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This report is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Vanity Publishing Michael Schmidt

On 19 July 1996 an article by Johnathon Clifford entitled 'The Window-dressers' appeared in The Bookseller. Clifford, author of Vanity Publishers: Marketing, the Facts and the Fiction, is concerned that the statutory bodies (and the courts themselves) whose task it is to protect the public against misleading and false statements by advertisers, do not sufficiently protect us against the claims of vanity publishers. Poetry publishers are familiar with the submission letter which begins: 'My poems were accepted for publication by_______Press, but I could not afford the price they asked. How much do you charge?'

On 14 June, after a three year battle, one client of a publisher (Excalibur) got back her £2,100, plus £70 costs, because the book produced by the press was 'of such poor quality that it is unsaleable'. So long a road to so modest a victory: Clifford in the Guardian described it as 'a small beginning' and soon had over a hundred victims of vanity presses telling him their unhappy histories: 'They all related to claims made in the companies' standard promotional material which eventually proved to be lacking in substance and foundation'. Now that the Advertising Standards Authority has issued an 'Advice Note, Vanity Publishers', enjoining such publishers to be 'honest' and 'truthful' in their claims and promises, Mr Clifford wonders how it is that honesty and truthfulness are not first on those publishers' lists of concerns.

Even PN Review receives submissions from individuals who expect to pay for publication: ...

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