How to Recognize Vanity Publishers?

Today, while searching for something, I came across this:

“Looking for an excellent publisher? Atmosphere Press is an independent full-service publisher for books of all genres, from fiction to poetry to non-fiction to children’s picture books, and beyond. Atmosphere’s exceptional editorial, design, and promotional team embraces an author-friendly approach to getting your book out into the world. They use a collaborative publishing model, allowing you to retain your rights while Atmosphere helps make your book awesome. Submit your full-length manuscript by January 31st with no reading fee at…”

Atmosphere isn’t listed in the Thumbs Down Publishers on Writer Beware, but their ad has enough hints. First, a traditional publisher will never advertise like this. Second, all genres, including poetry, sounds very shady since most publishers skip poetry. Third, if the first two alerts weren’t enough, the words “no reading fee” sets the alarm screaming. Four, a collaborative publishing model can mean only one thing, right?

So, I clicked on their link to check did they even try to cover up that they are a vanity press. And their attempt to do that is so poor that it’s actually funny:

Is Atmosphere a vanity press? No! We are not a vanity press, as vanity presses publish whatever walks in the door and rarely offer anything more than one’s name in print. We are a selective literary press and all of our books go through a rigorous editorial process; we have no interest in publishing unexceptional books…”

Okay, they don’t have a clue about subtlety, but they do know a thing or two about psychology: they don’t publish whatever lands in their inbox, they work only with exceptional books… stroking an author’s vanity, making him feel good about his work, luring him slowly… And then they offer something exceptional, an offer that a poor author can’t refuse:

“Atmosphere Press uses a “partnership” model. Whereas many traditional publishers front the initial costs of publication and design, they often end up gouging authors on the back end through onerous royalties contracts and marked-up copies sold to the authors themselves; we’ve seen this happen to great writers over and over again. They also take the rights to authors’ work, and can seriously limit authors’ control of the destiny of their own words. Instead of this publisher-friendly model, we use an author-centric approach in which you as the author make the initial investment in the publication costs, maintain your rights and artistic autonomy, and reap all the benefits if your book is a hit…”

Knowing that most authors would sacrifice a year or two of their lives to get a contract with a traditional publisher, now is the time to explain that such publishers are overrated and that another approach is much better. Isn’t the author lucky for the chance to make the initial investment? And to maintain rights and artistic autonomy too? Oh, boy, we have stumbled upon a talking goldfish that will grant three wishes if we call the number on the screen, no, sorry, hand our manuscripts to them.

And, finally, let’s talk about money:

“How much will this cost me? We strive to have incredibly low overhead, which keeps our costs down, and we pass that savings onto you. That’s why you get everything from hours of editorial coaching and consultation, interior and cover design, ISBN assignment, international distribution through a recognized major league distributor, and advice and direct assistance on marketing and publicity, all for under $5000, with the exact amount often much less than that figure, and always revealed transparently right up front…”

Dear authors, you would be surprised how many unfortunate writers agree to things like this just to get published. For under 5000 dollars, you can self-publish and invest in a really good marketing campaign. Learn to recognize publishers like these so you don’t waste your precious time. The ad has all the clues to warn you to steer clear and keep searching for a publisher. Or self-publish. Or get drunk. Whatever. Just don’t fall on a story like this.

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