So I was thinking about the Harley/DellArte (formerly Harlequin Horizons) vanity press debacle over the holiday – even though I swore I wouldn’t – and hit upon a big snag that pushed my laissez-faire attitude right over the cliff: The Great Sucker the Author Incident.
It’s folly to think that mainstream and vanity imprints can live happy, yet separate lives under one roof. Anyone with a working brain realizes vanity publishing brings in huge bucks for the publisher, so the logical thing for the mainstream publisher to do is give a gentle nudge toward the vanity publishing option. True, nothing illegal about it, but it is sneaky. How to do this?
First, you need to offer something delicious. Ahhh…a chance at mainstream publishing! So they put out this lovely blurb on their vanity site: “We will be monitoring your books for excellence and marketability, and MAYBE we’ll choose YOUR book for mainstream publishing!”
Wow! Gee! Where do I sign up? Here, take my money! And to prove their point, I’m willing to bet the beagle’s chocolate martini and stash of Twinkies that they’ll choose a few lucky winners to legitimize their claims. What better way to get the unpublished masses clamoring with their wallets in hand? Crikey, it sounds like a paid version of Authonomy. This is literary version of Russian Roulette. Some get an empty chamber, others get a live round.
In reality, there will probably be very, very few books that make the transition from vanity to mainstream – just enough to keep up appearances. Hungry authors who don’t know enough about the publishing business to discern a snow job of epic proportions will buy it hook, line, and sinker. And they’ll hand their money over to these guys rather than AuthorHouse or iUniverse. Very clever.
And this is my big Ah Ha moment. Anytime a mainstream publisher adds a vanity imprint, you can be certain of two things:
- They need the money
- They are going to woo you with hints at greater success in order to sucker you in.
This is a conflict of interest.