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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Cautionary Tale for Not-Yet-Published Authors


I'm going off-script today to share the story of "Polly" ~ an aspiring author who recently made a very expensive mistake. Obviously, I'm not using her real name.

My own personal mission is to help authors publish well, especially when they consider venturing into the realm of do-it-yourself. For that reason, Polly's actions make me both sad and frustrated. By telling her story I hope I can save future writers from doing the same thing she did.

Polly started by making disparaging comments, to the few authors she knew, that she would never self-publish. She bragged that she "was going to do it right." Get an agent. Sell to New York. Be sold in the big box stores.

Mistake #1: She alienated other authors with her attitude.

After some time had passed, Polly announced on Facebook that her book was with her editor. No other information was offered. Later, she said her book was in production. Still no information. Finally, she announced that her book was available.

She didn't have a website yet. She never said who her publisher was. The only place to buy it was Amazon, but she didn't provide any links.

Mistake #2: Polly is not a member of any professional writer groups so had no idea how to promote herself or her book.

Once her book was on Amazon, the publisher was revealed: it was a vanity press. For those who don't know what vanity presses are, they are companies which charge thousands of dollars for authors to ~ wait for it ~ SELF PUBLISH.

Polly, who was going to "do it right," did it completely wrong.

Mistake #3: Polly's arrogant words stood between her, and asking advice from those who went before her.

Polly spent about $4000 to get her book edited, printed, and uploaded, her so-so cover designed, and eventually her odd-looking web site (her website's domain name is NOT her author name).

Key point: vanity presses make their money from the author not from book sales. Her vanity press says she "keeps 100% of her royalties" (of course she does ~ because there is no agent) but does not indicate what her royalty rate is. A search of the site offers no further information. The vanity press average is 5-10% of the cover price.

Meanwhile, Polly's hardcover books are $28.95 ~ plus shipping. Her paperbacks are $18.95. Both of these price points are significantly higher than other books in her genre. Her ranking on Kindle is in the 400,000 range ~ meaning approximately 399,999 authors sell better than she does.

Bottom line: Polly is not creating the career she might have, if she truly had "done it right."

  • Become part of a legitimate writing group with successfully published authors.
  • Shut up and listen. Ask questions.
  • Don't let your ego/pride/stubborn attitude get in the way of a successful career.

13 comments:

Paty Jager said...

This is so true, Kris! A writer needs other writers published and unpublished to learn the ropes and they need to realize their work isn't perfect and needs to be vetted by other writers.

Great post!

Kimila Kay said...

Great advice! If I'm ever lucky enough to be published, self or otherwise, it will be largely due to the support and fabulous contructive input I've received from other writers.

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for sharing this story, Kris. I sometimes forget that there are writers who do not understand what a vanity press is. And, some of them are subtle in how they present themselves so you really need to read the fine print or just know that if you are Paying Them Anything to print your book - Run In The Other Direction!

Kris Tualla said...

It's a sad tale, to be sure. Feel free to share the info! ;)

Judy said...

I would never have made it without all the wonderful authors out there who've helped me along the way. A huge thank you, Kris! I love Desert Breeze Publishing.

Anna Questerly said...

Kris,
I was blessed to work in a bookstore and hear first hand from self pubbed authors, on some of the horror and success stories they went through. It was thanks to writers like you, who were kind enough to share their experience that I was able to self pub my books FOR FREE and make a little money as they sold. And since I since they are print on demand and e books, they will always be for sale. I look at each book I write as an annuity. Thanks for all you do for us newbees. We're always learning.

Janice Seagraves said...

Sounds like someone I know who was recently "Published" and is now locked into a ten year contract with a vanity press.

Janice~

Beth Trissel said...

Sad tale, indeed. Well said, Kris. I hope you help someone not make the same mistakes.

Killion Slade said...

This is such a great topic Kris - thank you so much for speaking out on it. We have been harassed by one of those vanity publishing companies and they are relentless for author's money. They really know how to put on the fear sale.

Having other writers, authors, classes, and professional learning environments have been critical to helping us understand the business side of writing. They are an invaluable resource!

If it weren't for you, your classes on Savvy, and other classes we would be so much farther behind in our learning curve.

Every time I read the chapter with the margarita crab walk scramble - I think about how you pushed me to make it funnier :P

Thanks for the great post!

Jennifer (JC Page) said...

Poor Polly! My heart goes out to her...Hopefully, she will have another chance and she'll join us Celtic Hearts:)(or another great writing group) Then she'll be on her way!!

Amanda Gray said...

This one made me shudder to the soles of my feet. I am currently looking for a writing group to join besides the one I am a member of on FB but didn't realize exactly how important it a writers group really is.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even realize there were still vanity presses out there!

Thanks Kris, great post.

Shannon

Gerri Bowen said...

Thanks for posting this, Kris. You made many good points for new authors to remember. A sad tale.