The Difference

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.

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2 Responses to “The Difference”


  1. 1 BookWhirl.com January 21, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    I respect your opinion about self-publishing. Due to technology’s innovation, publishing has expanded, that resulted to a lot more options for authors. Self-publishing has become a venture to aspiring writers.

  2. 2 Sue January 22, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Yes, there are a lot of scams out there. When I was looking for a publisher for my first book, I ran across several offers to publish my book “for a price.” I always felt that if my book was good enough, the publisher would pay me instead of vice versa. On the other hand, there are self-published authors whose books are well worth the time to read. Usually, those authors pay a printer (not publisher) and often do their own typesetting. They also have to promote their own book, as the woman you met was trying to do. If her “publisher” was doing the job, he would be the one marketing as well as printing, typesetting, editing, etc. P.S. I did find a publisher for my book, and was able to sit back and watch the royalty checks roll in.


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