had the system crashed, as predicted by many, my family and I would have been fine. The unprepared…?
We’re in a similar situation today but it is going to take more than the simple stroke of the clock to see the results. Some of us see the runaway government spending and rights grabbing as a dream come true of one big happy family, holding hands, singing kum–bi-yah and the “Government” providing for all. Others see it as a time to fill the tubs again. Needless to say, I’m filling the tubs.
What does all this have to do with self-publishing? It’s pretty simple. If you are the kind of person who believes the government is there to take care of you and all your needs, you are the perfect candidate for vanity publishing. It looks like the easy way. Unfortunately, the same “smoke and mirrors” are used by both to obtain clients. The government does not make money, it takes money… period. All you need to do is take a quick ride around Montgomery County, MD or Fairfax County, VA… two of the highest per capita counties in the country. The overwhelming majority of the people in these counties live on your tax dollars… civil servants, so to speak. If you can’t take a physical visit, go there via Google Earth… take a little house tour. Now take a look around your own house and your neighbor’s house. If the government workers are supposed to be civil servants… that makes you, the taxpayers, the masters… Right? How “masterful” are you feeling lately?
Now take a look at the vanity publishers, like Author House, IUniverse, Outskirts Press, etc, etc, etc. If you believe what they are selling … you believe that you are self-publishing. You believe that if you give them money and they publish your book… you self-published your book. Guess what, you’re not and you didn’t. Unfortunately you can’t do the Google Earth tour of the vanity publishing Industry so we’ll have to do it with words.
First off, how can you be a “self” publisher without you… “self” being the publisher? It’s pretty simple. Is your name or the name of your company going to be on the title page? Published by…. if it is anything other than your name or your company’s name, you are not the publisher, therefore not a self-publisher… period. You can say you are a published author, but you can’t say that you are a self-publisher or that you self-published your book. Of course the value of saying you’re a “published author” at any of these vanity presses is right up there with the value of a PhD received from FD University. Actually, I’m thinking of using my FDU degree to apply for one of those czar jobs down in DC. Then you can see my house on that Google Earth civil servant tour, too. If I get the job, maybe I’ll change my opinion of the vanity presses. I’ll keep you posted.
Seriously, all kidding aside, most people publish because they have written something that they believe to be of commercial value. They don’t do it to feel good or to have a few copies for their friends and family, with the possible exception of family histories, which will be covered under another article. They do it to make money. My guess is that you fall in this group too. Vanity publishing companies are not designed for you to make money; they are designed for them to make money… your money. Anyone who tells you anything different is blowing smoke.
Let’s look at the way the publishing money breaks down. Simply put, you have two components… the author and the publisher. The author earns a royalty for writing the book. This is true if you are published by a traditional publisher like Simon & Shuster, a vanity publisher like Publish America or Author House or if you self-publish.
The publisher, on the other hand, earns profits, which simply put, is sales minus expenses. If you are published by Simon & Schuster, they pay all the costs of publishing the book. They pay the cost of editing and design. They pay the printer. They pay the cost of distribution and marketing. In short… the publisher pays. In exchange for paying all the costs, the publisher earns all the profits from the sale of the book. Makes sense, right?
As a self-publisher, you pay all the costs of producing the book just like Simon & Schuster. In exchange for paying all the costs, YOU make all the profits, just like Simon & Schuster. So as a self-publisher, you not only earn the author royalty but the publisher profit as well. This makes sense too, right?
The situation with the vanity publisher is quite different, which is why I am so adamantly against the whole vanity industry. With a vanity press, like Westbow Press, the author earns a royalty, just like they would with a traditional publisher or if they self-published. The major difference is on the publishing end. With vanity publishing the author pays an inflated price of ALL the costs, involved with producing and marketing of their books, just like a self-publisher or traditional publisher. The hitch is that the vanity publisher, NOT THE AUTHOR, makes the profits. It is for this reason that it will never work out, financially, in the author’s favor if a vanity press is used. Does this make sense? I hope so. If it doesn’t make sense, please reread the above four paragraphs.
As a bonus, if the author decides to leave a vanity publisher, after he’s paid for everything, they find that they do not own the files needed to print the book (see double talk small print in your contract, if you don’t believe me). The other thing that the author does not own is the ISBN, which I will cover in another article.