Saturday 17 April 2010

The Death of Vanity Publishing?

Has self-publishing spelled the end of vanity publishing? I remember those fine publishing houses, usually based in places such as Kingston-upon-Hull, Morpeth or Truro, which offered unpublished authors a complete service, from editing to typesetting, printing, marketing and publicity for the modest sum of a few thousand pounds. I wonder if they have survived the digital revolution.

Publishing your own book today costs dozens of pounds as opposed to the thousands of yesteryear. Of course often the quality is the not the same, the cover is a bit rubbish, the publisher's name is something like Dead Hippo Press – but who cares so long as the words are all in there, between cover and cover?

The Bookseller recently reported that book production topped one million titles (1,000,000!) last year, of which around three quarters are print-on-demand (out-of-print books being resurrected using the latest technologies) and self-published. POD and self-publishing appear to have grown 2,242% since 2002.

The title output of mainstream publishers has remained unchanged, which suggests that there's still a strong demand for traditional books, but it's easy to foresee a time in the not too distant future when the mainstream production will start to shrink and be all but swamped by an ever-growing mass of on-demand books.


1 comment:

  1. It's not yet time to mourn the passing of vanity publishers.

    The powerful ones now use POD instead of offset so they rape their customers a bit less than before; and are growing through online advertising, better technology, lower package prices, acquisitions and alliances.

    The older companies are attracting new competion in the form of vanity operations set up by both large and small traditional publishers.

    Real self-publishing requires more knowledge and effort than just uploading a manuscript to a vanity publisher. And since vanity publishers promote themselves as "self-publishing companies," there will be an endless supply of uninformed, starry-eyed writers to keep them in business for years to come.

    Michael N. Marcus

    -- president of the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance,
    -- author of "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press,"
    -- author of "Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy: The Strange Story of Vanity Publisher Outskirts Press. How do they stay in business?,"
    -- author of "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults),"


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