Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
It's called (perhaps unfairly) a

vanity press.

Another iteration is called an "Author mill".
It can work.
That said, results vary, but generally the best hope you have, if you seek a wider audience, is that you will be able to market yourself well enough to build a cult or small but noisy following, and that a regular publisher will pick up the manuscript.
On the down side, you don't get the very real aid of either content editing or copy editing--if there are glaring errors stylistically or errors of fact, no one will tell you.
Of course, a lot of people don't want to be told.

Umberto Eco wrote a book in which an "Author Mill" was the frame for the story--
The name is lost--was not the equal of "Foucault's Pendulum" at all, as I remember.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 08:27:04 AM EST
Of course its a vanity press, but what makes this business model different is that there are no minimum orders and book production is on-demand.

Those authors who are trying to sell their wares while avoiding the gatekeeper function of the conventional publishers are, perhaps, not the best customers for this service, the per copy production costs are too high, but for others with specialized needs it may just be a perfect fit.

If you haven't looked at the site you should browse the "buy" tab and see the variety of materials people have created.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:06:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Publishing isn't about getting into print, it's about finding readers. So the problem with something like Lulu is that it won't find you a readership. And given that it's much more convenient to put together a PDF yourself and link to it from a website, it's not clear what the service is adding if you don't already have a market for your book.

Getting into hardcopy certainly won't find you a market. Nor will it legitimise your ideas or give them authority or impact.

I think authors secretly suspect that's what hardcopy gives them, even if they're not necessarily aware of it consciously. And the vanity publishers - and Lulu isn't one, in the usual sense - deliberately capitalise on this with huge puddles of oily flattery.

In fact what mainstream publishing gives you is limited access to that legitimisation, and - more importantly - much wider access to potential readers through established marketing and distribution machines.

Some self-publishers do manage to create their own marketing and PR machines, but it's a ton of work, not cheap, and only sporadically effective.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 11:40:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think "vanity press" is unfair in this case.  A book is a nicer thing to hold and to read from than a computer screen.  If you want to share what you've done with friends and family, then it's the same sort of principle as giving them a real photograph rather than a URL.

Vanity publishing, however, is alive and well locally.  A small press runs competitions, then sells high-priced, cheaply produced anthologies to the lucky winners.  I was caught out by them a couple of years ago when they invited my daughter's school to take part in a competition, because you can't possibly say "No, you haven't really won a competition and it doesn't really prove your work's any good" to an excited ten year old who thinks she's getting published for real.  

No, you buy a book for her, a book for yourself and a book for Grandma... :)

But a surprising number of adults fall for it. They turn up at local poetry events, announce themselves in loud voices to be competition winners and to have had a book published, then see what the real poets are doing and never come back.

by Sassafras on Sat May 17th, 2008 at 05:05:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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