The Vanity Press

StinkI wonder if the vanity press still succeeds as a business model?

I realise that vanity is still popular – I’ve met too many authors to discount that – and I have my own gold-flecked supply of the emotion myself. But I wonder if the combination of the website and the weblog have siphoned off the pressure that once drove writers to the small presses. For some of us I don’t think we even contemplate the printed page any more beyond a bound book of holiday snaps.

I’ve been involved in three vanity ventures in my time as illustrator. My cartoons are simple enough things but they appealed to a couple of friends who were writing their life stories and I got to feature on the covers as well as inside the books. There was little investment on my part other than the time for the artwork and equally little return from the sales of the books but I got to be seen on the shelves and a couple of drinks out of it so I was happy.

This photo blog and my other general blog let me soap box where I will and release any tensions that might otherwise result in a Great Australian Novel or Scurrilous Pamphlet That Foments Revolution. It is probably safer that way. I do not have to face a contemptuous publisher or a venal agent or an angry bookseller and you do not have to read anguished rhetoric or tortured poetry. It also allows you to screen capture my images, clean them up, and repost them as your own. All my watermarks rub off.

I did note a recent experience of a friend trying for a good photo-book publisher and it rather frightened me. He got caught with a publisher that made a mess of his work and would have made a mess of the financial aspect of the book if it had continued. He foundĀ another firm to print in the end but it was a salutary lesson to see those first offerings. This was business and the technical aspect of the printing – his work was not vain, nor was he. It was glorious stuff.

But I am still left wondering if there are little presses out there making little booklets full of big thoughts. Perhaps they are too afraid of legal troubles these days…I must remember to cruise the remainder tables at Polyester in Brunswick St. With a pair of tongs.

Late Note for Melburnians: Polyester, dear old sleazy Polyester, is set to close the doors at the end of this month. Get over there quickly and lay in a supply of smut while you can.

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