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Old 09-23-2012, 04:08 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Are Any "Vanity Published" Authors Successful?

As I understand it, to become a published writer, you can do two things:
1) You write a manuscript, submit it to a publisher , and wait. If the publisher sees a market, they will buy the manuscript from you, and print the book. You will get some percentage of the sales $.
2) If you are rejected by publishers, you can self-publish (you pay for the printing, advertising, and distribution). Who knows, you might have a hit!
It seems to me that self/vanity publishing is unlikely to be successful-after all, publishers have staffs who know what people want to read/buy. Have any self-published writers been successful? Or do their books wind up in the bargain bin..or (worse) trashed?
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:14 PM
LC Strawhouse LC Strawhouse is offline
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Only if they later commit some disgustingly horrible crime so it becomes a collector's item...

Seriously though, most of the vanity press I've read was created by authors with single-issue obsessions or huge chips on their shoulder about something... these books often purported to be "non-fiction" but were obviously a pack of lies so it's obvious why they were self-published.
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:29 PM
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Aussie author Matthew Reilly self published his first book when he was 19 after multiple rejections. He has proved very successful since.

It's a good story (how he did it) if you can find a good account. There's one here but I remember a great article years ago when he first got noticed. He is a smart guy and did lots of clever stuff with meager resources.

Mind you I have never read one of his books but I know plenty of people that have.
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:35 PM
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Aussie author Matthew Reilly self published his first book when he was 19 after multiple rejections. He has proved very successful since.

It's a good story (how he did it) if you can find a good account. There's one here but I remember a great article years ago when he first got noticed. He is a smart guy and did lots of clever stuff with meager resources.

Mind you I have never read one of his books but I know plenty of people that have.
His books read like rejected G.I. Joe scripts-the mutant bastard children of Clive Cussler and Don Pendleton.
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:39 PM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_of_Death

The Machine of Death was self-published after being rejected by publishers because collections of short stories are not considered profitable.

Since a few of the involved authors have strong internet followings of one kind or another, it was quite successful and sold lots of copies.
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:49 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Herman Melville is often given as an example of a respected author who originally paid to have his work published. Of course, the publishing business was a lot different back in Melville's era.
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Old 09-23-2012, 04:59 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
It seems to me that self/vanity publishing is unlikely to be successful-after all, publishers have staffs who know what people want to read/buy. Have any self-published writers been successful? Or do their books wind up in the bargain bin..or (worse) trashed?
According to a website I found, there are important differences between self-publishing and vanity publishing. Self-publishing was described as a legitimate business - you're paying a company to print your book in accordance with your directions and when you're done, you own the print run fully. Vanity publishing was described as a scam - they charge all the expenses of printing the book to the author. But when the printing is done, they turn around and act like a regular publisher - they retain the publishing rights to the book and the author only receives royalties from whatever books are sold. Vanity publishers are collecting the rewards of being a legit publisher without assuming any of the risks.
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:02 PM
ianzin ianzin is offline
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Yes. I know, because I am one of them.

First of all, let me point out that vanity publishing is not the same as self-publishing.

Vanity publishing: you have write something for which there is no conceivable market beyond, let's say, 50-100 copies. No-one is interested in offering you a publishing deal. You pay to have some copies of your book printed, just because you want to and so you have a few copies to give to family and friends.

Self-publishing: you write something for which there may well be a market. You could pursue a deal with a publishing company, but alternatively you could just publish it yourself because it's a much more sensible option. So you publish it yourself, sell your book via a website, Amazon and through other channels, and make more money than you would have done if you had done a deal for someone else to publish your work.

I don't know of any vanity publishing authors who are successful.

I know several self-published authors who are successful to varying degrees.

- - -

The idea that publishing companies are somehow 'experts' in what is or is not likely to sell or be successful is an amusing fiction, unsupported by a single shred of evidence. The only thing they know how to do is follow existing trends (= play safe), publish lots of stuff for undemanding markets (cookery, gardening, celebs, royalty, TV or movie tie-in) and very occasionally take a gamble on something new - a gamble that pays off about 1 time in a 100, if that.

- - -

I self-published my own book on cold reading which has become one of the most successful self-published books in history. I've sold about 40,000 copies to customers in over 60 different countries. What's more, it has made enough money for me not to have to work for a living, for 12 years.

The profit I make from each sale of the book is massively more than I would have made if I had done a deal with a publishing company. This was one of a dozen reasons for self-publishing.

I did pay for printing, but I have never paid for any advertising, nor would it make any sense to do so. Also, distribution does not cost anything to me, in that the operational cost is simply passed on to the customer within the unit price of the book.

I have friends who have self-published other non-fiction books that have been very successful, and one or two who have self-published fiction titles.
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:08 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Arguably just about all webcomic creators are self publishers.

For that matter there's a bunch of actual comic book creators who self-publish and succeed.

Hell, Dave Sim made enough off 25 years of Cerebus the Aardvark that he could, without doubt, go completely batshit loopy and keep himself going.
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Old 09-23-2012, 05:49 PM
Infovore Infovore is offline
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One other distinction--it's not necessary for self-publishing authors to pay up front for their books anymore. Places like CreateSpace and Lulu allow you to publish your book in trade paperback or even hardcover form as a print-on-demand title, meaning that you don't have to pay anything up front. They print only those copies that are sold. I did this with a fiction book and am planning to do it with at least two more. I haven't sold many (I'm, sadly, really awful at marketing) but it hasn't cost me a dime beyond what I chose to pay (for example, what I paid my cover artist).

As an aside, I believe "50 Shades of Gray" was self-published initially. Say about it what you will (from what I've seen of it, I doubt I would like it and I don't think it's well written) but it's sold a boatload of copies and gotten a traditional publishing deal. I read somewhere that E. L. James is making a million a month in royalties.
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:39 PM
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Define success.

Vanity publications succeed far less often the authors succeed in selling novels to legitimate publishers, and 99.9% of authors who self-publish fiction never make back anything near their expenses.

100% of authors who sell to a legitimate publisher make money on the deal. They may not make a lot of money, or have and lasting success, but they do get paid.

Usually when a vanity press author does make money, it's after a legitimate publisher picks up the book. A legitimate publisher has many advantages that an individual can never hope to use, like a sales force.

The chances of success with a self-published book have improved in recent years, going from 100% failure to 99.9%. It's still not good odds, especially for fiction.

Self-published non-fiction is different: you can make money with it if you write on a subject that has a small but clearly defined audience. My brother wrote a book on the history of Harmony Guitars and self-published it; he sells it pretty well. But there are people who owned Harmony Guitars who might be interested in reading about it. You can self-publish book of recipes for your church and sell it. But for a work of fiction, there isn't any audience for it.
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Old 09-24-2012, 01:43 AM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Almost all vanity publishers are successful. They want their work published. They pay to have it published. It gets published. That's a success. Do they live off their work? Almost never, and by that I mean, 'never, but I can't prove it, so I'm gonna use a weasel word." That's not the ONLY definition of "success" though. For some, getting their books published may be all that's needed for them to feel successful, even if they have to pay for it.

Self publishing is the wave of the future. Increasingly, big publishers are dumping thier mid-list fiction books and not making any efforts to develop new authors. That's what's interesting about E.L. James ... (sales of her trilogy are approaching 50 million). She was vetted by Twilight fans, not some publisher or agent. By the time her book was "discovered" by Viking (they actually won a bidding war for the book) it was a bestseller because of the online Twilight fandom that bought it. That's all publishers want to do really ... snag off writers who are already successful and make them more successful. But they have no clue about the Internets, because they hate them and fear them. Rightfully so!

Last edited by Evil Captor; 09-24-2012 at 01:44 AM.
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Old 09-24-2012, 07:39 AM
obfusciatrist obfusciatrist is offline
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Not self published in the sense of actually getting his books onto paper, but science fiction author John Scalzi got his publishing deals after the success of putting his first few novels online.


Oh, another example, I believe The Celestine Prophecy was self published. I recall stories at the time that the author had printed it himself and was selling it out of his trunk and eventually got enough attention that a publisher came on board.

Last edited by obfusciatrist; 09-24-2012 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 09-24-2012, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
It seems to me that self/vanity publishing is unlikely to be successful-after all, publishers have staffs who know what people want to read/buy. Have any self-published writers been successful? Or do their books wind up in the bargain bin..or (worse) trashed?
From which point in time? Many satirists and political writers were self-published, including a large chunk of the works of several of Spain's "Golden Century" writers and many of the people who inspired or led the French revolution; I'm not sure but wouldn't be surprised about several big English names from the 19th century.

Serial novels have made a comeback as a self-publishing industry and many of those blogger-novelists are getting book deals with publishers.

Last edited by Nava; 09-24-2012 at 09:34 AM.
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Old 09-24-2012, 09:55 AM
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I don't think it was on a "vanity publisher" but a night watchman named Bill James starting in 1977 sold an 80 page book of statistical analysis of baseball players and teams by advertisements in "The Sporting News". Over the years, it grew, he got a contract with a major publisher and has parlayed it into a front office job with the Boston Red Sox and was named by "Time" magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_James
There are probably a number of music magazines such as "Relix" and "Trouser Press" that go started by fans of a particular genre selling them at concerts.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:04 AM
Moonlitherial Moonlitherial is offline
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Amanda Hocking is the biggest Amazon self publishing (ie, never had a contract with a book company) success story. She's written and released 17 books. By book 9 they had collectively sold over a million copies and made her $2,000,000.

John Locke is another self published member of the million copies sold club - he writes thrillers.
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Old 09-24-2012, 11:04 AM
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JL Bourne, of "Day by Day Armageddon" was initially self published. He didn't want to have to deal with a deadline, especially as he is an active duty member of our armed forces who was very very busy flying planes hither and yon.

He managed to get picked up by Permuted Press, but I think that has since been superseded by either Penguin, or some imprint of Simon & Schuster.

He's doing well by the books, though not in the "retired and snort shredded $100 bills" level. At least not until the (hopeful) movie deal comes though...
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Old 09-24-2012, 11:52 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
Almost all vanity publishers are successful. They want their work published. They pay to have it published. It gets published. That's a success. Do they live off their work? Almost never, and by that I mean, 'never, but I can't prove it, so I'm gonna use a weasel word." That's not the ONLY definition of "success" though. For some, getting their books published may be all that's needed for them to feel successful, even if they have to pay for it.
I think we're defining success here in terms of financial success not emotional goals.

To establish an objective standard, let's say an author is successful when he gets more money out of his work then he put into it. With self publishing, that means the author has to sell enough books to get back what he paid to have them printed.
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Old 09-24-2012, 12:15 PM
Infovore Infovore is offline
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To establish an objective standard, let's say an author is successful when he gets more money out of his work then he put into it. With self publishing, that means the author has to sell enough books to get back what he paid to have them printed.
By that definition, especially if you're talking ebooks where you don't even have to make the minimal investment of buying an ISBN number (which can be had for as low as $10), then any self-published author who goes the ebook or POD route is successful if they sell one copy, since they have to pay nothing to have them printed.

By those standards, my fiction book is successful (if you leave off the voluntary decision to pay a cover artist rather than using a stock cover, which I could easily have done). I can't really legitimately consider it "successful," though.
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Old 09-24-2012, 01:00 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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By that definition, especially if you're talking ebooks where you don't even have to make the minimal investment of buying an ISBN number (which can be had for as low as $10), then any self-published author who goes the ebook or POD route is successful if they sell one copy, since they have to pay nothing to have them printed.
I agree. And any author who signs a deal with a regular publisher is successful by this standard as soon as he gets an advance, even if he never sells a single book.
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Old 09-24-2012, 01:25 PM
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I self-published my own book on cold reading which has become one of the most successful self-published books in history. I've sold about 40,000 copies to customers in over 60 different countries.
Including me! It is probably the best and most complete work on the subject that I've seen, and I read a lot of stuff in the genre.
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Old 09-24-2012, 01:52 PM
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Yes. I know, because I am one of them.
Could I get a link or PM to where I could buy your book? It sounds fascinating and I'm an aspiring author who is probably going to end up going the self-publishing route.

I know the basics of how it works from listening to James Randi, but even still I would like to know how they do some of the more specific/complex cold reading techniques...
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Old 09-24-2012, 03:43 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Amanda Hocking is the biggest Amazon self publishing (ie, never had a contract with a book company) success story. She's written and released 17 books. By book 9 they had collectively sold over a million copies and made her $2,000,000.

John Locke is another self published member of the million copies sold club - he writes thrillers.
Imagine how many books she would have had to have sold through a conventional publisher to make that kind of money. Amazon pays 75% to the writer ... most conventional authors see a few pennies on the dollar. Way less than a dime.
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Old 09-24-2012, 03:53 PM
Tapioca Dextrin Tapioca Dextrin is offline
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Could I get a link or PM to where I could buy your book?
Assuming he doesn't mind me being his pimp

http://www.thecoldreadingbook.com/

It is a very interesting read
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Old 09-25-2012, 05:54 AM
ianzin ianzin is offline
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Usually when a vanity press author does make money, it's after a legitimate publisher picks up the book. A legitimate publisher has many advantages that an individual can never hope to use, like a sales force.
Apologies, but this is seriously misleading.

First of all, you are perpetuating the analogy of vanity publishing and self-publishing that I sought to correct in my earlier post.

Secondly, I don't know what you mean by 'legitimate'. I publish my own work and
occasionally publish other people's work for them. In what sense am I not a legitimate publisher? I have ISBN numbers on my books. I can sell via Amazon if I want. I can sell via book stores if I want. I sell books and pay tax on my earnings like any other company. Whence am I not 'legitimiate'?

Thirdly, getting a deal with a large publishing company is a disadvantage, not an advantage. You mention that they will have a sales force. Let me provide some information. Let's suppose you write a book and get a deal with what you regard as a 'legitimate' publisher.

They will hire someone to do a bit of PR and selling for you. They choose this person (usually a friend of someone at the publishing company who works in PR and media). This person will be expensive, whether or not they achieve anything. She (they are usually female) gets paid before you do i.e. the money she gets paid comes out of your earnings from the book.

What will she do? She will call some buyers and retailers and press people and get them to treat her to lunch or dinner. She will have a great time enjoying these lunches and dinners and drinking wine and chatting, and at some point she will mention your title and half a dozen others she is supposed to be promoting. She will, at best, have given your book a quick glimpse and read a couple of chapters.

This wining and dining will, if you're lucky, result in some sales success, but who knows? The publishing company will only pay for this effort to be sustained for about 2 weeks. After that, the sales/PR lady moves on to other projects.

The sales/PR lady might also make a few calls and try to get you some PR interviews on local radio and so on. These may well be a total waste of your time, e.g. a pointless 3 minute slot on an abscure radio station where the host has completely misunderstood what you and your book are about and is only filling in time between some music and the traffic news. You make your own way there and back at your own expense, and if it's a totally pointless experience (as it usually is) that's just tough.

After this two weeks of 'effort', the publishing company will make no more active effort to sell your book (unless they do a second edition). They will consider that they have 'done' their sales effort on your behalf and they won't want to throw any more money at it. What's more, they won't even be interested in trying to do anything else to boost sales. They will have 'moved on' mentally.

On the other hand, because I publish my own stuff, I just about never stop doing things to try and boost sales. It's a continuous, ongoing effort. I never spend any actual money on sales and PR, because I know how to market my work very effectively without spending a cent, but I do sustain the effort. What's more, it's fun. I like doing talks and personal appearances and I make sure I do ones that will be enjoyable and productive.

The internet is the greatest sales medium in history. It's worth 100,000 old-style professional sales people. And I know how to use it more effectively than any 'legitimate' publishing company. This is why my revenue and profit per unit sold is better than theirs, by a factor of about 20.
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:58 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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Let's suppose you write a book and get a deal with what you regard as a 'legitimate' publisher.
To avoid any confusion, I'll point out RealityChuck is a published author.
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:52 AM
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Michael J. Sullivan published his first few books and they were so successful that he eventually got a publishing contract.
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:50 PM
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Terry Fallis did quite well. He couldn't get a publisher interested, so he read chapters from his book and released them as podcasts. He won the Stephen Leacock Award and Canada Reads. I believe he has a traditional publishing deal now.

I read The Best Laid Plans, it was excellent.
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Old 09-26-2012, 11:39 AM
ianzin ianzin is offline
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To avoid any confusion, I'll point out RealityChuck is a published author.
Good for him. So am I. What does this have to do with his curious use of the adjective 'legitimate'? And what kind of supposed 'confusion' are you avoiding by stating this?

Also, are you aware that 'to publish' simply means 'to make public'? If you type out what you had for breakfast on a bit of paper and stick it where the public can see it, you're a published author.
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Old 09-26-2012, 01:24 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Good for him. So am I. What does this have to do with his curious use of the adjective 'legitimate'? And what kind of supposed 'confusion' are you avoiding by stating this?

Also, are you aware that 'to publish' simply means 'to make public'? If you type out what you had for breakfast on a bit of paper and stick it where the public can see it, you're a published author.
Some people feel that if you are not published by a publishing house, you are not a "published author" just a writer who printed something. A foolish notion, and getting more outdated by the nanosecond. A lot of people need that validation, apparently.
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