Simon and Schuster: Vanity Publishing Disguised as Self-Publishing

simon and schuster

Note: Updated What We Saw launch details at the bottom, if publishing talk ain’t your thing.

Even if you are only a passing follower in publishing trends, you’ll have seen the latest major piece of news: Simon & Schuster have opened a ‘self-publishing’ service, attempting to tap into what is evidently a booming market of independent fiction.

Alarm bells always ring when publishers launch these companies. Penguin’s massive acquisition of Author Solutions and their premium rate ‘steps to success’ pretty much proved just how out of touch the major publishers are with the self-publishing trends, but Simon and Schuster have taken things a step further in teaming up to form the Archway Publishing imprint.

A quick glance through the press release is enough to leave a sickly taste in one’s mouth. The ‘Basic’ package, which I’d imagine consists of very little marketing support and offers nothing more than a book launch through Simon and Schuster’s self-publishing imprint, starts at $1,999.

And the insanity doesn’t stop there. The highest end package costs a whole $14,999. I daren’t even read what the package offers because I know it will infuriate me.

Out of Touch

I really don’t know what to think of this move. Are Simon and Schuster completely out of touch? This is NOT self-publishing. It’s vanity publishing, pure and simple, and if that is how the major publishers interpret the self-publishing landscape at present, then their demise is closer than I first thought.

On the other hand, it shows a sense of fear. A sense of little research. A misguided attempt to trick the rich and uneducated into believing that the only way to publish a book without approval from a major publisher is to pay a bucketload for it. Not only is this wrong, it’s stupid.

The perception of the self-publisher

Pretty much the first thing people ask me about independent publishing is how much I had to pay, often accompanied with a sort of, ‘ah, he’s been rejected’ expression. I don’t blame the questioners for this, because it’s a mindset that has been created by the major publishers. In a way, I think the term ‘self-publishing’ has forever been tarnished with vanity connotations, which is why I prefer the term ‘independent publishing’.

Let me spell this out for you: no, I did not have pay a single penny to independently publish my book, and neither do you. And no, I was not rejected because I chose not to submit to publishers because I believe the independent route is the best route right now.

I did spend money on professional cover design and professional editing, but that’s because I want to make a career out of my writing. You don’t have to, but I’d recommend it.

Seriously, you don’t have to spend a penny. If you’re considering Simon and Schuster’s package, I have a few simple steps for you.

1.) Slap yourself. Hard.

2.) Do a fucking Google search. There’s so much free information out there on marketing and publishing that I’m not even going to begin sharing them.

3.) Slap yourself again for almost making the mistake you did.

This is what frustrates me about authors who claim they ‘don’t know what to do’ so resort to spending money. It’s the same people who ‘don’t understand Twitter’ so incessantly spam links. Basically, it’s the money-hungry who want to see an instant return.

I have a bit of a grounder for you: you probably aren’t going to make much money when you only have one or two books out whether you spend $10k or not. In fact, I’d argue you’ll make more if you do a bit of research for yourself and save your money. You’ll thank me later.

What does this mean for self-publishing?

I know I’m annoyed, but that’s mainly because I don’t want innocent aspiring authors to get ripped off. That’s exactly what Simon and Schuster’s self-publishing service is: a rip-off of major proportions.

What does it mean for the rest of us who independently publish? Not much. The ‘self-publishing’ term is dirtied a little more in the eyes of the masses, but we’ve just got to keep on doing what we’re doing. Keep on blogging, tweeting, getting professional cover design and editing. Keep on building our platform, and keep on earning.

$14,999, wow. I’m trying to work that out in book sales but I’m not even going to begin.

If you’re still interested in Simon and Schuster’s premium package, or even the basic package, a little contest, perhaps? Okay. I bet I sell more books than you with my free (and infrequently paid at very low costs) marketing. Challenge accepted? Good. And don’t even think about asking me for a loan.

What We Saw Launch Update

On a more positive note costing much less than $14,999 (and $1,999 for that matter), What We Saw’s release date has been brought forward to 4th December (hopefully. I’ll let you know if earlier/later) That’s less that a week!

I have a few giveaways planned for launch week, so keep an eye on the blog if you’re interested.

What do you make of Simon and Schuster’s self-publishing service? Are they completely out of touch or do they fear the self-publishing boom threatens to swallow them up?

Image courtesy of theboyds via Flickr


  1. Wow! I just looked through that Archway Books site and I’ll be damned if I can find any aspect of it worth the prices they’re asking. Almost everything they’re offering is available to anyone for free or at a tiny fraction of the cost of their packages. And S&S doesn’t even have their name associated with your titles from what I can see. I agree with you – it’s simply glorified vanity publishing. And I hate the thoughts of anyone getting suckered into that.

    • It’s absolutely ridiculous isn’t it, Will? I’m trying to see it from the perspective of the publisher, but I really struggle. There really is nothing more to it than preying on the wealthy and uneducated and hoping one is foolish enough to shell out. In my opinion, this puts the majors around ten years behind the current publishing landscape. Very disappointing for them.

  2. I had someone recommend Balboa Press to me, thinking it was a place I could distribute my already published work. I looked into it, and it has very much the same scale of cost as this new S&S program. Immediately, I figured it was a scam–but I looked into it. Turns out that, as Will suspects, most of the services offered by the more expensive packages can be had for free with someone willing to invest some time. One higher end ($10K+ I believe) package included what basically amounted to someone setting up twitter, facebook, and goodreads accounts for you.

    Blatant scam. But I’m not sure that a large house like S&S is intending to actively scam people. I think it’s rather a gross underestimation of what indie writers need. They want to provide a service as publishers; they’ve come up with a price tag they (somehow) think is appropriate. I bet they’re basing it on what a typical ‘traditionally published’ book costs to publish. What they’re missing is that all the work is still in the writer’s hand with this model, and that cost is grossly unjustifiable.

    Or, they’re scrambling to catch up on an industry they don’t understand (independent publishing) and it’s a knee jerk reaction. As in, “we’ve got to make profits somewhere.”

    • I agree with your comments totally, James. I don’t think the major publishers realise just how willing us authors are to investigate free/minor fee marketing routes. I think it’s a combination of both of your theories — a fearful underestimation and a lack of understanding.

      The problem is, ‘low quality’ is still associated with self-publishing IN THE EYES OF THE PUBLISHER. They don’t seem to know how to handle with the fact that many independent authors are investing in quality services to fine tune their writing at a fraction of the price.

      It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

  3. This is a really interesting issue. I think it boils down to capitalism: publishers have existed to provide a service to consumers: books. Consumers still want books, but in an electronic format. The publishers need to catch up, but they’ve already missed the boat–indie writers publishing their own work–and need to catch up. Which, of course, sounds ridiculous to the big publishers; “they’re completely bypassing the way things are supposed to work. We’d better give them the right infrastructure.”
    It’s a bit patronizing, actually. But it’s mind-blowing that a company like S&S doesn’t realize how they’re shooting themselves in the foot with this move, because of API’s bad press and business practices. Even more mind-blowing if they do realize, and don’t care.

  4. Thanks for that post. My books are doing well, but I got caught up for a moment in how much easier it would be to just hand it all over to someone else to deal with. Slapping myself now. Ouch!



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