Keith Snyder
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Vanity presses

Now that I've annoyed the plagiarist cabal, let's see if I can annoy vanity and legit authors at the same time.

I was having a conversation today with a writer I like, about... well, I don't know, it ranged a lot, but at one point, I found myself making a point I've only come to feel more strongly about in subsequent hours:

By popularizing a definition of "vanity press" that's way, way out of date, we in the legitimate publishing industry have given ammunition to vanity presses like PublishAmerica. That outdated definition is a company that charges writers a fee in return for publishing their books.

This has not been an accurate definition since print-on-demand technology changed the vanity industry. However, socially conscious writers and publishing gurus (all trying to be responsible and helpful--I'm not picking on anybody's motivations) didn't keep up. The vanity industry converted itself to a different business model, and we all kept mouthing the lyrics we'd memorized.

Which means we armed the bad guys. We handed them a definition of publishing scams to watch out for that as good as went out of its way to exclude theirs. The result is thousands of vanity press victims yelling that PublishAmerica isn't a vanity press, because look at the definition of a vanity press that you gave us!

Publishing has always moved slower than cement, but this wasn't a hard one to have kept up with. The enemy outmaneuvered us without even hiding his tanks. He announced where they were going to be, which direction they were going to fire in, and what color shorts he was going to wear that day, and we continued pointing in the other direction and warning everybody about leopard attacks.

The thing changed, so it's time to popularize a new definition.

We need to stop telling people a vanity press is a company that charges fees, and start telling them a vanity press is a company that makes the bulk of its money from a very large number of very small print runs that it sells mainly to people the authors know.

That's a 21st-century vanity press.

The 19th-century model isn't so much of a threat anymore.

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