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?