Our review policy has undergone (is that a word? did I conjugate that correctly?) some changes in the recent past. I decided to stop accepting pitches from self-published authors because it was eating up an enormous amount of my time for very little return on my time investment. I changed the policy at that time to say that we would only accept books published by small and/or independent presses, because that’s kind of our bag when it comes to reviewing books.
An interesting thing happened when I changed the policy, which led directly to our new new policy (we just don’t accept books anymore). We started getting a lot of books that were “published” by small presses that I’d never, ever heard of before. Not that I’ve heard of every small press, but I’ve gotten fairly well-versed in small presses; when I see one I haven’t heard of, I like to look them up. Just for my own education–and, okay yeah, because some of these “small presses” were a tad suspicious. When I followed the Google trail for these presses, I found some interesting things:
- Many of the small presses were vanity presses, where the author paid to have their book published. This? is not the same as being published by a small press.
- Other authors actually made up small presses, which had only published their book, or maybe two or three selections (probably from their friends). The pages for these presses are usually nothing more than a makeshift, generically-branded shop where you can purchase the author’s book. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a fake press.
- Still other authors didn’t even bother making any kind of online presence for their fake press. They would slap an appropriate-sounding press name on their book, but when I searched for any inkling of the press existing, I found nothing.
Look, authors who have tried or are considering trying this–it’s really obvious when a small press is not a real press. It’s really obvious when someone starts a press (even if they’re legitimately trying to start a real press, which is only true about half a percent of the time in these cases) just to self-publish without being “self-published.” I’ve never run across this situation where I have had to carefully ponder whether the press was real or not. The evidence is immediately damning. The only way to be slick enough to pull this off is actually to fully launch a legitimate small press where you have editors and designers and you publish books for real… and then you’re not being sneaky anyway, you’re being industrious.
Pretending to have been published by a small press when you haven’t been is really annoying. For one thing, it’s totally lying, which I hate on its own. Only smarmy people and grifters lie about things that they’re representing or selling. If you published your own book, you shouldn’t hide that behind a fake press name–in my eyes, that’s tantamount to fraud. The difference between being published and publishing one’s own book is quite significant in terms of process; to indicate that you were published when you did the process yourself is to misrepresent your book. If you want to put a vanity name on your book, then you need to make it clear that it’s a self-published book under the name of your vanity press. I shouldn’t have to go hunt through Google to try to figure out whether you published your book yourself.
(And if you’re reading this thinking “What’s the big deal?”–if it weren’t a big deal, it wouldn’t be happening in the first place; nobody would be trying to bury the self-published stigma under a fake press name.)
It was also annoying because it was disrespectful to us. Our policy clearly stated no self-published books. Even if your book has a press name slapped on it, if you self-published it, you self-published it. The fake press names were included specifically to circumvent our policy, which had 0% to do with whether a book had a press name on it and 100% to do with the differences in process between small-press publishing and self-publishing. Those authors were attempting to cheat their way into getting a review, and apparently didn’t think I would be smart enough to figure out their tactics. Because, you know, that’s exactly the kind of person you want writing a review of your book. Derp.
Dear respectable self-published authors: all of these shady jerkwads are ruining it for the rest of you. I’m so sorry you have to deal with stigma because a bunch of people don’t know how to be courteous and professional.
Here’s the deal, shady authors: bloggers such as myself put a lot of work into our blogs. We will do our homework if we specify certain policies. And we talk to each other–try to put one over on one of us, and word is going to get around to many of the rest of us. Information travels at high speed these days, and we don’t like to be tricked or lied to, so that’s information we will definitely pass along whenever the opportunity arises. So, you need to stop trying to loophole yourself out of being self-published. If you did the work yourself, own it! Don’t bury it under a fake press name. It’s rude and perilously close to fraud.
Have you experienced this tactic as a blogger or a reader? Have you bought books thinking that they were traditionally-published, only to find out later that they were self-published? What’s your favorite TV show? Leave your comments below!