April 25, 2014

V Is For Vanity Publishing

This post was very hard for me to write, so it is my sincerest hope that this is a sobering reality check for you.

A cautionary tale for those who are 1} thinking about self-publishing because you somehow identify with the post for the letter "U" or 2} thinking about self-publishing because you want to get something out there that has your name on it, and by golly that is the bottom line or 3} you really want to self-publish because you believe that is best path for you start out on or 4} you want to become one of those hybrid authors.

After recovering from my disastrous (and seriously expensive) foray into vanity agenting, I was at a lost on what to do with my first novel (no, not Line 21). I wanted to become a published somebody, but after receiving about one dozen rejections (which in hindsight was the absolute right thing to do with this novel), I thought there had to be a better way to getting published. (Un)Fortunately for me, I struck up a friendship with a local author who was self-published. She told me about the publisher that used, Author House (ASI), to publish her books.

I did a little research (but obviously not enough) and figured, what the hell, I might as well take the plunge.

If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have taken the plunge. Instead, I would've spent far more time in editing/fixing/gutting my story to make it more palatable for the masses. Even better, I would've realized that this "novel" wasn't worth the paper it was printed on and it should've been stored in a jar and buried in a deep dark hole in my backyard. But that was not to be, as I decided to take the plunge and shell out roughly $900 bucks to self-publish my novel. This was on top of the $2,000 that I spent with the vanity agency for "editing" services.

What this initial foray taught me (which I partially learned with my second foray with the same company, as I self published a chapbook which was miles better than that novel but still should've gone through at least two more wholesale revisions before being published. still, it is a good read and is available for purchase. click here for details), is that if you self-publish a crappy manuscript, be prepared to spend years not only recovering from your mistake, but rehabbing/repairing your reputation as well. Incidentally, the total outlay of funds to publish with ASI was, after receiving a refund of about $450 for a marketing campaign that I did not need, was $1,400.

Believe it or not, there is a large silver lining in all of this crap. I have roughly 30 books left that became the basis for my little enterprise called "Books by G. B. Miller", so every year I file a Schedule C with my taxes. Also, the only way you can buy this horrible novel is through me, because I made sure that book was delisted with ASI.

So my friends, if you're going to self-publish, spend your money wisely. Don't spend it to get your book published. Instead, invest your money with a good graphics company, a good editor and some judicious marketing.

(c) 2014 by G.B. Miller. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Hear, hear! Yep, the self-publishing industry has acquired a bad name because of writers that aren't willing to pay the price--in money, but mostly in time and effort--to become *good*. It takes a while, and a lot of practice, to reach a point where what we write is ready for the public.

    Great post, G.B.!
    Guilie @ Life In Dogs

  2. Good advice from someone who's been there, done that! Luckily for me, I have no ambitions to publish anything beyond my own blog. And that's free, LOL!

  3. Guilie: Thanks for stopping by.

    Most definitely. If I knew then what I know now, I would've saved myself a ton of grief and aggravation.

    Debra: Free is the only way to publish. Fortunately, you can do "free" at Amazon and Smashwords.

  4. You offer very wise advice here. Thank you for laying out in the open. I think a lot of authors have too much vanity to tell the truth about their vanity press experiences.

    I've heard some tales about ASI that were not good. A dental hygienist who used to clean my teeth was all excited that his mother had published a book through ASI. Each visit I'd ask how it was going and it kept going downhill with more money being laid out. I don't know what happened because he's no longer at my dentist's office.

    But I've known several people who have published books on their own and ended up giving them away. Not that it can't work. A good persistent promoter might be able to move a decent book, but it work and most authors don't want that work.

    You might enjoy a blog post written by a friend of mine who lives near me. He gives a humorous account of how he tried to move his first self-published book. The link is: http://jackeiden.blogspot.com/2013/03/recovering-by-jack-eiden-jack-and-im.html It's a little long but it's pretty funny. Be sure to leave him a comment if you read it. The guy's 90 years old and is wrapping up his next novel, but he's not sure what to do this time.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  5. Arlee: Like I said, this was real difficult for me to write. Nobody wants to own up to being the complete fool when it comes self-publishing. For what's it worth, I almost got sucked into Publish America because I thought they were a normal publishing company. Fortunately for me, I had a friend who did a little research for me and told me about the legal morass they were in (and still are) at the time.

    Believe you me, I have no intention of either giving this bad novel away or tossing it. I consider it to be a very valuable lesson on how not to self-publish a book.

    I will check out your friend's blog post, as I'm always on the lookout for another reality check with it comes to writing.

    M: Thankee.

  6. I am glad you wrote that because I had considered it in the past. YOu should write a book on what not to do for other people to learn :)

  7. Eclectic: Thanks for stopping by.

    The first two years of my original blog contains my trials and tribulations about my adventures in vanity publishing/agenting.

  8. I hate that they call it vanity publishing. All publishing is vain. And sometimes in vain

  9. Bearman: To be frank, you do have a valid point. All publishing to a major degree is vain and sometimes in vain too.


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