Blurred Lines Between Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing

I came across a science fiction book recently in WH Smith that I thought sounded interesting. I didn’t want to buy it, but I thought I might record the title  and author and read it sometime in the future. I happened to find it in my public library a week ago, so I borrowed and took it home to read.

The production values seemed OK and it looked professional. But I didn’t know the name of the publisher. (I won’t name the book, author or publisher). I started reading. The prologue and introductory material was a bit tedious, and then I started the first chapter. The subject matter was OK and probably quite fascinating, but the style was what I would consider poor. Lots of passive sentences, cliched expressions, and long winded sentences with inappropriate subordinate clauses. All things that a good critique group would have helped the author pick up on and resolve.

I could see that this would be a real struggle to read so I decided to give up on it. I am fairly strict in not persevering with books that don’t at least hold my interest or have some sort of quality about them.

Then I wondered a bit about who the publisher was so I looked them up.

They didn’t say they were a vanity publisher or that they helped authors who wanted to self-publish, but they did go on about how they could provide design and production services, so I do wonder if they were really a vanity publisher in disguise. I suspect that the book had been given a nice production treatment, but had not been vetted editorially and probably only proof-read and not edited for style.

I’m not sure how it got into WH Smith though. A good effort on the part of the author I suspect. But I wonder if he would have benefited as well from some honest feedback at a writers’ circle or online critique group?

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