I had a phone call the other day from an elderly gentleman who was trying to find an agent. I explained the process to him and then he said that he’d already published a book, but he still couldn’t get an agent. Digging deeper, it seemed that he was under the impression that if he had a book out on Amazon, an agent would come calling.
He’s published with a small press. I took a look on Amazon. His book has been out for almost three years. The blurb and the cover are terrible. He has zero sales and zero reviews. Getting a little bit cross now, I decided to dig a bit further.
It turns out that he paid money to a vanity press that seems to masquerade as a publisher. This organisation states on their website that they open to submissions. They give the impression that they are looking for books to publish.
Digging even deeper I discovered that what they do once you’ve sent your submission is to ask for the full manuscript (and your hopes are raised). They then come back and give you some flannel along the lines of how they love your work, think you have real potential, but the economy and the market and blah, blah, blah, so they want to publish you but they need you to make a financial contribution.
Further investigations revealed that this contribution can be anything from £1500 to £3000.
So, a vanity press then.
(I’m not naming the company in question here as they apparently have a tendency to send out emails from their lawyers to anyone who criticises them and I really don’t have time for that rubbish).
Now I understand that no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head while you give them your bank details. But still – this seems unethical at the very least. And to do this to an elderly man is downright cruel.
So lovely writers, please be careful and remember that you shouldn’t be paying a publisher, they should be paying you. If they ask you for money, they’re a vanity press. If you’re happy with that, then that’s up to you (though why you would pay someone to do something you can do yourself, I don’t know) but please be very, very sure about what you’re getting yourself into. It’s very easy to get carried away, and unfortunately there are people out there who are only too happy to exploit that.