Anybody who reads this blog knows that I'm not an advocate of paying to get published. I'm a self publishing advocate, which means starting your own publishing company and going into the publishing business. Yet, I'm also on the record stating time and time again that there's nothing wrong or immoral about paying to get published. It's just not a business model. I've heard from authors over the years who have been very happy with subsidy publishers, including some which have horrible, abusive contract terms. The reason these authors are happy? They read the contract before signing, they paid their cash, and they got what they paid for. They didn't have dreams of bestsellers, they weren't trying to make a living, or even a car payment. If you've written a book you want to make available to the public through special ordering or Internet shopping, you don't want to start your own self publishing company, and you can't or won't go through the trade publishing process, subsidy publishers are pretty much the only logical choice.
But, you do have to read the contract, you do have to do your homework about what you are paying for, and you better be prepared for the ridicule of snobs. There are some terrific subsidy published books out there (thanks to the author, not the publisher) and there are some horrible ones. I can say the same thing about trade published books. While there's no question that the editorial quality of books that authors have paid to get published is generally inferior to trade published books, that not the main difference.
The primary difference between trade published books and subsidy published books is commercial viability. Trade publishers don't publish books unless they believe they have a very good chance of earning money, and while they are frequently wrong, it's the main consideration. Trade publishers, after all, are in businesses. Authors who pay to get their books published are often doing so precisely because their books aren't commercially viable.
Earlier this week I heard from an author who had a bad experience with a subsidy press and wanted to know where she could go to publicly warn other authors. In response to that, I wrote:
As to the warning off others, there are plenty of discussion groups where you can vent your spleen, but it probably won't make you feel any better. I'm not unfeeling on the subject, it's just that I've corresponded with thousands of authors in the last ten years. Authors who use subsidy presses and aren't happy with the results may have been lied to or misled, but more often than not, they simply didn't do their homework. They thought they were buying something that nobody can sell, success as an author. Don't get discouraged, if you want to write for a living, keep at it, but make sure you put as much effort into studying the publishing business as you do writing your next book. And don't confuse POD, the technology, with the subsidy presses who use it, they are a minority of the POD business.
Maybe I was little gruff. But when you've been writing about self publishing as a business as long as I have, yet keep hearing from authors who have confused self publishing with paying to get published, you'd occasionally lose your patience as well.