As writers aspiring to be published, the most basic BASIC thing that we must know (besides the English language) is the difference between being published and being self-published. This is not to say that there isn’t a place in this world for “vanity presses,” but paying someone to print copies of your story doesn’t make you a published author.
I had a sad experience at work yesterday. (I work at a bookshop. Be jealous.) As has happened many times before, I had a woman approach me at the counter and introduce herself as a local author who wanted to show me her book. This time it was a children’s book, a thin little thing with poorly painted illustrations that screamed “self-published.” I asked her whether Tate Publishing, whose logo graced the cover, was a traditional publisher or a self-publishing company, to which she replied “oh, no, they’re the real deal.” She gave me a very passionate description of her book, told me how she’d read it at several schools and another local bookstore, and showed me a letter from the publisher stating that out of the thousands and thousands of manuscripts that they receive each year, hers stood with the tiny percentage that was worthy of being published. With a little more faith, I promised her I’d give it a read and call her back.
I should have gone with my gut. After tripping through the clumsy rhymes and disappointing story, I googled Tate Publishing and one of the first things to come up was “Tate Publishing Scam.” Apparently they charge their authors $4000 as an up front “investment” in the “publication” of their books. Pushing aside the swell of indignity at being lied to, I realized that I wasn’t really the one being misled. I have a feeling that everyone who submits their manuscript receives one of those glowing letters in return, along with the price tag.
Please, fellow writers, don’t be fooled! Do your homework. Anytime you have to pay the publisher instead of them paying you, you are self-publishing! No matter how selective they claim to be.
Now, I have a difficult phone call to make.
*Addition* A few legitimate publishers, and apparently agents too, are creating their own self-publishing companies to capitalize on their extensive slush piles. Check out this blog to learn more about this scary new trend.