Small Press vs Vanity Operation September 18, 2006 by Lee Goldberg In a previous post, I implied that getting a book published by New Babel Books wasn’t that big of a deal, provoking one reader to comment: …I do find you a bit arrogant on other issues, such as small presses. Frankly, I think you didn’t need to be snide about New Babel Books. And no, I’m not associated with them in any way, shape or form. I have nothing against small presses. I’ve been published by small presses (McFarland, Five Star, etc.) and so have my friends and members of my family. I do have a something against vanity presses that pretend to be something they aren’t to hoodwink aspiring writers out of their cash. I also am very leery of so-called "small presses" created by an author to publish his own work…at least until his work is far outnumbered on the company’s list by books written by other authors.Until then, it’s not a small press but a vanity operation…though not in the sense that they are charging other authors to get into print. It’s a vanity press in that it primarily exists to self-publish one author. For instance, Jim Michael Hansen self-publishes his LAWS mysteries under the moniker Dark Sky Publishing. Those are the only books Dark Sky publishes. If tomorrow he publishes a book by Jane Doe, I don’t think that makes Dark Sky a small press. In my mind, he becomes a small press when the business clearly shifts from being primarily geared towards selling his own work to editing, publishing, and distributing the work of other writers (and paying them royalties). On the other hand, Uglytown is an example of a local, small press that was started to serve the needs of its author/founders and grew to become a legitimate and respected imprint (which, sadly, is no longer in business). Hard Case Crime began by publishing the work of its author/founders Charles Ardai and Max Phillips and has grown to become a highly-acclaimed, respected, and exciting small press with authors like Lawrence Block, Stephen King, and Ed McBain among their large list of titles. New Babel Books was apparently established by author Frank Fradella to publish his own books. Four of the six titles listed on the site are his own. The company’s FAQ reads: New Babel Books exists because there are authors out there who have extraordinary projects that don’t fit easily into the pigeonholes of today’s industry. That makes it harder for them to find publisher. Consequently, it makes it harder for you, the reader, to find truly ground-breaking work. New Babel Books serves to bring the two of you together. Meaning, it seems, that Frank couldn’t sell his projects to any traditional publishers so he published them himself. Now he’s publishing books by two others (what’s not clear to me from the site is whether his books are P.O.D or not… I suspect that they are). The company’s mission statement reads, in part: We shall deliver only those offerings which have endured the rigors of our editorial process and promise to deliver an entertaining, arresting, and unforgettable reading experience. Not surprisingly, his four books, which make up the bulk of his "list," managed to make it through his own rigorous process…and will probably continue to do so. None of that means that New Babel Books won’t become a legitimate small press, but I wouldn’t call them one now.