Second from the bottom

One of the bad parts of the amateur writing scene is the large number of ‘vanity publisher’ scams.

These companies make their money by charging fees to authors rather than by selling books. Their ‘services’ are over-priced, and don’t get the results that they imply. Sometimes they just straight up lie and rip off their clients (for example by not paying royalties).

Recently a couple of major publishers have become involved in this part of the industry (more information here). I don’t know whether this is because they’re losing money due to ebooks. I suppose companies don’t need a reason to become part of a consistently profitable business.

Personally, I find other amateur writers’ reaction to the scams as depressing as the scams themselves. The post I linked to above says, at one point, “Before you say that any writer who gets suckered only has themselves to blame…”. The post says this because that’s exactly the reaction that a lot of amateur writers have (at least online: I’ve never heard anyone say it in real life).

This is quite a strange reaction. In my very limited experience, musicians sympathise with other musicians who get ripped off by managers or venues. Role-players can be pretty nasty online – yet if someone was ripped off thousands of dollars by false promises of a contract with Wizards of the Coast, I think most people would sympathise with them.

You could, of course, argue that there are more exploited people in the world. You can’t get ripped off thousands of dollars without having thousands of dollars in the first place. But this isn’t the argument that amateur authors make. Their argument, if you can call it that, is essentially that anyone who gets fooled deserves to be fooled.

I don’t know why people do this. But I think it might be partly a reaction to being bottom of the pile. As an unpublished (or Amazon-ebook-published) author, you’re one of thousands, most of whom aren’t going to get to the next level. People who are ripped off by vanity presses are someone to look down on. Compared to them, anyone can feel knowledgable and street-smart.

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