An Open Letter to Simon & Schuster

This is why I’m writing it.


Dear Simon & Schuster,

Whom, precisely, do you think you’re fooling by your so-called self-publishing solution? Do you really think that we have that short a memory, us indie authors, from the time that Penguin had decided to jump on the bandwagon with Book Country?

I didn’t.

And not likely to forget.

So I would like to know, once again, Simon & Schu: whom do you think you’re fooling? Do you really think that we cannot tell the difference between self-publication and a vanity press?  Oh wait. That’s exactly what you’re thinking because you’re making this service available to the public. Here’s a big hint: most authors who are going to self-pub are not going to fork over $1,599 for your services. Why? Because they can achieve the same thing for. free.

No love,

A self-pub who has done her research.



I’m sure you got the gist just based on this short little open letter, but long story short, S&S is presenting a “self-publishing” option to the world, with a package price from $1,599 to (and I’m not kidding) $24,999 (see article linked in first sentence for reference). Okay…what the HELL? I understand that the sundry services with the most expensive one are top-notch, but let’s be realistic for just a minute and ask ourselves: what self-publishing author has that kind of money?!


Let’s revisit a cardinal law of publishing a book. I shouldn’t have to repeat it by this time, but I have to. There is only one single cardinal rule when it comes to having a piece of writing hosted in a readable medium, be it in print, digitally, etc.

It’s a simple little rule. It’s been around for centuries.

What is it?

Money flows TO THE AUTHOR.

This is non-negotiable. You may pay a little for services rendered in the production of your book (i.e. pay an editor, a graphic designer, etc) but when you publish, you should never, ever, EVER pay money up front to publish. The terms of the royalty splits should leave you with getting some cash as well. Under no circumstances are you to pay money to publish up front, especially when it comes to digital edition.

Moreover, what’s the catch about copyright with this option? You’re shelling out all this money to go through Simon & Schu; are they letting you retain distribution rights? Are they claiming distrib rights? For how long? Are they claiming your master copyright? If so, run the other way. Remember this, ladies and gents: your master copyright is your lifeblood. You will thank me later for not selling it for an advance that you’d never earn out or break even on because a publishing house hadn’t delivered its marketing as promised.

In the previous rip-apart of Book Country (linked above), I also mentioned Writer Beware as asserting that there’s no difference between vanity press and self-pub. WRONG. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Self-publishing does not take money up front, unless it is for reimbursement of production costs, i.e. hard-copy proof. If you believe to contrary, then you may have either been reading the misinformed writings of Victoria Strauss, or you just hadn’t done your research.

Seriously. Smashwords, KDP, and PubIt are all free to use. I’ve used them all at one point or the next, and stuck it out with KDP Select, which had turned out to be the best venue, since most of my sales are Kindle. I might un-enroll from Select just so I can go for the Nook market again for a stretch, and see how I do. But really, have I shelled out money for KDP or PubIt? No.  And get this: CreateSpace introduced an online proofing system, which…eliminates the need to order a printed proof. It’s something I still recommend; it’s worth the $8, but it’s no longer a prerequisite. Guess what this means: if you go through CreateSpace, the cost to publish your book through them is zilch. 

Sure, go ahead and tell me how there’s no difference between vanity press and self-pub. Vanity presses charge you up front. What they offer varies, but they all charge you. Self-pub doesn’t, so you automatically turn a profit, however meager. With a vanity press, you have to at least make enough in your sales to break even on the costs of what you paid to use their service. The max cost is about 24K. Let me ask you this, realistically: do you expect your work to make that much money quickly enough so that you can turn a profit? If you’re hesitating, you’re doing so with good reason. A lot of self-pub work doesn’t make much money. I’ve not made much money, even though I tripled my prior year’s revenue from my books. But I shelled out all of $10 to publish my current work, and that was the proof copy rush shipping. And I more than recouped it. I even recouped the cost of the sets of books that I had printed up as giveaways. But again, I shelled out $10. If you, say, shell out $1,599 – first of all, can you afford to invest that much? – and you have absolutely no guarantee that it’ll break even, how do you expect to make a profit?

This is just plain Business 101 here.

And Simon & Schuster, of all the houses, is thinking that hey, we’ll make a mint off the authors if we can no longer make a mint off the readers!

Uh, no. No thank you. And Simon & Schu, I’m quite disappointed. Of all the houses to jump on the bandwagon of vanity presses, I didn’t expect you to be in that number.



7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Simon & Schuster

    1. Thanks, Chicki.
      I was just amazed at the gall of those people. They’re charging close to 2K for….what? They don’t do formatting for you for that. Do they let you have 100% royalty for that money? I severely doubt it; I also think they’ll claim a cut on top of that.
      Geez, at least if you’re going to go with a vanity press, go with iUniverse. The services are better, too.
      So glad I went with CreateSpace and KDP…

    1. Yes. You can. Check terms of service for CreateSpace, KDP ( and PubIt (

      All mediums will take a split as a way of offsetting the (minute) expenses of hosting your file, or as in the case of CreateSpace, printing up the book. But NO ONE charges you a fee just for use, like a vanity press does.

      I’m a CreateSpace user now for the past 5 years. Only time I paid in route of publication was if I wanted a printed proof. I had the option of not doing the printed proof, but I am one of those people who likes a hard copy of my work. I got charged only 1. the price of the printing, wholesale, and 2. sales tax. No up-front fee. No “pay us tons of money for nothing you can’t do yourself” fee.

      I can’t say it enough: research your options. You will find that you can save pretty much your entire outlay costs.

      1. I self published my first novel in 1997 before I was picked up by a publisher in 2000. I know options have changed since then, (I used to be the Self-Publishing Editor for Black Issues Book Review Magazine) but I can’t imagine someone self publishing for zilch. I think there are many people who do that, but I think line editing and the graphic design of the cover are the two most important parts of the process. But now, as the author of 20 novels, I can see that those things aren’t very important anymore.

      2. CreateSpace, as part of its service, has a great template system for covers. The thing is, like a lot of publishers, it’s WYSIWYG, leaving the author with the onus on having a solid edit. After my first book, I hired an editor. Most self-pubs have an editor; whether or not they pay for editing services is their own.

        There are plenty of trad-pub books that leave much to be desired in their quality. It’s not something that’s unique to self-publishing, but the writing world is still quick to point out that if the author was not a self-pub, then the problem wouldn’t be there. Hardly the case. Publishing is, above all, a human effort, and you have to ask yourself where the line is between genuine human error and deliberate sloppiness.

        Personally, I publish for zilch, but I don’t publish alone. I have an editor, and work together with my cover artists to make the artwork happen. Photoshop mojo helps.

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