Getting Out There – Vanity v Traditional

2013 is, for me, competition year.

It’s the year I finally decided to get serious and put my money where my mouth is. I realised that in this current climate, publishers and agents are less and less likely to take a punt on an unknown author. Their client lists are harder to break into than a sweat at the North Pole, so the only way to establish myself is by entering – and hopefully winning – as many competitions as I can.

It’s true to say that many frustrated authors these days go the route of self-publishing, either digitally (through Amazon Createspace, for example) or through a publisher who expects you to pay some, if not all, of the cost of producing your book.

I am not knocking anyone who does this. Each to their own. Sometimes the need to have something you have written published is overwhelming and I get that. Of course I do. Many of us spend most of our lives chasing the dream, and working damned hard to do so. Why shouldn’t other people read it?

But it’s not for me for a few reasons.

One: paying a publisher to produce your book means that, since they made no financial commitment, they don’t have to work at promoting it. They have no money to lose; it’s cost them nothing, so they don’t care how many you sell. They often offer, as part of the package you bought, marketing help and guidance and maybe some of the tools and materials you need. But the hoofing and the legwork are down to you. I’m not against self-promotion (aren’t I doing it with my blog?) but I quite simply don’t have the time to contact bookstores and send out flyers. I’m not a full time writer. I have a day to day job that pays my bills, and I simply can’t afford the time.

Other subsidy publishers may well market it for you, but expect a hefty fee. I am in this game to be a payee, not a payer! Call me old fashioned….

Two: This is an easy one. I don’t have the money to pay a vanity or subsidy publisher. Most run into the low thousands. It’s a no brainer and a non-starter. True, if you self-publish digitally it costs you nothing, but that brings me to…

Three: The digital book world is crammed to bursting with sub-standard works by delusional people. The danger of being able to so easily publish a book at the click of a button, is that no one gets to edit it. No one gets to tell you that your head must be firmly stuck up your arse if you think that attempt at writing is any good! Because we all write crap. Wasn’t it Ernest Hemingway who said: “The first draft of anything is s**t.”?

The second, third and fourth drafts are usually the same. But when we are preparing to send to a conventional publisher or agent, we take the time to rework and perfect. Being able to publish without that voice of reason leads to the temptation to just go with the crap.

And vanity publishers too play to your vanity (see where that comes from?!) and praise your work over-enthusiastically. They want you to shell your money out.

So really, I need to know my work is good enough to be seen. I think it is, and I am proud of it, but I want a professional who really cares about their investment to work with me to make my books as good as they can be before I subject them to the world.


In my next blog post, I will be talking about some of the competitions I am entering this year and pleading the case for more book competitions for unpublished writers. They are few and far between.

I would be interested if any of you have entered competitions, either currently or in the past. What has your experience of them been like?

I’ll also be posting some links to my favourite writing sites and blogs, and talking about the many great ways that the internet and social media can help you.

Any comments on my post are welcome. Please use the comment box below.