But Isn’t It A Vanity Book?
Is a self-published book a vanity book?
Many times, people come to BusinessGhost so that we can help them to make their book a reality. They sometimes wonder whether a book we do would be a vanity book is extremely valid. I want to share with you what our clients discovered about this question.
First, we don’t do vanity books. Vanity is all about ego. It’s all about “Look at me! I wrote a book!” It’s all about showing off and looking to one-up everyone else. Instead of a new sports car, a book becomes a form of ego gratification. And as for the contents of a vanity book…it’s all about how wonderful the author is. How brilliant. How fantastic. It’s a book that accomplishes nothing for the world. It simply stokes the ego of the author, who can go around talking about how wonderful he is.
The books we do, by contrast, are not ego-driven. We seldom get approached to do such books. The clients we attract, instead, find that their books are acts of service. They are contributing to the well-being of others by sharing their ideas in the broadest possible manner. Their credentials and experience must of course be a part of the book, but simply to give credence to the ideas they will share. The book is not all about the author. It is all about the reader.
A physician, a financial advisor, an attorney, a business owner, or any professional only has so many hours in a day, so many individuals he or she can influence. The purpose of a service-driven book is to extend the reach of that expert to a considerably broader audience. There is nothing vanity-based about going to the office; it’s what you do in order to serve people. Likewise, our clients have found that there is nothing vanity-based about taking the same ideas they would share with one client or one patient at a time, and bringing those ideas to the world.
Ego-driven books are vanity books. Books that help people are acts of service. This is the kind of book we are contemplating.
The next question our clients ask is whether a book is less meaningful without the imprimatur of a publisher. Let’s examine exactly where the publishing world is today, and whether that imprimatur still has value.
The simple truth is that New York publishers today are no longer primarily interested in the quality of the content of the books they publish. At first, this sounds like a harsh accusation. The reality becomes apparent when my clients have stopped and considered the quality of books in their fields that they see when they browse in a bookstore (if they can still find a bookstore). Publishing has changed. Publishers are willing to publish books with mediocre content…as long as the marketing plan for the book is solid gold.
In other words, it doesn’t matter how much you know about your topic, how new your ideas are, how helpful your book will be, or even whether your book “deserves” to be published. The publishers stopped seeing themselves as guardians of the reading public decades ago, before they started to merge together and then became purchased by international conglomerates like Bertelsmann, News Corp, Viacom, and Hachette. All they really care about is how many people follow the author on Twitter, how many Facebook “friends” he or she may have, how many people they speak in front of each year, whether they already appear on national TV, and so on. The content is a secondary issue. The marketing plan is paramount.
This means that authors with great ideas but lacking a national media platform seldom get book deals in today’s dollar-driven publishing environment. The publishers all but skip the content part of a book proposal only to focus on the marketing plan. The major publishers are not interested in helping people build their brands. Their attitude is, come back and see us when you have built a national brand. Until then, then forget about it.
This means that the major publishers have actually devalued their own imprimaturs, by publishing second-rate books and ignoring potential first-rate books. If you don’t believe me, spend an hour at Barnes & Noble and see if you can find really first-rate books in your field, or in any area you know about. By and large, the stuff that’s published today is second-rate.
Also, a book deal with a major publisher means your book will have a shelf life in a bookstore of only a matter of weeks before unsold copies are returned to the publisher for a full-refund. So what exactly are we getting along with that imprimatur? The books I produce for my clients are just as attractively produced as those by the major houses. The books I produce are available on Amazon (and on order at any Barnes & Noble), the same as those done by the major houses. My clients’ books come out within eight weeks of completion – not more than a year or two.
Some publishers still pay advances, but the numbers are miniscule–often as little at $5,000 or $10,000 – and sometimes they offer no advances at all. So there is seldom any real money to be made from getting a deal with a major publisher–unless that person already has a Dr. Oz-like national media footprint. I always tell my clients that making money from the sale of individual copies of books is seldom the goal for authors. The real money comes in terms of new clients or patients for them, speaking engagements (where they sell copies back of the room in addition to their speaking fees), consulting, and other ways.
Some of my clients also felt that they would not be taken as seriously as authors if their books did not have a major publisher’s name on the spine. What they found is that practically no one takes into consideration the publisher of a book when making the decision whether to buy a book. The criteria by which people judge books are these:
The qualifications of the author to write the book;
Whether the title, subtitle, and table of contents indicate that the author has the capacity to solve the specific problem the reader needs to solve; and
3. Endorsements (“blurbs”) on the back of the book from individuals who are either well-known or at least highly credible, due to their professional standing and credentials accompanying their blurbs.
Very, very few people have ever said, “This book meets all three of these criteria and it will solve my problem, but I won’t buy it because I’ve never heard of the publisher.” In reality, most people have never heard of the imprints, or mini-brands, of the major publishers or the names of smaller yet successful and credible publishing houses. They just buy a book if they think it will solve their problem.
This holds true with individuals at every level of the socioeconomic spectrum, from CEO’s to young people just starting their careers.
So when you put all of these points together — the publishers’ willful cheapening of their own brand; the very brief shelf-life of a book; the fact that publishers are paying less and less, and often practically nothing in order to buy the right to publish a book; that the real money from having a book doesn’t come from book sales but from building one’s own practice or consultancy or business; and that most readers don’t care who published a book, as long as it appears that it will guide them to a needed solution — the imprimatur of a major publisher means very little, indeed.
Our clients who were concerned about whether they and their books would be taken seriously in the marketplace have been gratified to discover that the world viewed them as authors and not as anything less. Their books have been acts of service to the world (and at the same time, in truth, a little bit ego-gratifying, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that — as long as it’s not the primary purpose of the book). You’ll find that the book will dramatically extend your reach, allowing you to bring your wisdom to a large — and grateful — readership, people who need the solutions you can provide.
Vanity? Hardly. An act of service that propels you to a position of preeminence in your marketplace? Absolutely.