predatory publishers

Simon & Schuster, one of the “Big 6 Publishers”, has opened up its own self-publishing wing. For a minimum of $1,999, they will publish your book for you, and depending upon the services you select, your bill could go up to $14,999.

I will say immediately that, in my opinion, this is a tremendous scam and no writer should go anywhere near it.

To back up this opinion, I offer my books THE UBUNTU BEGINNER’S GUIDE, which has sold 10,000 copies, SOUL OF TYRANTS, which has sold 7,000 copies, and SOUL OF SERPENTS, which has sold 5,000.  I did not pay to have them published – my only expenses were cover art and the computer I used to do the work, which I had purchased long before I used it to make ebooks. In fact, SOUL OF SERPENTS uses a painting from the public domain, so I didn’t even pay for that.

The point of these numbers isn’t to boast, but to point out that to reach an audience, you no longer need to work with a publisher. Technology has improved to the point that “publishing” is no longer an arcane and technical profession, but merely a button in a web browser. 

In further opinion, I think this has shown that one of the core myths of publishing was false all along. We have heard it argued for years that large publishers were curators of writers and guarantors of literary quality. Vanity presses and pay-to-publish outfits were scams and con artists that fed upon gullible writers. And now, once the balance sheets are down, a large publisher has shown itself to be no better than those scammers and con artists. They’re trying to trade on the “prestige” of being a large publisher, while simultaneously using business tactics designed to fleece the gullible.

I’ve heard it said that the digital revolution ravaged the music industry, but was great for individual musicians. Of course, the recording industry and the various record labels were notoriously corrupt – think of all the musicians who found themselves penniless due to coercive contract terms. But now a musician doesn’t need to bother with the recording industry at all – you can upload music directly to Amazon via Createspace and iTunes and sell without the middleman.

Writers and musicians, it seems, are both the natural prey of all sorts of hucksters. But with the new digital tools, there’s no reason to be anyone’s prey – and certainly no reason to pay $1,999 to $14,999 for someone to upload your book to Amazon for you.

-JM

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