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Traditional Publishing as Vanity

An interesting twist on the Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing debate. From the Self-Publishing Review, A Publishing Person Self-Publishes:

Wanting a traditional publisher’s acceptance is probably even more vanity-driven than self-publishing (“Look at me! Harcourt accepted my manuscript!”). In fact, after separating the author from the commercial realities, vanity is largely the only thing left. Self-publishing is about really engaging the audience. There’s less vanity when you have skin in the game.

Interesting angle. Vanity presses have earned that label for good reason. However, the “vanity” part of those presses is not necessarily in one’s desire to get their work published. After all, most authors want their work published. Vanity is what compels an author to be hasty, take shortcuts,  avoid or neglect the critical elements necessary to produce a quality product, and to rail unjustly against “the system.” But amateurish writing and production is what’s earned the label “vanity press,” not just the foregoing of traditional publishing. In fact, as the article above notes, bypassing traditional publishing routes may be one of the most courageous and the least vain things a writer can do.

So why is it we’ve come to see the self-published author as more vain than the traditionally-published author?

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Nicole May 28, 2009, 3:12 AM

    "Wanting a traditional publisher’s acceptance is probably even more vanity-driven than self-publishing (“Look at me! Harcourt accepted my manuscript!”)."
    In light of the marketing techniques exhibited by many royalty published authors, this couldn't be any more truthful. It's hard sell, baby. And it gets old fast. At least to me.

    I suppose it can be vain to want to publish either way, but I suspect more than that we hope our words will be of value to those who might read them just as others' words have been of value to us.

    As you know, Mike, I'm twice self-published. I didn't think I pursued it for vanity, and I'm a lousy marketer. But to stop and think about it, I guess if I think my longer novels are worthy of being in book form, it could be construed as vanity. I regret that interpretation . . .

  • RebeccaLuElla May 30, 2009, 6:09 PM

    I think "vanity" is fast dropping off as a term for self-published works. But you asked So why is it we’ve come to see the self-published author as more vain than the traditionally-published author?

    I think you already said it—some authors, not all by any means, are too hasty. And too unwilling to have someone (an editor) tell them to change their work. They are in charge. Of the whole process, including book cover and what edits to accept or reject. The ones who go their own way became associated with the subsidy publishers, and perhaps early on, defined them.

    Houses like WinePress, however, have done remarkable work to change this view. An author can go to such a house and receive exactly the same professional service any other publisher gives. The difference simply is that the author is taking the financial risk instead of the publisher. No vanity in that.

    Becky

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