Stop Calling It Vanity Publishing

1231021950More than a decade into the self-publishing revolution, it’s hard to believe we’re still being subjected to dire warnings about “vanity publishing.” Can there possibly be a more tired phrase than that? If it’ll do any good, I’ll admit that I’m vain. Whenever I publish, I chose to pay dearly for the privilege. A complete package includes professional covers, copyrights, thorough editing, and at least rudimentary marketing. Those don’t come cheap, and all are absolutely essential for even moderate success.

Like many other aspiring authors, I have found the traditional path not totally unresponsive to my queries, yet ultimately unsuited to my type of writing. There are simply too many rules. I like to mix genres, which makes it next to impossible to fit into a publishing niche. My novels start out as chicklit, but then I complicate things by adding healthy doses of social and/or political commentary. Not an easy sell.

Traditional publishing is not only too limiting in that way, but takes too long. For someone who’s no longer a spring chicken, years of compromise, rejection, and frustration are not a good option. And yes, it takes “vanity” to believe that stories representing my own vision from start to finish, not someone else’s idea of a commercial product, are worth putting out. My only obligation is to make sure they’re not a half-assed job, but the very best I can do.

Does that make us indies any more vain than traditionally published authors? Not so much these days, I believe. On the contrary, it looks like even the trads are increasingly expected to do their own self-promotion, assuming they aren’t famous already. So can’t we just agree that all writers are vain? We must be, if we persist in thinking we have something to say that the world should hear.

19 thoughts on “Stop Calling It Vanity Publishing

  1. Ah the glory days of biting your lip when asked who one’s publisher was!! Thankfully the secret magic circle has now been broken and I believe that provided a book is well written, edited and designed it does not matter who published it. The fact that 25% of books in the top 100 Kindle list are Indie speaks for itself.

  2. I agree. For all writers and creative artists it takes a healthy dose of vanity to believe that what we’ve created deserves to read and enjoyed by others. I don’t hear the term “vanity press” as often as I used to, but I know it’s still out there. I know there are a lot of poorly written books that could not get past the traditional gatekeepers being self published, and let’s face it, that hurts serious, professional writers trying to self published. We also know that a lot of quality writing is not getting past the gatekeepers for reasons like you mention here, and because profits still sing louder than excellence. That’s where I’m hoping some of the smaller, independent presses can help out. I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but I’ll be needing to make a decision soon. So your post is very timely for me. Thank you.

  3. Reblogged this on Moondust and Madness and commented:
    My first “re-blog” but I stumbled upon this post by one of my followers and well, it is very true! Many people look at me and ask, who’s your publisher, and the look of blankness sometimes enters their eyes when they hear “I am”.

    I love having total control of my project. I love being responsible for my sales. I produce a quality product. Well written, well edited, and well laid out. This takes enormous work, but I love it. It also helps that if I ever do pursue “traditional publishing” I will know more about the business than most authors do.

    I find it insulting when people refer to self publishing as vanity publishing. Admittedly, there are some pretty bad self published books! there are also some amazing self published books that no one ever sees because they get buried beneath crap written by “famous” people. Look at 50 Shades; One of the top book series in recent years. But have you actually read it? It is so badly written, I couldn’t get past the first chapter of the first book. Yet books that could actually make a difference in someone’s life, get lost in the shuffle.

    Its a sad truth of the business – but the key is not to give up! Its all about fulfilling YOUR dream; if you have a gift, you will rise to the top.

    1. Very well said! I wish the “vanity” label would vanish, so that each book can be judged on its true merits. And yes, I too have seen some appallingly bad writing and editing in traditionally published books.

  4. I was a book-buyer for quite a few independent bookstores in my career (decided what did and didn’t go on the shelves), and the tides have definitely turned. For the most part, new authors going the traditional route is the new ‘vanity publishing.’ Very few of them get any more promotional help from their publishers than we indies do –a.k.a. none– and they have less control over the promotion they’re allowed to do, making them worse off. No BookBubs, no promotional price reductions, etc.

  5. All excellent points! It’s sad that it’s nearly 5 years since you posted this, yet there are still so many people who don’t see self-publishing as “real publishing” or legitimate. It’s simply an alternative method, one that suits a lot of authors and manuscripts much better than traditional publishing.

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