August 9th, 2010

Vanity presses? Really? Still!?

Here's a post from Victoria Strauss on the Writer Beware blog (sponsored by SFWA and MWA) about a sham publisher representing itself as a selective small press, but which is, in fact, a vanity publisher, meaning that they ask you for a whole bunch of money to print your book for you. Vanity publishers aren't necessarily fraudulent operations, but this one evidently was. But what I really don't get about this story is why the hell vanity presses even exist anymore in the age of print-on-demand?

If all you want to do is make a book for some kind of small-scale or local purpose (as the examples mentioned in that article seemed to be) that does not need distribution, it's easy and costs next to nothing to do it yourself through Lulu or one of the other POD sources. True, you need to have some kind of skill with a computer if you want to make the thing look decent, and probably even a bit of "advanced" user skill with desktop publishing basics if you want to make a nice custom cover for the book and successfully upload it to the printer. But someone who's got thousands of dollars to blow on having a shady operation "publish" their book can certainly get some inexpensive (if not free) format and design help if they don't know how to do it themselves.

It's just a shame that people don't research these things better. If you want to self-publish your family's genealogy or your collection of grandma's recipes or your unified conspiracy theory or your otherwise unpublishable (but brilliant!) novel, the technology is close at hand to just do it yourself without paying anyone much of anything for it. A few months ago I saw that someone used Lulu to print a lovely hard-bound print edition of his Twitter updates. Maybe I could print a trade paperback edition of the contents of this Live Journal if I wanted to. Worth doing? Probably not, but the point is that one can do it easily and cheaply, and the whole idea that there are still expensive vanity presses separating clueless people from their money really annoys me.  

(PS: I wonder if small-town churches know about POD? It could really help them step up the production quality of their cookbooks!)

Who ARE these people?

I need some advice from someone with more Google-fu than I have to help me finally kill an old email account that has become almost nothing but a spam collector.  To summarize, like many people, I had AOL service back in the day. Then I downgraded it gradually until it was nothing but a free email account that I used for non-fun, work and household business-related crap. I would have gotten rid of even that ages ago, but I made the mistake of using it as my email address when I started my Blogger account a couple years ago. I could drop it and reroute the two or three legitimate correspondences that still come to the AOL box to my mbrane Gmail box, but Google inexplicably says that I cannot use a gmail account as the email account for Blogger? WTF? Blogger is a Google product. I can't use a gmail account for a g-product?  It makes no sense but I cannot find a way around it. They stymie me every time.

What is driving to me distraction is this fucking picture of these fucking douchebags that arrives in at least three spams every day on that AOL account not matter how many times I unsubscribe or forward it to AOL's abuse address:

I know it's nuts to be so enraged about it, but it makes me so crazy to see it every day that is has developed into a personal fantasy vendetta against the actual people in that picture. Why do they look like that? Why are they standing that way (especially the chicks at either end of the pic)? AND WHY ARE THEY ALL WHITE!? This Canterbury thing claims to be some kind of big-time professional leaders organization. Get some brown and black people in there then. Now. 

The only way that I will ever be free of seeing a pic of this octet of douchebaggery is if I can kill my ties to AOL, and the only way I can do that is if Blogger will accept a replacement main account address. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope!