by Victoria StraussHere's an email solicitation currently doing the rounds, from Linda Joy, President and Founder of Aspire Media Inc., and Publisher and Editor of Aspire Magazine:
Will 2010 be YOUR year to embrace your wisdom, step forward and claim your dream of being a published author? If you answered YES then YOU may be one of the over 40 co-authors that I, along with my team of experts, will be working with this spring to bring your collective wisdom to the world!... Now, in a personal project of mine I will bring the same passion and commitment that I've brought to Aspire, to bring YOUR story, wisdom and insights as a co-author in my upcoming anthology: A Juicy, Joyful Life: Inspiration from Women who have Found the Sweetness in Every DayThe email includes a link, the clicking of which takes you to Inspired Living Publishing, publisher of the above-referenced anthology, first in the Inspired Living series. Here, "inspired, engaged entrepreneur[s]" who are "ready to move forward with the vision for your business and your desire to be a published author" can sign up for "updates on this exciting new opportunity." The update comes in the form of another email from Ms. Joy, with a link that whisks you to a different Inspired Living Publishing page--and here's where we get down to the nitty gritty.
"Imagine the words...Published Author *...printed underneath YOUR name on YOUR business card. *...being spoken as YOU are introduced as the key-note speaker in front of a full audience *...as you introduce yourself to a potential client. You’ve thought about it, envisioned it and NOW it’s time to ACT on it… It’s no coincidence that you’ve attracted this opportunity! You have been waiting for the divine opportunity to become a published author – one that is in alignment with your vision and that is with a well-respected brand in women’s inspirational publishing.Let's leave aside for the moment the question of whether Ms. Joy's Aspire Media--which consists of an online magazine with a claimed circulation of 42,000, and a series of conference events in the New England area--is indeed a "well-respected brand in women's inspirational publishing," and concentrate on the "divine opportunity." There isn't actually much writing involved--all you need to produce is a 1,200-word story. Ms. Joy and her "team of experts" will then create the book, and provide "a variety of information products" to help you promote and sell it. It's a tried and true business model, Ms. Joy claims, that has been used before with great success--in fact, it's "the same business model that Mark Victor Hansen used to create the Chicken Soup for the Soul series." Well. Actually, not so much. Chicken Soup contributors receive $200 and 10 free books. For Inspired Living contributors, the money flows in the opposite direction. They can pay $5,497 for an "Ultimate Platform Building Package" (450 books, their name on the cover and a bio in the back, ebooks and CDs, plus a press release and assorted promotional items of dubious effectiveness) or $3,697 for a "Launch Your Brand Package" (300 books, a bio only, ebooks and CDs, and fewer promotional items than the more expensive package), or even $2,197 for an "Aspiring Author Package" (150 books, a bio, and nothing else). Writers who want to get in on this not-so-amazing deal must sign up for a 30-minute phone conference with Ms. Joy. Ostensibly, this is to narrow down the field of aspiring writers (writers must first fill out a fairly detailed questionnaire, including such questions as "What would it mean to you, both personally and professionally to be part of a best selling anthology?"), but mostly, I'm guessing, it's to sell potential contributors on the idea of paying several thousand dollars for a slot in a vanity anthology. I wonder if Ms. Joy is aware of another, nearly identical vanity anthology scheme that I did a writeup on a couple of years ago--the Wake Up...Live the Life You Love series. There, too, you can have your 1,200-word article included in an anthology, and pay from $2,700 to $5,500 for a few hundred books and some publicity materials. The come-ons for the Wake Up books tout them as "best-sellers," but this claim is not exactly supported by their Amazon sales rankings, which in most cases are 1 million and higher. Of course, with such books, the public is only an incidental consumer; the target audience is the books' authors. Whereas the Wake Up books are a long-running franchise, the Inspired Living series seems to be Ms. Joy's first venture into vanity anthologizing. But the bottom line is the same: The real "opportunity" in such schemes is not for the contributors, who must hustle their own books and who receive little meaningful support in doing so, but for the publisher, whose profit is assured before the anthology is ever printed.