This Way to the Egress

P T Barnum depended on ignorance and naivety to haul in his suckers. There was a very good chance that the majority of his ticket holders wouldn’t know the meaning of “egress,” and, expecting to see another amazing freak display, they’d find themselves out in the street, wondering what the hell just happened.

Sometimes I wonder. Is it lack of intelligence or a form of insanity that turns new writers into suckers?  Or just that so-convenient-for-hucksters ignorance and naivete? My latest puzzled shake of the head was inspired by a blog post announcing the publication of an author’s novel. Apparently it’s his first. And the summary reads very much like a clone of thousands of other fantasy novels, with the young hero-to-be making a discovery about his fate… yada yada. And the price of this book with nothing to distinguish it from anything else in the current fantasy flood, by an author who’s probably known only to his friends and relatives? $23.00 for the paperback and $29.00 for the hardcover. Is it surprising that the book is “self-published” by a company of the type that, until recently, has been called a vanity press?

These companies are proliferating like rabbits, feasting on naive writers who will pay through the nose in order to get their books into print. Calling themselves self-publishers gives them an air of respectability that “vanity press” just doesn’t conjure up. And if you can make naive writers believe that their books are self-published, they may overlook the glaring truth, that most of them will never earn back what they paid out. It should take only one simple question after doing the math. Who in their right mind is going to pay $20.00 or more for a novel by a complete unknown?


7 thoughts on “This Way to the Egress

  1. No one. The author took a chance on snake oil. Unless he wants to fill a van with his books, travel around the country hawking his wares, spending full-time on self-promotion and never ever ever writing another book again to possibly improve; that author will never recoup his investment.

  2. A guy in one of the writer’s groups I used to attend wrote something so very bad some of us just had to gently point it out. It was only 30K words, but he insisted it was a novel. And the story? Well…
    Rather than listen to some of the published writers in the group and work on making the story better, he came back a couple of months later and proudly announced he was now published. His ‘publisher’ turned out to be PublishAmerica….

  3. Yes, and then there’s delusional. Maybe a subheading under insane? You know, I keep thinking about that saying that everybody has at least one story in them. I’m beginning to think that idea is probably responsible for more crap being published than any other single thing.

  4. I’m with you. Nobody is going to lay out that kind of money for an unknown writer. That’s just crazy.

    I won’t even spend that kind of money for a hardback that I really want; I’ll wait a year for the paperback. If that’s too much, I’ll wait another year and Walmart will sell it for 5 bucks. I’ve set a limit of $9.99 for an ebook–and that only after a sample read that knocked my socks off, but I still consider it outrageous.

    I’ve got a friend, who claims she only reads free stuff with a Kindle. Hey, there’s enough free stuff to keep you busy if your standards aren’t too high. She told me to go to Every heard of it? I haven’t gone yet.

  5. Gutenberg is the grand daddy of ebook sites. Of course, everything there is public domain, so nothing current. But it’s an incredible source if you want to read classics or do research.

    I read a lot of free stuff, but I also buy a fair number of books. My personal limit for ebooks is usually 6.99, but I’ll pay a little more for nonfiction. I also wait for the paperback if it’s a print book I want. And even then, I try to wait until I can find a used copy. I don’t have much money to spread around, to I’m a very tight-fisted book buyer.

  6. Someone didn’t do his homework. It’s a shame to hear about people getting taken advantage of and depending the POD service he used perhaps he didn’t set the price. Still. I doubt he would even pay that much for the paperback of an established author. He should have taken that into consideration.

    Oh well. Hopefully he’ll learn from his mistake.

  7. The chances are that he did set the price. It’s that high for either one of two reasons. 1. His expenses for the POD service are so huge that he has to try to cover them. I’ve read a lot of complaints about’s outrageous shipping fees, and I imagine a lot of the Lulu books I’ve seen are trying to compensate for that. But they’re way too expensive. 2. He’s as naive about pricing as he is about publishing services.

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