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Vanity presses and the internet, and it's time to get serious about writing - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Vanity presses and the internet, and it's time to get serious about writing
Well, due to a conversation at deleterius, I'm thinking about vanity presses today. (Definition: You pay people to publish your book, you do all the work promoting it, and you still get laughed at by serious writers.)

The internet is the ultimate vanity press, and it's very, very cheap. Here I am, typing into my LiveJournal, about anything I bloody well please. And lots of folks are reading it. And I get it for, what, $30/yr?

Vanity publishing in paper costs THOUSANDS.

And I promise, you get no more respect for paying someone to publish a book than you do for publishing on fanfiction.net, at least to people who find out what you did. And probably less respect that you'd get for publishing on a site with high editorial requirements, since vanity presses require NOTHING... well, nothing except naivete and lots of cash to throw at them. Why not just slap up a Homestead webpage for considerably less money and put up anything you want?


What I really don't get is why someone would take pride in it. It's not as bad as plagiarism morally, but psychologically, what's the difference? You're claiming credit for something you haven't actually earned. How good can it feel to say "I'm a published author" when all you've done is slap some words together and sign a check? You haven't been chosen out of a slushpile, or had your work marked as worthy by people who know what they're talking about, or passed a single milestone. What's the accomplishment?

Which brings me to the other part of my thoughts: there is one accomplishment, and it's actually going from one end to the other of the writing process. It's been an age since I've finished an original story, and the last one I did... not so hot, honestly. And it has no good home. I'll probably end up putting it up here, because I don't think it has a chance of selling.

NOTE BECAUSE I CAN'T STRESS THIS ENOUGH: If you plan to sell something or think it's saleable, don't put it up on the internet. I will only do it if I think the story has no home at all. END OF NOTE.

I think it's time to take at least some of the ideas I have and use in fanfic and see if I can't create an original story. The Elizabeth Phelan story is spinning lots of werewolf stuff in my head, and maybe I'll go ahead and write some that are unrelated to Remus. Or follow my frustration with these "good dragon" stories and write a story in which a dragon needs to be, you know, SLAIN. Or something. Anyway, just thinking about it.

The one that has no home. Sigh. I haven't actually read it in months, so I'm kind of daring myself to put it up. It doesn't fit in a hard SF magazine, it's not fantasy by any means, and even in soft SF, there's not enough speculation about the science--it's more of a character piece--to fit. So I'm vanity-publishing it here in my LJ. Right in the same post as complaining about vanity publishing.

Vestal Desires
by FernWithy

Docking really ought to be like it is in the vids.

It's so simple – a ship hails the station, there's a majestic shot of the approach, then a view of the captain, maybe rising from his chair to open a visual hail. Cut to the station control room, where a serious-looking technician is making a few vital adjustments, then the station manager goes to an airlock. Then whoosh... the door opens, and the adventure can begin.

One minute, tops.

That's all the time the operation really deserves.

Unfortunately, I noticed long ago that reality simply doesn't have its priorities straight. Docking at Vesta's Hearth takes nearly two hours, most of it sheer drudgery on my part. Maybe it’s more exciting on the ships, though I have my doubts, but here on the station, it’s all about housekeeping.

The initial hail came at oh-nine-forty. I was asleep. A bowl of popcorn had been balanced precariously on my night table at some point last night, and I knocked it over in the process of trying to figure out what was making that god-awful noise (I'd been dreaming of a river, and at first I thought a dam had burst somewhere). It only took a few seconds to swim up to consciousness and recognize the sound for what it was, but I had no idea how long it had been going on before it woke me up.

Bits of spongy corn scattered over my quilt and into my sheets. I took a moment to cover them up before flipping the switch to answer the hail. The camera would catch the bed from where it was, and whoever it was didn't need to see food spilled in my private quarters.

"Good morning," I said, as cheerfully as I could. It was a relatively good imitation; I've had a lot of practice. "Welcome to Vesta's Hearth."

The captain – a middle-aged man with thick, graying hair – smiled faintly. He looked somewhat familiar, but then, they all did. "Good morning, Glor. Sorry to wake you."

I leaned forward to focus the image, and two pieces of popcorn rolled out of my hair and onto the console. "That's all right, Captain... ?"

"Admiral, Glor. Admiral Herrig."

I closed my eyes. That wouldn't go over well. Herrig was, at least nominally, my boss. I'd met him when he interviewed me, and twice more while he was with jump-groups, but I'd always been bad with faces, and I hadn't seen his for quite awhile. Still, I should have recognized the insignia. I’ve been with the Authority for fifteen years. Mistakes like that…

Herrig frowned at me. “Are you all right, Glor?”

“Yes, of course. Just let me check your specs, Sir.”

The registry information came through, with Herrig’s name listed right at the top of the screen – that would teach me to open my mouth before reading it! – and I scanned it against the list of eligible ships. I half-hoped there would be an error somewhere, just to get us back on even ground, but everything was in order, so I started the docking sequence, trying to be as coolly professional as I could. I can do the command sequence half-asleep – and without any bumps along the way, thank you very much – but I decided on the spot that this wouldn't be a good time to demonstrate that skill. I tied my hair back (ignoring a few more popcorn flakes) and tried to look studious.

"Are we set?" Herrig asked.

I nodded. "You're cleared, Admiral."

"Wonderful. There are only three of us, and we'll be staying for the noon meal."

"Yes, sir."

He cut off the video and the audio (I double-checked the latter on the monitors; getting caught talking to myself once was enough to teach me to do that), leaving only the subconscious connection of the navigational systems to link the flying ship with the spinning station. I fumbled under the terminal for the wrist monitor. There wasn't a bloody thing I could do on my end if something went wrong – that was the responsibility of the ship's captain – but if I didn't wear it, I knew perfectly well that I'd be back in this room every other minute to track progress, and I didn't have time for that. I had to get ready for company.

The normal duties, like checking various technical systems, tracking news, and making the kind of minor repairs that usually filled my days, could be safely suspended during docking. Since my job was mostly babysitting systems that had yet to suffer more than tiny malfunctions, I didn't exactly feel derelict.

I started the noon meal, which was always a production when jump groups came through, and cleaned up the area around the airlock. Why that area is prone to clutter, I have never known. I don't even spend much time there when there's no jump. It just seems to be gravitational center for bits and pieces of abandoned projects, all those things that I’d once thought that the quiet work here would give me plenty of time to finish. I threw most of these into a storage bin, and locked it.

The Hearth came last.

For a while, when the station first opened, the Transport Authority had tried to tell people that the Hearth was always burning. The rationale was that it would be comforting to think of a warm, safe haven out here in the dark. The station manager was portrayed as some kind of Vestal priestess, keeping house for all the allied worlds. The people of the Ring, bless their practical hearts, had complained of the waste of resources so often that the Authority had finally been forced to admit that the fire was only lit when jumpers were actually present. Once that was established, of course, the "tradition" was unquestioned and cherished.

When I first arrived, I treated the Hearth like any planet-side fireplace, but the longer I stayed, the more I realized its importance. It couldn't always be kept burning, but when it was, it was owed some kind of proper solemnity. It was, after all, meant to symbolize the heart of humanity out here in the depth of space.

So I always dressed in the greeting robes when I started building it, and followed a set pattern for lighting it. I piled the wood into the circular faux-stone hearth, with fourteen raised bits of kindling poking through it at points that corresponded to the worlds of the Ring. I started lighting them at “Earth,” then moved around in the order of colonization, ending finally at Elysia, the last colony – the one founded only to be a midway point between Earth and Callahan. The jump was just a bit too long at the time, though now it would probably be possible. Still, Elysia closed the Ring, so I was glad that technology had been less advanced when it was founded. It had also been my home for many years, so maybe that played into my fondness for it as well.

The flames caught, and the center of the Hearth blazed into life. I put down my igniter, and bowed to the fire, then tended to the practical business of adjusting the energy shields and oxygen flow around the fire to keep it from raging through the system. It had been a silly idea in the first place, putting a fire on a station, but whoever had designed it had at least been wise enough to take safety precautions.

My wrist monitor beeped.

"All set, Glor?" Herrig asked.

I glanced at the readings. Everything was in order, and I'd managed to spend the entire two hours doing preparations. "Yes, sir. I'll meet you at the airlock."

With one last glance at the fire, I straightened my hair and clothes, and went to greet my guests.

The airlock, as always, failed to produce anything resembling a satisfying whoosh.

Herrig emerged first, all smiles. Behind him was a middle-aged man who I guessed was the navigator. Finally, looking shyly out of the airlock was a girl of perhaps twenty, with light brown hair and green eyes. She glanced curiously at the room, taking in the storage bins and the computer consoles before her eyes finally came to me.

I smiled. I'd looked like that when I first came here, I supposed. It hadn't been what I'd expected and...

And why, exactly, was she here, this girl who wore my old expression?

My mind started ticking off the reasons immediately: popcorn in my hair, personal quarters a mess, very little done all day, forgetful of names and faces, known to completely lose track of time... They'd finally decided that they'd had enough of me.

I pasted on my hostess smile. "Welcome aboard Vesta's Hearth. My name is Gloriana Maguire. Your meal is in progress. Would you care to sit by the fire while you wait?"

Herrig's smile grew even wider. "It's good to see you again, Glor. Please, let me introduce my navigator, Gary Torisan."

I shook Torisan's hand, and hoped I really hadn't met him before. "I'm honored."

He muttered something.

Herrig brought the girl forward. "And this is Dawn Voldu."

I raised my eyebrow for the rest of the introduction, but it didn't come.

Dawn Voldu came further into the room. "I'm awfully curious about this place," she said. "I'd really like to see it. Admiral Herrig thought that maybe you could show me around."

I glanced at Herrig. "Something of a tour?"

"Something like that. I've seen the place a few times. Gary and I can go tend the fire."

I waited for some kind of explanation of Dawn Voldu's position, but, again, it didn't come. Naturally. They wanted me to give her an orientation without any kind of bias.

I could do that. "Very well, Admiral Herrig. Please, make yourself comfortable."

He gave me a half-joking salute – he outranked me, but I was technically in command of the station – then led Torisan out toward the Hearth.

I smiled at Dawn, as well as I could. "What would you like to see?"

"Oh, everything. I've read a lot, but reading doesn't really say much, does it?"

"It hardly says anything at all." I led her out into the corridor, and she followed eagerly.

"So what's the most important? The engines? The computers? What do you spend the most time on?"

We passed the systems room, and I pointed it out. "The systems rarely go down," I told her. "I come in here every day to look, and there's almost never anything wrong. The designers were brilliant. It makes my job quite dull."

"What about mechanical problems? I remember reading that one of the major reasons they wanted a live station manager was to keep on top of technical malfunctions... "

"It doesn't take much. A loose screw here, a little welding there."


I sighed. "The main purpose of a human station manager is what it always was – to take care of the jumpers when they come through, and make them feel at home. It's different, jumping across the Ring. When you planet-hop around, every place gives you a chance to get your bearings and see other people. But stopping for course corrections mid-point with nothing but metal and computers?"

"Not much fun," Dawn mused.

"Very disorienting," I corrected her (though in fact, she was right; as far as I could tell, the main point of having a human host was to pamper the jumpers). "When it was just a robotic docking station, there were almost as many accidents as there were with straight jumps – "

"Straight jumps?"

"Jumps all the way across the Ring. That's why the station was built in the first place, you know. Jumps get unstable at a certain distance – " I smiled sheepishly, feeling like an ass. "I used to know what the distance was, but it's gone out of my head."

"Mine, too," she said, giving me a conspiratorial grin. "I knew what straight jumps were; I've just always heard of them as direct crossings."

"Oh. Well, whatever you want to call it, after it, the nav systems tend to get erratic. About two-thirds the width of the Ring, I think. People sometimes came to planets they had no intention of hitting. More often, they came out in deep space. The Ring shipping lanes would usually find them in time, but there were more than a few cases of ships simply disappearing, sometimes being found adrift a year later. So they built the station at the midpoint. Everyone could get that far. The ships could come and dock, and do their course corrections. It was supposed to be robotic, but people didn't like it. They got lost. And they stopped using it. So the Transport Authority built living quarters and started hiring people to come out here and look after it."

Dawn was nodding sympathetically. "Yeah. Wouldn't want to spend the money and not have anyone use it. I read about some of that."

I nodded, wondering how much she already knew, and if I was making a fool of myself telling her things that she was perfectly well aware of. "Anyway, that's systems. Further down here" – I took her around the corner – "is the engine room. I've been here twelve years, and I've never had anything go wrong there."

"That's good luck."

"Yes." I went on past that door. In point of fact, it occurred to me that something could have gone wrong with the engines; they were only meant to be used to make positional corrections from drift, and the Hearth didn’t drift nearly as much as her creators had expected. I decided to check them tomorrow, and just hope against hope that Herrig didn’t decide abruptly to check them today.

The locked door to my quarters came by on the right. I was just going to pass by, but Dawn pointed. "Is that where you live?"


"Could I see it?"

"Why would you want to see it?"

"Just curious."

I'll bet you are.

"I'm sorry. But I don't make a habit of showing my personal quarters. And they aren't up to company just now."

"Oh." She looked disappointed.


I went further up through the hall, and led her through the kitchen (stopping to check the progress of the roast as I went; all seemed to be in order). Through the door, we could see the Hearth. Herrig and Torisan were sitting on the stone benches, laughing about something. I caught "quite a character" and “of course there was some concern,” and decided not to listen anymore.

"This is about it. It's a very small station. Most of the bulk is in the navigational computers."

"Admiral Herrig says you spend a lot of time working on them."

I shook my head. "Like I said, hardly any. It's dull. I make one or two corrections any given day. Nothing with the system. Sometimes I re-boot it."

"He says you re-configured it entirely."

That was a bit of an overstatement. I'd just cleaned up a sort of muddy interface, mainly because I was personally not fond of it. I shrugged. "I got bored. It's easy to get bored up here."

Her eyes narrowed. "And lonely?"

"I don't get lonely. I'm not the sort of person who gets lonely."

"Everyone's the sort of person who gets lonely after awhile."

"Not true." I bent over and pulled the roast out of the oven. "They look for a certain type of person for this. If you like to have company all the time, they're not going to choose you."

She didn't answer. Instead, she let her eyes wander around the kitchen. “Where does the food come from? There doesn’t seem room to store a lot.”

I shrugged. “There’s a freezer for jump meals. The roasts and so on are delivered once every three months. The food I eat is mostly reconstituted. It all fits into a single cupboard.”

Dawn smiled. “How unfair.”

“That’s life,” I said. "Why don't you go out and join the admiral and Mr. Torisan? I'll bring dinner."

"All right. Thank you."

I set the roast on a carving board and got out a knife.

She'd never make it. She asked too many questions, and was too gregarious. And why would they even bring her up here? The woman who was here before me was here almost thirty years. I've only been here for twelve.

I imagined Dawn Voldu holding my job. She would be the sort who would look wistfully at the monitors for an hour every day, hoping for a jump. She'd talk the visitors' ears off when they arrived. And she wouldn't last long during the off-months. Some jump would arrive and find her babbling in the halls like the first manager.

No, she was no more suited to my life than I was to Herrig's.

I was better suited to this than she was (however lackadaisical I'd grown), and certainly better suited to it than I was to anything else. I would never be the sort of person who flitted from world to world, or settled down to join the towns and cities on a single one. This was my life – out here, at the center of the known universe. Granted, a cipher at the center of the universe, but there nonetheless. What else could hold a candle to that?

But Herrig had seen me this morning, and he knew my duty logs. He knew that I barely spent any time on the systems. He probably knew that I spent a lot of time watching vids and reading, rather than worrying about the station. The fact that there were no overt mistakes was more good luck than good management. That this new girl was likely to have a worse time of it wouldn't occur to him until something happened.

I finished carving the roast, and dished it onto the plates with twice-baked potatoes and carrots. The vegetable was a mistake; re-constituted carrots look like paste, even if they taste relatively decent. Oh, well. Too late to go back, now. With everything else I'd managed to do wrong, pasty carrots would undoubtedly be a rather minor consideration.

They had gathered at the long table when I came out with the plates on a large tray, and set them down. I started to read off the list of wines I had available.

Herrig waved a hand at me and smiled. "I took the liberty of bringing a bottle. Won't you join us, Glor?"

I blinked at him foolishly. I didn't regularly join the guests. Then again, Herrig and Torisan were fellow employees, and Dawn was almost certainly attempting to be.

"If you'd like."

"Dawn says you showed her around nearly everything. I don't think she'd appreciated how small the station is. I tried to tell her."

I sat down. I hadn't made myself anything to eat, but I took a glass of wine when Herrig offered it to me. "It's hard to convey without seeing it. I'm sorry she was disappointed."

"Oh, no, no!" Dawn protested, putting down her glass. "Not at all disappointed. I find it all very interesting."

"Dawn's been doing research," Herrig said, with an expansive gesture that seemed proud. I guessed that he'd been guiding her through it. "She's interested in jump history and technology."

I looked over my glass at her, remembering the simplified history I'd given and wondering why she hadn't stopped me if she knew it all. "Really?"

She nodded around a mouthful of potato.

Herrig went on. "She's quite the scholar. She's been studying the technological advances for years."

I wondered if I should mention that his little scholar couldn't remember the point of instability, and decided against it. After all, I couldn't remember it either. "The advances don't seem to have gotten very far lately. I remember before I got here, people were saying it would be obsolete in a few years to have a mid-point station. That they'd solve the instability problem and be able to jump the Ring without stopping."

"Actually," Herrig said, "they're pretty close." He smiled. "What would you do if we succeeded?"

A flare of panic shot up in my mind, but I tamped down on it. The likelihood of them actually making a go of straight jumps was pretty slim. I tried a joke. "I'd become a fashion model. Or maybe an actress."

"Really, how interesting," Dawn said, her tone carefully polite.

I rolled my eyes. "Or maybe I'd try jumping from Earth to Valhalla Three by stepping out an airlock."


I saw a glance go from one to another of them, then Herrig looked at me.

"You're joking, right?" he asked, his eyes suddenly serious.

What, did he think I was crazy, on top of everything else? Was that what this was about? "I'm joking," I said. "Of course I'm joking. I would... I don't know. I suppose I'd go home to Elysia and live with my sister again. Maybe I'd travel. Or maybe I'd stay with the Authority and work on the ships. Maybe I'd... " I saw myself with the fleet, maybe trading, maybe transporting beautiful people from place to place. I shook it off. They weren't going to replace me and think they were doing me a favor. "It doesn't matter. They're not going to solve instability. It's not going to happen."

Torisan muttered something and I asked him to speak up. He cleared his throat. "I did it, Miss. I made three straight jumps in a row."

"You must be an extraordinary navigator."

"Well, maybe so. But they're getting better with the equipment, too."

"So I should be packing?"

"Oh, not quite yet," Herrig said casually. "Unless you want to. You know, we think the world of you, but if you've had enough, you can put in for a transfer or resign."

Again, just for a moment, I saw myself in some other place, wearing different clothes, doing different things, talking to new people. Maybe I could go back to the university. Maybe I could...

I stopped myself. This job was the best thing I could have. It was a perfect match for me. "Do you want me to resign?" I finally asked. "Is that why you've come? Is that why she's studying?"

Herrig looked at me with surprise that I almost believed was genuine. "What do you mean, Glor?"

"What I said: do you want me to resign? Is Dawn supposed to take over the station?"

They were all silent, then Dawn laughed lightly, and I could hear it then-the distance, the dismissal. "Oh, no, of course not! I'm writing a book on jump history. I wanted to learn about this place, and what it was like for the person working here. So I asked Admiral Herrig to bring me here. That's all. It's definitely not my sort of job." Her eyes crinkled in a fake smile. "I'm certainly glad you like it, though. It's been a very pleasant trip."

The men also laughed. I made myself join them.

Oh, no, of course not.

Of course not. She had a book to write, a class to attend, a life to go back to.

It wasn't her sort of job at all.

They nattered on for another hour or two, and I sat with them and held up my part of the conversation. When the wine ran out, Herrig looked at his chrono. "Well, Glor, it's been nice, but there are other matters we need to attend to. You know to call the Authority if you need anything, right?"

"Of course."

"And that means anything."

"I know."

"Well, then. We'll be going now. Sorry to leave you with the mess."

"Part of my job," I said.

"And you do it so well!" His smile became the pasted smile of a politician, and I grimaced at it. I followed their group back to the airlock. The console just beyond it reported that the ship's navigational systems had been updated satisfactorily. "I'll be back in a few months," he said. "I don't get here nearly enough."

"Looking forward to it," I told him.

The airlock opened, and they disappeared through it. Torisan gave me a commiserating smile for some reason, but Herrig and Dawn were already deep in whatever talk they planned to have on their return trip. Probably about her book.

I locked up the room, resisting the urge to pull my unfinished projects back out and strew them around, then made my way back to the Hearth. The mess from the meal could wait. No other ships were scheduled, and the sensor array wasn’t catching anything in the neighborhood. I didn't really need to do anything, other than take down the fire.

There wasn't much ritual there. Lighting it was important. Extinguishing it was just a matter of practicality. I smothered it with a chemical spray, and the flames disappeared immediately. Smoke still rose, and the hearth still glowed with hot material. I would sit beside it until it cooled completely, then shovel out the ashes and dispose of them.

I suppose I should make a ritual for this. After all, putting out the fire in the darkness is an important symbolic act. It deserves some respect and care, even though no one will ever see it. But I've never been able to bring myself to do it. I just sit here, watching the smoke rise and the heat waves weaken. I would crush the final embers, but I'm afraid that all I would have left would be ashes on my forehead and blisters on my hands.

The End

I feel a bit...: confused confused... and hypocritical

14 comments or Leave a comment
starbrow From: starbrow Date: June 17th, 2004 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
The reason why I'd probably chose a vanity press is simply because I have more control. I don't really care what some editor in an ivory tower thinks, and I don't think it's an accomplishment to impress her enough to get her to buy whatever bit of writing I'm selling.

Good work will out, no matter whether or not some editor has rejected or accepted it or not. And earning the respect of the writing industry...I think I can live without that. Nobody respects anybody else unless they've made boatloads of money -- and then, they've, of course, sold out and are not producing art anymore. It's rather sad.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: June 17th, 2004 03:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, JKR has sold out and is producing art. But she's a pretty unique case.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: June 17th, 2004 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sold out to WB and such, I mean.
starbrow From: starbrow Date: June 17th, 2004 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Different kind of sold out, there.
vytresna From: vytresna Date: June 17th, 2004 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I think it could make it as soft SF. I mean, if Star Wars can do it... It's pretty good, too. Her boss sounds like the vice principal who kept doting on me because (I can only assume) she thought I needed mental support. Especially the reaction to the apparent suicide threat and the politician smile. Although Dawn had that reaction too, and she had an enthusiasm that's pretty hard to fake about Gloria's work...

Okay, I'm speculating. That's always a good sign.

BTW, I just read through what you have of "Shifts", and I want Chapter Four badly.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 17th, 2004 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

from Sreya

Ooh, that was actually a very interesting piece, Fern. Seems like it would fit well into a series of shorts about this universe you've created.

As for vanity presses, in general I would agree. However, I knew someone (I met him through FanfiX back in the day, actually!) who used a particular vanity press that makes the books available through Amazon and other online retailers. iUniverse.com, that's what's on the tpverso. I don't know if it's still available. Any way, I don't know enough about the publishing world to know if I'm even thinking along the right lines, but I'd expect that being able to say "I've sold X copies on Amazon.com" (if X is a respectable number) certainly couldn't be a bad thing to be able to tell a publisher when trying to convince them you're worth an investment.

Now I'm curious how John's doing... I'm going to head over the Amazon and look up "Robert John Burke", see if he's managed to publish anything through a different publisher.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 17th, 2004 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: from Sreya

I'd expect that being able to say "I've sold X copies on Amazon.com" (if X is a respectable number) certainly couldn't be a bad thing to be able to tell a publisher when trying to convince them you're worth an investment.

It depends... it may actually hurt, no matter what the sales are, if the publisher is held in poor repute. (After all, sales on amazon can be fudged--you can buy up all kinds of your own book, after all, and if you paid to get it published, it's not a big leap to assume you'd pay to make it look like it's selling.)

I just think that it's likely to be harmful to a writing career no matter what you do.
myf From: myf Date: June 17th, 2004 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fern, what do you think about Matthew Reilly, if you've heard of him? As far as I know, he did the vanity press thing, hawked it around to bookshops and managed to land a publishing deal on the strength of it. Now he's on the bestseller lists, here in Australia at least.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 17th, 2004 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I never heard of him. I tend to think that someone talented enough to sell his book would have done better to go the traditional route. I know I'd have more respect for it.

Basically, I think that if you want to self-publish, the internet is a cheaper and smarter way to do it--and certainly no less respectable. Sure, you can write a good book, pay to print it, and flog it around yourself... but why? If you're not willing to go through the publishing process, the internet provides a much less cumbersome way to distribute than a vanity press. Putting something on paper doesn't make it more legitimate... after all, I can print out fanfic if I want to.

I'm not saying that it's impossible for a vanity press to have a good title on it. There are good fics on FFN, if you scour it enough. The problem with a vanity press is that it has no expectations, no peer review process, no quality control at all. So sure--a good writer could produce a good book in that, if the person in question had a LOT of self-discipline. But when you get to that point, what you've got is
1. a very talented writer, with
2. a lot of self-discipline, and
3. a lot of determination and ambition.

That's enough to be published the traditional route, in which they pay you. Why pay thousands of dollars instead of applying the same determination and discipline to, you know... getting paid?

If a story is good enough, it will rise in a slushpile, and someone will take notice of it at some point. You might have to try a bit to find the right home for it, but c'est la vie. If a person has faith in his or her writing, why resort to buying one's way in? It's like Malfoy getting onto the Quidditch team when his father buys the Nimbus 2001s... he may well be able to play, but who would ever believe it after the blatant act of bribery?
myf From: myf Date: June 17th, 2004 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have to say I agree with you, but in Matthew Reilly's case it definitely paid off.

That said, though, I don't think I'd read anything by this guy, just because of the terrible punctuation on his 'About the Author' page. Good lord.

It's interesting to note now that his most recent book Hover Car Racer (sounds gripping) is being published online. For free, as far as I can tell.
From: anatomiste Date: June 17th, 2004 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you plan to sell something or think it's saleable, don't put it up on the internet.

At the risk of sounding very, very naive: Why?

Perhaps I had better go take some documents off ff.net...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 17th, 2004 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Because what publishers like to buy are "first rights"--the first publication of a story, article, novel, whatever. If you've put it up on the internet, it's published, and all you can sell are secondary rights.
From: anatomiste Date: June 17th, 2004 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hm. Okay. Thanks.
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: June 18th, 2004 06:24 am (UTC) (Link)
I like this one. I think the ending shows that she really is desperately lonely and depressed. But she's so set in her ways and determined that technology will never make her leave her little rut.

One suggestion: "The airlock, as always, failed to produce anything resembling a satisfying whoosh" begs the question of what sound did the airlock make?
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