Saturday 7 May 2011

Vanity publishing for kids?

This morning, my daughter phoned me with a problem. She has just received two letters from a publishing company about the poems written at school by her two ten-year-old daughters. The publishers, say the letters, are greatly impressed with the poems written by the girls, and would like to publish them. The anothology can be bought for £15. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I think this is totally disgraceful. Apart from the fact that the two poems, while undoubtedly good, are suspciously similar (the girls received some "suggestions" when, together with the rest of their class, they were writing their poems), this is emotional blackmail. Of course, the children are desperate to see their poems in print; they are too young to be cynical, and are blown away by what they perceive to be their considerable literary success. And of course, they want a copy each.

So what does my daughter do? Does she refuse to succumb, and disappoint her daughters, or does she fall into the trap and order two copies of the book?

What would you do?


  1. Difficult one this Frances.

    Personally, I would succumb to the pressure, as I feel that if I didn't, my children would become so disappointed with me and be deeply hurt.

    I would also visit the school in person and question why they are allowing their pupils to be exploited in this way.

    Anna :o]

  2. It's exploitation and this should be explained to the teachers. It appears that only writers, and not all of those, know the difference between proper publishing and vanity publishing.

  3. Someone I know proudly told me recently that her daughter's poem had been accepted for one of these anthologies. I didn't have the heart to explain how this type of publishing works. I do wonder why so many schools take part in this.

  4. P.S. mentioning your book on my blog today - all good of course!

  5. Anna, you're proably right. I just don't understand how the school came to be involved in this. Naivety? Or was there some financial reward??

    Lynne, I guess we writers become pretty cynical about this kind of thing! My poor sister was taken in, and paid a fortune for her anthology.

    Thanks for yoru comment, Joanne. It seem we all agree. Many thanks, too, for mentioning my book on your blog!

  6. Frances, this is sheer exploitation, and I'm sure the teachers don't realise what it is.

    A proud grandmother in our church got caught out by this and had to fork out £15+ for the collection. They'd put one tiny little 'story' on each page and charged the parents/grandparents for the privilege. When I told her this has been all over the Internet (it has), the mother complained to the school. The headteacher was genuinely apologetic and refuses to get involved with these scams now.

    The sad thing is the little girl concerned is a really good writer, but this was a ridiculous 4-line 'story' with no meaning, so I had to be very sensitive when telling the gran.

  7. Better is Possible - I think you must be lucky! Vanity publishing is alive and thriving over here, and preys on the vulnerable (andthe vain!).

    Rosemry, that is very interesting. It seems that people outside the writing commmunity are unaware of this kind of thing, and are thus seen as fair game. I shall pass on your comments to my daughter. Thank you.

  8. Very difficult situation to be in. Vanity publishing does such harm to the writing industry as a whole, I'd be inclined to write a strong letter to the school...but then the thought of those two disappointed little faces...tough call to make!
    Judy, South Africa

  9. Another quick reply after reading the comments about disappointing the children involved.

    I think when it has already happened and the children's stories/poems whatever are being put in the book, it's too late to do anything but buy a copy. The grandmother I mentioned did that and I also congratulated the little girl for being 'published' (she likes to show me her writing sometimes) - but the mother then enlightened the school. So the child was protected on all counts!

  10. Thanks, Rosemary and Judy. I think the book(s) will have to be bought, but you're right. A complaint should (and will - my daughter's furious!) be made.

  11. An update - apparently the other children in the class have also had letters (and certificates) regarding their poems, and one little girl is very upset because she thought she had "won".

  12. Buy the book (how could you not?), complain/explain to the school, at some point (later, or when the girls seem to be taking it all too seriously) explain to them what's going on here.
    Grrrr. The worst thing is, you know the self-justificatory kind of nonsense the 'publishing' company will come up with when challenged - toe curling, stomach curdling crap.
    But if it encourages your granddaughters to write, then maybe some good will come of it.

  13. I agree it's a difficult situation. I have heard this story many times before, particularly in context of one publisher, but there are so many of them out there.
    I think I would buy the book if it was my child but would explain later (when the child is old enough) the difference between vanity and real publishing and how these people exploit children.

    I would also speak to the teachers to make them aware

  14. Alis, it's the "how could you not" that's the catch, isn't it? Your'e right, of course. Parents are well and truly trapped. Plus, Phoebe is now aware that her "achievement" isn't such a bit deal after all, and is terribly disappointed. It's ok - well not ok, but dealable with - if the victims are adults, but kids??

    Kate, I agree. But the teachers must have been very stupid, or the school has been "helped" in some way by the publishers. Either way, it shows the school in a very poor light.

  15. A difficult decision. I agree it's emotional blackmail - and that the school should be asked to explain why they've set the parents up for this.

    Frances, I've nominated you for the versatile blogger award.

  16. Thanks very much for the award, Patsy! I have to confess that Rosemary Gemmel has also offered me this award, but I have trouble affixing these awards to the side of my blog (patheitic, I know). But I will gratefully accept it from you both, and try to work on my IT skills...

  17. To save the award, you right click on it and 'save picture as' on your desktop. You can then add it to a post in the same way as a photograph.

    To put it in the sidebar, go to 'design' and 'add a widget' chose the 'add picture' one (or it might say 'add photo' can't remember now) Once it's on, you can drag it to where you want it.

  18. Thanks for that, Patsy. I can do pics, it's just the sidebar. I'll give it a go.