An Opportunity for Vanity

‘But then you’d be published!’

This is a quote from a young man that I chatted with a few weeks ago when he came and saw my art booth out at the Edward’s Greenhouse evening market. Is that, being published, the height and aim of an art career? Is it a stepping stone to becoming well know and filthy rich? Perhaps for some it gives the feeling of validation, of having another item for their Artist Resume, of being able to proudly proclaim to gallery owners that they are a published artist and obviously deserve the respect of their work that they so desperately want.

Or, perhaps being a ‘published artist’ isn’t all glory and power over galleries some might think.

I recently was contacted (by email) by ‘Best of Artists and Kennedy Publishing’ and they were very excited to tell me that I’ve been selected (make that pre-approved) to be included in the Best of Worldwide Charcoal, Pastel and Pencil Artists Volume I art book competition. Evidently they went to my website, and decided they like two of my pieces – Lanterns and Objectivity. They then go on to say that ‘If you choose to enter the competition you have been juried in and are guaranteed a TWO PAGE FULL COLOR LAYOUT of your artwork (a total of 2- 4 images) plus your contact information and /or gallery representation in the book. ‘

Pretty sweet deal! What else do I get…

‘You will receive a TWO PAGE FULL COLOR LAYOUT of your artwork (a total of 2-4 images) in the beautiful Best of Worldwide Artists Volume I book, your contact information in the book, you will be listed in a special international section in our new on-line US Visual Art Guide (www.usvisualartguide.com), a permanent listing on Bestofartists.com (BOAA), inclusion in the online PDF copy of the book viewable on BOAA indefinitely and a preview jpg of your pages prior to printing. Also your artwork will be in the running for the front and back covers. Our previous books have sold thousands of copies in the United States and abroad and have been used by artists to promote their work to galleries, collectors and museums.’

Wait, I thought I was suppose to be printed in the Charcoal, Pastel and Pencil book, now I’m getting in this other book? Which book am I going in? And both of these are a volume I? Interesting. Lots of things, I must be feeling flattered at this point and ready to shell out some cash. And it’s not that much cash either…

So there’s a ‘competition fee’. With that ‘fee’ you can enter up to 10 high res images, the two they liked that they mentioned before plus 8 others. Entry fees are normal for competitions except that as they stated – I’ve already been juried in.

It turns out that fee is used to publish the book. Wait, what? Don’t legitimate publishers absorb all of the publishing costs, marketing, printing, editing, and so on AND then pay the author for using their material? Publishing companies make their money by selling books, not by *printing* them. Why are they telling me that I’m paying to get this printed? And on top of that they make no mention of me, who is giving them the PRIVILEGE of including my work in their book, of getting any books for free to give out perhaps to gallery owners or to have at shows. No, the book costs another $39. And you can only order it from a very select list of vendors. And you can guess that doesn’t mean anywhere anyone goes to buy books.

This is what they write in the email, and I will give them credit for being honest and upfront about it, even though it is misleading:

‘Why the entry fee? Despite our unique selection process we are still a publishing/promotion company hosting competitions. We also must incur all the creative, editorial, layout and design costs that go into the publishing, distribution and promotion of a beautiful two volume book. ‘

As it should be, except they don’t pay for it at all, they make their authors pay for that. They say that it is about a 400 page book and if every artist gets 2 full pages and each pay a minimum of $40 plus another $39 to just get their hands on the book? I think you get the idea. I think I do too.

They are a Vanity Press and using one does no favors to anyone (except the ‘publisher’) and most definitely not the authors who publish through them. In fact legit publishers will be quite cautious, not that they aren’t all ready overly cautious when choosing book to print, when considering you when they know that you’ve gone the Vanity Press route.

After I got the email trying to sell me on the idea I went and looked them up to see what I could find. There are forums asking about these people and their Best of Artist books and the consensus that I’m seeing is that these types of books are a bad idea. Agents tell their artists that these books will not result in sales, other say that you can spend your $40 in a much better way to advertise yourself/your work, and that these people (who knows if this is a scam) will have a bunch of high resolution scans of your work to do with as they please. And note that copyright doesn’t mean a thing to some people, I’ve heard of people using books like that to get ‘inspiration’ where they basically steal your work and change it just enough so that you can’t take them to court over it.

I had another reason, now what was it?

Oh yes, I also went and looked at their websites for the Best of Artist people and for the books themselves and those websites I can tell you are *very* template-y. As in it looks like they spent 5 minutes grabbing a template off a template-mill site and propped it up and pretend like it’s a legit site. Very dubious about that. Not professional or respectable looking at all and I know what I’m talking about having been making websites since I was 12. I also went and looked up this publisher this afternoon and they talk about how you can get anything you want published for a fee. They don’t come out and say it of course but that is a classic Vanity Press. They have been in existence since 2005, or so says their website. I doubt very much that they are respected in the hard-core art world, or by gallery owners. One other thing someone brought up in the forums was the question of ‘who is going to buy these books?’ And it’s not like we the artists, who are basically the authors here, are getting any royalties for letting them use our work. These books aren’t on Amazon, or any other big retailer where any normal human-being is going to be shopping. No, you basically can only order them through the publisher’s website and you can bet that most of those sales are going to be from the artists themselves that are featured in that book.

It’s like those ‘Who’s Who of America’ books they try to make you pay to get your name in.

At least someone figured out how to make money in this economy. Kudos for that. Just not with my money, thankyou. I’m afraid becoming a ‘published artist’ in this manner doesn’t interest me at all. Oh, and I sent them an email tonight asking how many free books I’d get if I participated in this. Stay tuned to see if they even respond. Which they probably will and tell me that I can get a book if I give them more money.

And if you don’t believe me go look up the definition of Vanity Press. Or just go to this link: http://www.answers.com/topic/vanity-press

– Kathryn Koozer

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