Just to make myself ornery, I spent a little time this morning looking at this phenomenon. I found dozens of publishing houses and a whole support system of book pumping PR sites that sell you virtual “book tours.” And these books get on Amazon, often with, yes, dozens of puff customer reviews. Some people will be successful with this alternative to traditional publishing. Few, I suspect. Very few. But this is another sign of the (end) times and a spin-off of the digital publishing trend.
Vanity presses have existed for decades, but technology has made it much easier for aspiring authors to publish without hefty upfront costs. Gone are the days when self-publishing meant paying a printer to produce hundreds of copies that then languished in a garage.
Now, for as little as $3, an author can upload a manuscript or collection of photos to a Web site, and order a printed book within an hour. Many books will appear for sale on Amazon.com or the Web site of Barnes & Noble; others are sold through the self-publishing companies’ Web sites. Authors and readers order subsequent copies as needed.