Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Vanity?

I read this week that the writer Jilly Cooper has said that self-publishing is vanity publishing, and this set me thinking. After all, isn't all publishing vanity publishing, in a way? We write something,  and if we are reasonably happy with what we have written, we (or most of us) would like other people to read it. Does that make us vain?

Well, yes. A bit. If thinking we have created something that others would like to read is vanity, then we could be called vain. But I cannot see that that applies to one route (self-publishing) rather than the other (publishing by a conventional publishing house). I have used both routes, and on reflection, if I'm vain at all, I think being published is more  vanity-inducing than doing it myself. After all, it's lovely to have the imprimatur of a major publishing house, isn't it?

And yet most writers that I know are rather self-effacing and modest*; bad at self-publicity and terrible at book-signings. A paradox, perhaps.

What does anyone else think?

*Jeffrey Archer need not apply

30 comments:

  1. Great point! And I agree. I'm now in the process of submitting to agents, then publishers, and if all that fails, I'm going to self-pub. But I've heard the "vanity" issue so many times it makes me skittish. Thanks for the new perspective.

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    1. You're welcom, EM. And very good luck with your own writing.

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  2. Does that apply to all those self-employed people working for themselves instead of for a company? Is it vanity to assume you can go it alone?
    Self publishing seems to me like jolly hard work and something to be admired. I have a friend who self published a series of books that were so successful she was bought out by a major publisher. But it was her (extremely) hard work that made them successful.

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    1. Thank you, Gail. Writing is hard work - like any job - but with no guarantee of any money at the end (unlike most jobs!).

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  3. A certain level of ego, or self-assuredness,is a given for any creative person to produce and show their work. Without it, we'd have no painters, composers or writers.

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    1. ER, I think creativity is a kind of compulsion. But you're right. We all nneed some self-belief in the first place.

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  4. Surely anything we publish in whatever form is because we want others to see it and if that is vanity then so be it. One type of vanity is surely no different to another type except in the way that the person who is allegedly vain perceives it.

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    1. I woke up this morning thinking about this. I think perhaps I was too busy thinking about the question and, to that extent, my answer still stands. However what I should have added is that few of those who write whom I know are vain (in that vanity is excessive pride) but are driven by a need to and love of writing.

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    2. Yes - it's the need to write that is overwhelming, Graham.

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  5. I think JC is showing her age. Things have changed since she was struggling to get her first book accepted.

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    1. Patsy, as all writers know, the climate is much more difficult - and diverse - than in her time, and it's becoming increasingly hard to be taken on by a mainstream publisher. She started out in what was probably the golden age of publishing.

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    2. I was going to say the same as Patsy. That publishing deal is so much harder to get now.

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    3. And so much of it is luck, too, Wendy. And name. A disgraced politician stands a better chance than a gifted first time novelist.

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  6. Through my former work as a Librarian, and in recent years again via my blog, I have "met" a number of authors (including you, Frances) - some self-published ones, some with "proper" publishers behind them.
    There has not been a single one I would call vain. On the contrary, they were all very nice, modest people who seemed to be amazed at readers actually liking their work so much they sat down to write a review and send them a message.
    While I always feel honoured when an author replies to an email of mine or/and takes the time to comment on my blog, they seem to think the reasons for gratitude and feeling honoured are all theirs. So, no, I don't think publishing is vanity any more than what you say - if we write something and want others to read it, we publish; either a book or (in my case) on a blog.

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    1. Thank you, Meike. I'm glad you agree!

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  7. I think times have changed, and we shouldn't worry.
    As for vanity, I've met a few very vain writers. Got to be honest, most of them were self published.

    You made me think with this post Frances - thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Maria. I suppose there are vain writers, but I just haven't met any!

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  8. Two of my artist friends (both reasonably well known) publish books about themselves; one has even made a film about himself. They are both as vain as they come, but both make a reasonable living as a result.

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    1. Cro, I can imagine few things I want to do less than write a book about myself! But I often come across people why say: "Peope tell me I've led such an interesting life, that I really ought to write a book". Mercifully, they never seem to get round to it!

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  9. I don't think it is vanity at all…..especially the traditional publisher route. I don't really mind which way you go….just get another book out for me to read!! Please.

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    1. Thank you. I'm working on it, Frances. I'm working on it...

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  10. This is rather like carrying coals to Newcastle, I suppose, but I think you folks are misinterpreting the term "vanity press". Google "vanity press wiki" and read the article there to see the ways vanity publishing differs from self-publishing. The selection process by experienced editors (Is this worth reading? Does this writer have talent?) and the profitability motive (Will enough people want to buy this book so that we recoup what we'll have to spend to produce and distribute it?) in traditional publishing houses versus the fact that in vanity publishing the author pays the publisher, not the other way round, come to mind.

    I'll shut up now since I probably don't know what I'm talking about.

    Carry on, writers!

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    1. The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook describes vanity publishing thus:

      Vanity publishers are cunning. They know many authors will be worn down by rejection. They know the elation authors will feel to finally receive a glowing report about their manuscript. However, once you've signed your name on the dotted line, the vanity publisher will take your manuscript, take your money and print several (usually poor quality) copies of your book. They won't consult you and they won't offer any help marketing or distributing the book. The vanity publisher isn't interested in selling copies of the book, it doesn't need to - they've already made their profit from the hefty 'contribution' fee they charged the author.

      The self-publisher offers a full service: covere design, editing, sales - you name it. But my point was really that we all have a (if only mild) kind of vanity in that we want our work to be read!

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  11. From what you have googled Frances, it sounds as if the vanity publishing companies are there to make money and don't care much about the authors. But I can see that many authors are attracted to the prospect of being published, however they do it. And why not. I self publish my Christmas cards every year. I take my design to a very competitive local printer and he makes my design look very professional. I doubt any card company would employ me to design their cards, so in effect, I am also self publishing. Sadly, you couldn't do this with a novel.

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    1. Good point, Maggie. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I self-published my book last year, and gleefully used the V word when telling everyone about it. It cost me the modest amount I was prepared to spend on myself, some of which I have actually recovered in sales (which is a bonus). The publishers, youCaxton, were incredibly helpful and involved, and I reckon I got superb value for money.
    Call me vain if you like, Jilly. Adjectives can't break my bones.

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    1. Good for you, Tim. And good luck with the book

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  13. Oh dear - that is such an outdated comment made by JC and I can't imagine many people agreeing with her these days! There is such a blurred line between traditional, indie and self-publishing now that few readers know or care as long as the book is well written and presented.

    Vanity publishers were (are?) quite a different matter - they took money from anyone and published them whether they were good, bad or indifferent and did little else for the author. Self-publishers work very hard and do everything themselves to ensure their book can compete with small publishers!

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    1. Rosemary, I would imagine that the old VP brigade are on the way out now that writers are realising that they can get a good deal from a reliable self-publisher.

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  14. I suppose there is a certain amount of vanity involved in all writing. I never went down the 'vanity' line because it was what it was but the reason I didn't self publish is that I didn't trust myself to do it well enough. I think they are two different animals.

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