So, we’ve been discussing Jeff’s awesome History of Fail in terms of rejection letters I’ve gotten along the way to my stunning … is “success” the word we’re using? Anyway, yes: Rejections. I have many. This one actually isn’t a rejection. And it made me very angry. And if you’ve ever met me, you know it’s really difficult to make me angry. Like, people have stabbed me and I’m all like “Oh, no worries.”
If you were submitting novels to every single listing in the Writer’s Digest back in the Day, you probably came across Vantage Press. Founded in 1949, sued for millions in 1990, they finally shuttered in 2012 and were for a time the most recognizable and well-known “vanity” publisher, or subsidy publisher. This was in the Dark Times before POD and easy eBook self-publishing, you see, and it worked like this:
- 17-year old Jeff mails a photocopy of his novel Cravenhold (previously discussed) to Vantage Press via the listing in the Writer’s Market, which does not mention the words “vanity” or “subsidy”.
- Jeff receives the following letters, informing him a) they love the novel and want to publish it! b) it will only cost Jeff $14, 675 to do so [the fact that I would be paying them and the actual amount wasn’t in the letter; it was in the contract] ! c) wait, what?
Why yes, I *am* pleased.
That’s right: A mere $15,000 (that’s about $30,000 in 2015 dollars, BTW) and my book would be published! Along with this list of absolutely hilarious promotional efforts:
“Study additional promotional steps after publication.” UH, *sure*.
Yes, an advertising announcement not in The New York Times, but the “The New York Times”! And they will “suggest” “autograph parties” (what in bloody hell is an “autograph party?)! But the best is the “Production Specifications” section at the bottom, which assures me the trim size will be “about” 6×9, and that it will be printed on “quality” paper.
I mean, seriously. That this place operated for more than 60 years is a crime. I was 17 but not stupid, so I wrote them back a nasty letter telling them to return my manuscript or I would burn their place of business down. And this is what I got in response:
Just THIRTY THREE easy monthly payments of $350.
Yup – a fucking discount. They were sorry to hear I wasn’t incredibly stupid, or rich, or both, so they generously double-tapped me by suggesting I was so fucking talented, they could swing publication for just $11,675, saving me $3,000 over the suckers who didn’t bitch and moan. Even better is the suggestion that I could make monthly payments of $350 and they “would work on your book as we received the payments” so my book would publish three years later.
Oh this was rich. So I wrote a second letter demanding they return the manuscript or I would show up at their offices and perform the Daffy Duck Gasoline Trick He Can Do But Once, and they finally relented and returned my manuscript … but included this final gem of passive aggression:
“we do believe it would be worthwhile for you to make the effort.”
Holy hell. “You might be one of the fortunate few.”
I mean, seriously: My fault for not knowing any better, but assholes like this are why people think publishers are evil gatekeepers. Don’t worry; a few years later in 1990 they were successfully sued and ordered to pay $3.5 million to 2,200 authors who had paid them for services that were never actually performed, and the business moved to Massachusetts. Still, they stayed somehow in business for another twenty-two years, and apparently when they closed up shop they left a lot of authors in the lurch. Just goes to show: I’m dumb, but I ain’t that dumb.