Yog’s Law

I have stated multiple times that authors are some of the most parasitised organisms on this little green dirtball. Once you start writing you quickly discover that there are freeloaders and sponges lined up around the corner waiting for the opportunity to milk you dry of every last bit of money and work that you have created.

This happens at every level — someone needs to explain to me just exactly why traditional publishing hasn’t been the subject of multiple rounds of RICO investigations — but of particular interest to me are independent authors and vanity presses.

A “vanity press” for the purposes of this conversation is a company where you — the author — pay them to publish your work. If you send your publisher a cheque along with your manuscript: They’re a vanity press. And they’re a parasite.

Author James D. Macdonald has long had a case of the hips at vanity presses, and coined what is referred to as “Yog’s Law”, which is simply: “Money flows toward the writer.”

Clear, concise, simple, and true. Any publisher should make their money as a share of the profits from selling your book. Your brain-sweat goes into writing the book, their brain-sweat goes into editing and marketing your book; and y’all split the proceeds.

In response to the growing backlash against vanity presses, a lot of the little barnacles have restyled themselves as “hybrid presses”; and they say  that the authors aren’t paying for publishing, they’re paying for “a la carte” services.

In other words, you’re not “paying for publishing”, you’re paying for editing. You’re paying for a cover.

Some folks feel this is fair. 

As far as I’m concerned, as a small publisher: It’s still bushwa. They’re still parasitic little vanity presses. They want to milk each and every author of as much money as possible, without taking the risk of actually having to work to sell the books.

If you have sent your publisher money, then they’ve made their money. They don’t give two hoots in hell about your book — they’ve already made a profit. And it really, really annoys me.

Other folks in the industry feel that the “hybrid press” “a la carte” model is actually a fair and viable system.

It isn’t, but that’s just my feeling on the matter.

As such, and to give some guidance as to distinguishing between a vanity press and a genuine “hybrid press” author Dan Thompson offered the “Self Publishing Corollary to Yog’s Law”: “Money and rights are controlled by the author.”

If you’ve decided that a “hybrid press” is right for you, and you’re okay with giving them money along with your manuscript, I ask only that you check one more thing: do they want the rights to your work?

In other words, are you paying them to take your rights? Are you paying them to take your intellectual property?

If so, they’re a vanity press; they’re a parasite, and you have a duty to starve the little bastards out of existence.

That is all.


Changes afoot
He Was Dead When I Got There.

11 thoughts on “Yog’s Law”

  1. It’s as bad as the gold rush days on the 49er’s. Everyone there has their hands out and takes your money, and NO ONE is really giving you any real value for it.
    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Drug Dealers, Drug Lords, and Drug Cartels treat each other better than authors and so many of these ‘publishers’ and people offering ‘services’ do. They’re also more honest and have better ethics.
    (I wonder if that’s because the Drug people will shoot you if you misbehave…)

    The very worst part about those ‘hybrids’ is that they FORCE you to sign a contract! You can’t even leave them after they take all of your money! It’s bad enough they bent you over a barrel and fucked you – now they’re giving you crabs! Because after they’re done with you, you can’t take your book and re-publish it on your own elsewhere. You can’t try to make some money and sell your book yourself.

    Which brings up another thing: They set the price and they set it at a level guaranteed NOT to sell – because greedy fucking bastards don’t understand how business works (cause they’re conmen not businessmen) and all they see is ‘high price make more money’!! Concepts like ‘volume’ are unknown to them.

    Trust me, I could go on, because I’ve had a LOT of people come to me over the years asking for help with getting free of the shitstain… err I mean scumbag… err I mean ‘hybrid press’ that suckered them in.

  2. I’m willing to argue in favor of the ‘Hybrid Press’ CONCEPT.

    If a small press is set up for and wants to offer a la carte services, that’s fine. However, your point about rights is the critical one. Paying for a reliable copy edit and a cover is one thing, signing away the rights to the work as a REQUIREMENT of accessing said ‘services’ is the sort of highway robbery where they should just be honest and use a gun and hanging when caught should be an option…

    Unfortunately, I don’t ever think I’ve seen a true ‘hybrid press’ in the wild. The Small / Independent presses I know operate on borderline overload already and don’t have the bandwidth for outside work, and the places I’ve seen advertise as Hybrid Presses are just the old vanity presses with a fresh coat of paint for the current market. They are still looking to fleece folks dreaming of seeing their name in print for everything they can get.

    1. IndieBookLauncher dot com is a hybrid press that works. Their services are 100% a la cart, but they can do from manuscript to book uploads for you. Yes, they charge for each step. They do NOT touch your rights, however. And they tell you up front how much everything is, and what timelines to expect.

      Actually, since they are more of a “services for authors” company than a press, really, they might not count, either. *shrugs* YMMV

      1. I want that job. $120 to upload a book onto Amazon? At 15 min per book (as long as you have all the pertinent info), you’re talking $480 per hour. Sign me up, I could quit my day job.

        May not be a vanity press, but they are making *lots* of money off the ignorance of new authors / authors who are daunted by the effort.

        Is it worth it, well, that’s why there’s a market. There will always be authors who just want to write and never touch the business side. There will always be those who make money off that willful ignorance.

  3. It’s so lucrative because so many people toddle into writing wide eyed and dreamy having finally taken the steps to realize an artistic goal. They just leave their street smarts at the door, if they ever cultivated any.
    What a shame.

    1. It’s like everything else, a LOT of people THINK they can write and think they can write a best seller – the next ‘Harry Potter’ and they’re so impressed with their own genius that they become the lamb that gets fleeced.
      This happens every time when something ‘new’ comes along (hence my gold rush analogy above) where people think it’s just a matter of picking the money up off of the ground and no work at all is involved.
      I’ve run into this literally dozens of times when it comes up in a conversation that I’m an author. They tell me how they’re working on a new novel (and have spent THOUSANDS so far and haven’t even written a word yet) and how this book is going to make MILLIONS and be a major blockbuster movie!!! (I had one gal, who was an actress on a tv show give me her script once for HER blockbuster movie *sigh* she was cute though).
      I used to try and temper these people’s expectations telling them that it takes a lot of work, and they need to actually WRITE their story, and keep working at it, and keep writing, not to be disappointed if their first attempt goes nowhere, to try again – you know, all the stuff I did to get where I am, and nope! Too much work! They’re a genius! etc.
      So yeah, lambs led off to the slaughter.

  4. Eh, I think a proverbial vanity press is fine. If you want to be an author with an published book but all editors in the country have bribed postal services to just burn your letters and can come up with the cash…

    Or maybe you really want a fancy version of your thesis?
    Or an indy game dev/publisher that really wants to do a printed manual?

    There are some scenarios where a vanity press serves a legitimate purpose in connecting someone with money, something to print and possibly an audience with an outfit that (hopefully) can do the printing professionally.

    1. Used to be true, but any halfway decent POD service can offer those services easy these days.

  5. On the flight to 20Books 2022, I talked with a guy who had just paid a “hybrid” publisher to publish his Christian fiction novel. The publisher claimed to be a Christian publisher, and the author was so proud that after investing $10,000+, his book was published, and the 500 trade paperback copies he’d paid for were ready for sale. Yep, his costs were $20 total per book.

    He’d never heard of 20Books, never heard of Yog’s Law, and had no idea he’d just been taken to the cleaners.

    I tried to explain to him that his expectations were unrealistic, and that the cover price of $24 was unrealistic, but he was so excited and proud, I didn’t have the heart to push it. I wished him luck as we disembarked.

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