A recent post at selfpublishingadvice.org opened up a very interesting discussion on the definition (and merit) of vanity publishing. Vanity publishing in general is paying a publisher to publish your book. It’s the direct opposite of traditional publishing where the publisher pays you, the author, an advance to publish your book, expecting that sales will make up for and then exceed the amount of the advance. (One caveat to this is PublishAmerica, which does not charge to publish your book, but is a vanity scam nonetheless. See http://mjb-wordlovers.blogspot.com/2012/05/vanity-presses.html) At the end of the article, they pose a thought-provoking question:
Is it vanity to write at all? Why doesn’t the musician entertaining the crowd down (at) the pub not get accused of vanity for getting up and playing his music? Why is (it) only writers who are asked to justify their urge to create?
I found that last point extremely interesting; someone who writes their own songs, arranges them and sings them is considered a genius. A writer who does it all is ... ? What? Delusional? Dreaming?
Why is that?
If the process is similar and both are art forms uniquely expressed by the individual, what’s the difference? It occurs to me that there could be two reasons.
1. There is a difference between people who self-express via music and those who self-express via words.
I don’t really see how anyone could think this was true. The processes are very similar: cognitive creation in the brain is set down on paper as notes or words, edited and arranged to form pleasing patterns that inspire and evoke emotion. Writing very often is educational, but music can be used that way, as well, as in teaching songs. The way I see it, the end result is a different flavor, but the process is one and the same. The difference is in degree, not kind.
2. There is a difference in the perception of singer/songwriters vs. writers.
This seems to make more sense to me. Just imagine if a friend of ours came to us and said he’d written a song and had arranged all the music and he was going to record it and then shop it around to the local radio stations. I think for most of us, our reaction would be—great! Good luck, wish you all the best, hope you sell a million copies.
Now imagine another friend came and said he had written a novel, had done all the editing himself, the proofing, had designed his own cover and was going to self-publish it. What’s the reaction going to be then?
Uh, you’re doing what? But …, but that’s hard. You need help with that, don’t you? Professional help? Editing? Don’t you need a publisher to help you polish it? Isn’t it really expensive? How many books do you really think you’re going to sell?
So what’s the difference? I’m guessing most people think that writing a book is much, much harder than writing a song. I guess that’s flattering to those of us who do write books, but the flip side is that it seems to be much harder to garner respect and acknowledgement for our accomplishments, especially from people who have never written or published a book and don’t know anything about the process.
Reminds me of the old saying: Those who say something can’t be done should get out of the way of the people who are already doing it.
So next time you hear about someone doing it all in their literary pursuits, how about just giving them a big ol’ attaboy?