I think “hate” might be far too strong a word to describe the reactions of the bloggers I’ve read on the subject of Penguin’s recently launched vanity press endeavor. But I think it would be fair to say that among the reactions is a fair bit of outrage.
As Jim Kukral points out on No Publisher Required, vanity publishers are nothing new, but when the second-largest publishing conglomerate in the world jumps into the vanity business: “We’re angry at legacy publishers for letting us blaze the trail they said was idiotic to follow...”
So first they say we’re making a biiiiiig mistake, then they invite inexperienced writers to pay them money to do the same. Yeah, I get why that might piss a few people off.
No Worse Than the Worst? Worse.
Ms. Strauss thinks the “(shudder) "indie," ” community is missing the point, that Penguin’s “self-publishing” scheme is no worse than any of the others. Perhaps it’s not worse than some, but even she agrees that doesn’t make it a good thing for writers.
In one way it certainly is worse than the others: David Shanks, Penguin Group USA’s CEO, has publicly stated that they consider Book Country their “farm team.” “The lifeblood of any publisher is finding new talent,” he says in an interview with Rich Fahle at this year’s Digital Book World. “...we’ll start to look seriously at those people and say ‘Aha! here’s our new crop of potential best-selling authors.’”
Don't Be The Fish!
This is going to be an irresistible lure for a lot of writers. But “lure” is the word to keep in mind. Writers, you’re the fish here. They're taking your money AND a fat royalty to do what you could quickly learn to do yourself, or hire done for a reasonable flat fee.
Listen up! Publishers have always had a system in place for finding new talent. It's called submissions. True, they pick a very few of the many submissions they receive for the privilege of publication, they offer really terrible terms and crap royalties, and the author abandons considerable control for very little of the take, which is why there's an independent publishing community in the first place.
Penguin Plans to Be the Penguin
But what if a publisher could bypass agents, who are getting a lot of bad press lately, and get people to submit directly to them and actually pay for the privelege of bucking roughly the same odds—roughly .02% according to one editor's recent estimate—of being picked up for publication. Now they've turned what was formerly a free service into a paying proposition. That's a smart publisher being the penguin to your hapless fish.
Yes, the reactions from the independent publishing community to Penguin’s vanity publishing scheme have been overwhelmingly negative. I believe that’s because as a group independent authors are passionate about educating other authors. Penguin only seems passionate about separating them from their money.
The Indiepub Community on Penguins and Fish
Joe Konrath lays out a clear explanation of what writers get—and don't get—for their money.
Lee Goldberg takes you on a tour of “Sucker Country”
David Gaughran reports: Penguin Launches Rip-Off Self-Publishing “Service”
J W Manus tells you How Penguin Book Country is Running the Con Game
Jim Kukral, on No Publisher Required, is Thinking Longer About Penguin
David Burton at Random Musings shows how you can Forget Penguin’s Book Country – Do It Yourself
Kevin O. McLaughlin at Swords & Starflight asks Dear Penguin and Book Country: How stupid do you think writers are?
And as always, lots and lots of good analysis and opinions on the subject on The Passive Voice here (Penguin Launches a Self-Publishing Service) and here (Something Else Penguin Book Country Should be Ashamed Of)