Vanity Vs Publishers

Nuno Ferreira's book was first published by a Vanity Press. The experience was not good. Meanwhile, the same book (with some edition) was published by Editorial Divergência. This small press aims to publish the series. In this text, Nuno Ferreira talks about the experience of being publish by a Vanity press.

To be published. This is the dream of all who fell in love with the multiverse of fiction: A passion boiling with increasing intensity. 

In a world where social networks have made each one a kind of celebrity, many fall into the trap of easy fame, and young people are always the ones who succumb faster. If some are dedicated to transforming your body through a multitude of graphic filters, others are absorbed into the intellectual realm. It is mainly the fault of what our society values (and much of the ignorance vs. vanity of parents).

We live in a twisted society, with children hooked on high-end gadgets and teenagers publishing books. Since so many are published, what prevents a young child from wanting to be and become as well-known as his idols? I think it should be the wisdom of parents, but they are increasingly flexible in their upbringing, nobody wants to cut wings on anyone, nobody has the patience for tantrums and whining, and so the freedom of our young people grow to another level. Demand and narcissism.

The first book of Nuno Ferreira’s fantasy series was published by Editorial Divergência, a small indie press that publishes fantasy and science fiction in Portugal.

When a new niche market appears and the opportunity of making money emerges so do people willing to make a profit from it. The publishing market was not immune to this, being willing to make a profit, for one reason or another, of young people or not so young, that cannot publish otherwise. Thus was born the phenomenon of vanity press, printing companies that qualify as publishers but simply put their stamp on a work that came their way, in exchange for a large sum of money.

There is no edition. No revision. Even the disclosure of the work is dependent on explicit requests from the author. Attendance happens only during the process of writing and in the appearance of a spokesman at the launching session, disappearing completely after the event. I even know of cases where additional fees have been charged for text changes to the book layout. Situations like the ones described don’t happen with a book publisher.

A book publisher, whether in the more traditional large-chain or independent publishing house, does not charge its authors any money. It goes through a lot of steps between receiving a book and publishing it. It is time-consuming work that includes submission, reading, publisher approval, author review, editing, the back and forth between publisher and author where the former suggests changes that can make the book more accessible to the public, the proofreading and, finally, the layout and pagination of the book. A work that, in most cases, involves several months.

The cover of Espada que Sangra (Bleeding Sword) – published by Editorial Divergência

I have been published it both ways. At twenty-nine, I was published by a vanity press, and it was only because many saw potential in my work that I was actually published by a “real” publisher at thirty-two years old. Being knowledgeable of both worlds, I bring you a little of my experience. In my case, it was not vanity that made me choose to publish my first book using a vanity press publisher. At least, not consciously. 

The book I submitted came from years of work, and it was not even the first one I had successfully completed. Anyone who wants to publish a book must first of all be aware of its quality and being aware of our quality also means knowing that talent is not enough. We have to work hard and to increase our abilities so that our art can indeed be published. 

Although I was critic of myself and refused to submit several books I had written knowing perfectly well they were not up to scratch, I see today that even the Bleeding Sword was not good enough at the time it was published. For publishers, we call serious, even good books may not be published. There are a number of weighting of factors that condition the publisher, far beyond the quality. The possibility that a particular book does not sell is often the biggest concern publishers face.

This concern does not exist in vanity presses. These service providers do not pay their employees from the profits of sales, which are almost always irrelevant to them, but from the authors’ fees. In this way new authors proliferate like mushrooms as long as they have money to publish. The books are lost in the immensity of new releases. They will never available at bookstores on the vanity’s initiative. Sometimes they will, but sporadically in a couple of them. 

Often the booksellers themselves refuse to sell them, either because of the terrible quality of the texts, the endless number of errors, or the latent distrust of the work of a particular “publisher.” Celebrities or renowned authors are called to publish through these vanity presses, whose services are offered to them in exchange for the extra exposure. There are huge differences in treatment between the two groups of writers. 

To all the future authors out there, the only thing I can tell you is to work on your writing and to fight for what you want, and if you want to be published and the publishing houses are not interested and you have the money to do it, hire a proofreader and a print shop and publish yourselves.

By Nuno Ferreira

Nuno Ferreira collects hats, books and legos. He was an actor, managed a theater company, practiced kung fu and ballroom dances. Occasionally presents fado nights and small shows. Nuno has a degree in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Management, but keeps alive the passion for the editorial world. In 2012 he founded Notícias de Zallar, a blog which produces regular content about Speculative Fiction. Nuno had published several short tales and he is the Espada que Sangra author, book finalist for the Adamastor Great Award for Fantastic Literature 2018 and 2019.

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