The most prestigious event in the UK publishing calendar, the London Book Fair, welcomes predatory operators with open arms, deliberately positions them opposite author events for extra cash, and then helps to whitewash their reputation – even running misleading interviews and puff pieces on its own website to help them get more leads.
I’ve been campaigning against vanity presses and author exploitation for five years now, and one thing that became apparent is the key role of book fairs and industry events in this mess.
Vanity presses are always keen to appear at these events because it:
- lends their seamy enterprise an air of legitimacy to inexperienced authors who don’t know better;
- gives them direct access to a pool of newbie writers attending the events; and,
- creates an opportunity to sell various products to their users such as book signing services and book display packages costing thousands of dollars.
I’ve written previously for the Alliance of Independent Authors about how worthless book display services are a lucrative part of these events, and how they are mis-sold to inexperienced writers.
I’ve also written here about how book signing scams are a major source of income for vanity presses like Author Solutions (and a major source of heartache for the authors paying thousands of dollars and seeing little in return). While these articles have created awareness, not one of these events has taken action.
We aren’t talking about fly-by-night operators here – these are established, prestigious events like the Miami Book Fair or the LA Times Festival of Books. Most shockingly of all, the London Book Fair goes further than any of them.
On Tuesday, I wrote about a despicable trend: UK vanity presses who are shamelessly passing themselves off as legitimate trade publishers and only hitting authors with the news that they have to pay-to-play, and the (considerable) bill, when it comes to signing contracts.
One of the comments to that piece was particularly worrying:
Austin Macauley had a booth at LBF last year right in front of the Author HQ (I know, why would the good folks at LBF turn down a vanity publisher’s money, eh?), with one “publisher”, and 3, well… we decided to call them “booth babes”, holding a bunch of flyers and handing them to every passer by.
They basically combine all the cliches of a dodgy business — but the problem is that a lot of people will fall for these, and places like LBF keep putting them front and centre in their “self-publishing HQ.”
I was at the London Book Fair in 2013. The Author HQ is, like the name suggests, the focal point for writers at an event which is more geared towards publishers (and those providing services to publishers). Most of the author-focused events take place in that HQ area, and the passageways around it are where writers generally congregate. It’s probably the most heavily trafficked part of the fair (aside from the agents’ champagne bar).
And that’s where the organizers of the London Book Fair put vanity press Austin Macauley – the same one I wrote about on Tuesday which is masquerading as a trade publisher.
Could this have been an accident? Continue reading