Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Almost Experience with Vanity Publishing

This blog post this morning is all about vanity publishing and looking for an agent. Two different subjects, but a friend of mine this morning on a writer’s loop brought up this subject and I’d like to give my views on it.

I’ve been published every which way there is, except vanity, although at one time I did consider it.

Back when there was no computer (for me anyway), I saw an ad in the back of a magazine that just shouted at me. “We Will Publish Your Book!”

At the time, I was a struggling housewife and my husband, kids and I were living off of his income. While he made pretty good money, it still wasn’t enough as we were living paycheck to paycheck.

I had been writing for a long time. In journals. In notebooks. Anywhere I could find a place for my pen to land. I had written many stories, but when I saw this ad, a particular story I had written came to mind. It was about three kittens in which one kitten saved the lives of the other kittens. I know…lol…lame, but as I had small children, and had read many picture books to them, I thought to myself that this story is waaaay better than the ones I’ve been reading. If I can remember, it was called “The Misadventures of Poopsie, Boopsie, Bobolina and Alf.” Okay, stop laughing…these were the names of my cats and I wanted to make them famous. *grin*

As I so wanted to bring in some money into the household (becoming a famous author wouldn’t have been a bad incentive either), I mailed off the postcard (that already was pre-stamped; man, those guys were desperate) and a couple weeks later, I received a huge glossy brochure that almost made you want to sell your kids to the first person who made you an offer to do this.

As I didn’t have any money to send them, I put it off and went to the library to find out how to become a published author. I went home with stacks of books and when the kids went to bed, I just devoured them.

In one of those books, there were snail mail addresses (no email addresses back then) of major book publishers. And…it would cost nothing for me to publish except for the stamps. Whoa…did this look good or what?

I typed out my story (again, remember, no computer) and sent it off to Rodale Publishing and waited. During that time, I envisioned what I would like to spend my huge advance on—mainly things to refurbish the house since we didn’t have extra money to do that. And, in my wildest visions, I pictured a mansion with money to spend on anything I wanted. Seriously, this is the mindset of someone who doesn’t know a thing about the business.

Two months later, I got a rejection. This was my first rejection ever and it really hurt. Gone was my dream and that vanity publishing offer was looking even better about then.

Life intervened and I started writing more children’s stories (I would presume having children influenced that). My next story was about a little boy who ended up in the Land of Tall Tales for telling too many lies (my son was the reason I wrote that one) which was called “No More Gooseberry Pie!” but, instead of sending it off, I put it in a drawer and carried it around with me as I moved house to house in my quest to keep my children fed after my husband left me for a hoochie-mama over on the island (another story for another time).

Whenever things got really bad, I would pull out that brochure and wonder how I could get the money to get this book into print. I had no idea back then that I would probably never recoup that money, but remember, this is the mindset of someone who doesn’t know the business and is desperate to a) bring needed income into the household and b) become a famous children’s book author.

Thirteen years after writing “Gooseberry,” an epublisher picked it up. I was now a published author! But, what I didn’t realize was that just because I was now published, it didn’t mean I was going to be raking in the money. Which I didn’t.

My point is, if you are a writer with aspirations to be published, it takes time to become who you want to become unless you hit on some wild and wonderful high-concept unbelievably fantastic new wonder. The odds? Not very good.

Since that day I mailed that first children’s book to Rodale and got the rejection, I have learned some things about this crazy business. One, it takes time and two, if you don’t have connections in the business or some fantastic new high concept idea for a book, it’s going to be a long road. And, this I suppose, is why people choose vanity publishing (not to mention subsidy, epublishing, POD, and self-publishing).

But, you know what? I don’t condemn those who chose those routes and you know why?

It leaves a space on those bookshelves for those authors who work their asses off, get an agent and hold out for that publishing deal that only those who are willing to go through the torture and the torment of dealing with rejections out the ying-yang, of persevering until they’re blue in the face and never ever giving up on the dream.

So, keep on with those methods…there’s only a few select spots that these NY publishers have and, baby, one of them I hope is mine.


  1. One difficult thing about the writing business is that it is unpredicatable and you tend to learn from baptism by fire. Everyone has a different experience and you won't know how it goes for you until you actually go out there and start submitting.

  2. Love the new look. Haven't been by in a while, so I'm just stopping in to say Hi!

    Reading what you've been going through helps me see that none of us are really alone in this mess. We all share the same experiences and we can learn from each other. Thanks for posting this.


  3. Very well said, Dorothy!! I've just come to that realization, too, that it takes t-i-m-e in this business. Time to figure out your voice, your genre, your POV. Time to figure out the business, the marketing, the contracts. Time to figure out your platform and any other projects you want to include. It takes time to grow a business which is, essentially, what you're doing. And the longer it takes, the longer it lasts, the bigger it gets. Because now you have the foundation laid and the skills needed to stick with it.

    And one of the most important ingredients is the time it takes to make great friends like you! :)

  4. Most of us really have no idea what is involved in getting a book published. It is interesting to learn something about the process. Good luck, as it does sound like there is quite a bit of that needed.

  5. Awww...Kathy, that was so nice of you to say!


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