Vanity Press Ethics

I have been hammering Writers Digest and editor Kristin Godsey pretty hard here lately. So it should be noted that the latest "tips and updates" email from WD  includes a link to a very interesting article Godsey wrote about whether the POD industry should establish a code of professional conduct.

While many such companies are very clear about their policies and
promises, others are purposely vague and even outright
deceitful—hopeful writers are led to believe that using these
companies’ services is no different from getting a traditional
publishing deal in terms of instant prestige and reaching the

…Whether or not a code of ethics is standardized across the industry,
it’s clear that many writers are confused by the particulars of POD
publishing. Some Book Summit participants had specific suggestions for
practices they’d like to see all POD companies embrace. For starters,
Schwartz says, "Any type ofcode should define the rights and
responsibilities of all parties."

Beyond that, he says, "The realities of marketing efforts and
probable sales outcomes need to be made absolutely transparent."
Pramschufer elaborated on this theme in the October issue of his
monthly newsletter for small and independent self-publishers. In it, he
called on POD publishers to "clearly point out the odds of being
successful. An average number of books sold would be a start. If the
publishers don’t think this is fair, then the average number of books
sold by the top 25 percent of their titles in print and the middle 33

It’s a great idea but I doubt it will ever happen…it would cut too deep into vanity press profits if their potential customers knew just how few copies they are likely to sell.  Still, it would be nice to see WD champion the idea and at the same time dedicate themselves to exposing the deceptive practices of individual vanity presses (especially if they are among their advertisers and "marketing partners"). Of course, this would require a radical rethink by WD’s editors and publishers about their various marketing partnerships with vanity presses.

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