Tag Archives: Contests

Vanity Depressed

Today, I received the below email from a well-known organization that reviews children’s books:

Dear Judy Dykstra-Brown,

Thank you for your interest in XXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Unfortunately, we can’t review books from vanity presses like CreateSpace*. For more of our submission guidelines, please see our website here: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

XXXXXXXXXX
Editorial Assistant
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

*note from Judy: CreateSpace is a company within Amazon that aids self-publishing authors in formatting,, printing and distributing their books.

My feelings about being labeled a “vanity press” author will be best expressed by displaying here the letter I wrote back to the assistant who had written the letter:

Dear XXXXXXXX,

I thank you for your prompt reply to my inquiry.

Although I certainly understand your reasons for not wanting to consider privately published material, I would like to bring one matter to your attention.

I have been writing for over 50 years. I have written and published three books, published nearly 40 articles in print and online magazines, won a national first prize for my poetry, edited a poetry journal and now coordinate a popular poetry series. I am in the process of having five more children’s books illustrated and working on a novel and two poetry anthologies. In my early career, I taught literature and writing for ten years and edited a teenage poetry anthology.

I mention these facts to explain why I feel it is an insult to have my decision to publish my own work called a “vanity”. Certainly, I am aware of the term, just as I am aware of other racial and physically derogatory terms that were once considered the norm but which in an enlightened age have come to be recognized as insulting and prejudicial.

May I ask your group to consider not using the term “vanity press” as a blanket term for self-published material?

I thank you for your efforts to reward excellent work in the field of children’s literature.

Best Regards,
Judy Dykstra-Brown

I would be most interested in other bloggers’ thoughts about this matter. Is blogging, also, considered just another “vanity” means of expression? I know that a great deal of status is attached to being published by a recognized publishing company, but do all writers who choose another path deserve to have their efforts considered as mere vanity? Is that our main goal?  Is that what we deserve to be labelled as?  Is it too much to ask to be labelled as what in truth we are—self-published?

Frida Kahlo had two gallery exhibitions in her entire lifetime. One of her paintings just sold for 5 million dollars!!! Were her artistic endeavors, in her lifetime, mere vanities? What of Van Gogh? Or Emily Dickinson? Only a few of Franz Kafka’s works were published during his lifetime. Johann Sebastian Bach was widely known as an organist, but his fame as a composer occurred after his death. Henry David Thoreau could not find a publisher for many of his works.

Certainly, I am no Emily Dickinson or Henry David Thoreau, and those who go through the rigors and humiliations of trying to find an agent and publisher certainly deserve plaudits for possessing determination as well as talent. I admit that I have neither the inclination nor the energy to jump through the hoops necessary to find a “legitimate” publisher. I just want to write, and I will not accept the label of “vanity” being attached to my writing.

Yes, I am proud of my efforts in doing all of the work myself that a publisher and editor normally do. Yes, I am proud of the fact that I have continued to write for 50 years with very little monetary recompense. But I don’t think my need to be heard is prompted by vanity any more than the determination of professionally published authors is.  We write because we need to write. It is a drive and what, in my case, gives meaning to my life. If that is vanity, then long live vanity! But please say it behind my back—not as an official representative of your guild or company or association or library or agency or board of merit.

Now I will climb down off my soapbox and get back to work on what I do for love, not vanity. If I’ve struck a chord, please add your voice to my protest by publishing your comments on my blog.