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G&T co-ordinator sending children's poems to vanity press

(83 Posts)
UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 13:11:34

Maybe this should be in general Education, but it was the G&T person who instigated it, so...

Some of the children's poems, DD's included, were sent off to a company called Forward Press which advertises itself in schools. This was done without parental consent. The first we heard about it was when DD got a letter inviting us to buy a copy of the book, provided that we sign a copyright form for her poem's inclusion. They also sent a spurious certificate and some stickers.

Just wanted to warn everyone not to get involved with this. As a professional in the industry this kind of thing offends and worries me hugely - I am warning my students off this sort of outfit all the time.

They are a profit-making company, a borderline "vanity press". Your child's poem is not "published" if it gets into one of their shoddy "anthologies". They put in everything they are sent, and then market the book at an exorbitant £15.99 a copy for a poorly-produced paperback. Compare this with a normal paperback anthology on the high-street bookshelf - it's about twice the price.

You do not pay to get published, and you do not pay to "see your work in print". If you contribute to a book, you get a copy. One, at least. What Forward and others like them do is simply preying on parental pride and children's innocence.

If your school is approached by them, I strongly encourage you not to get involved.

Blandmum Sun 23-Mar-08 13:27:58

Sounds awful, what a rip off. And I would imagine that the pressure to buy a copy is quite intense, and many families would find it very hard to afford.

DoodleToYou Sun 23-Mar-08 13:33:55

Message withdrawn

seeker Sun 23-Mar-08 13:34:02

I have heard about this happening in other schools - and there wasn't a G and T element. Do you thing it would be a good idea to post the warnin again in general education, just in case ther are parents who don't read posts in the G and T section?

wheresthehamster Sun 23-Mar-08 15:00:36

Dd3's junior school selected 20 poems to appear in an anthology (Hertfordshire Young Laureates published by Young Writers). Naturally I snapped up 3 copies at a discount price of £10.99 each. grin

Yep - they saw me coming!

ecoworrier Sun 23-Mar-08 15:03:07

Oh, this happens everywhere, not just gifted & talented. To be vaguely fair, you do not have to buy a book for your child's poem to be included, but of course they are playing the emotional blackmail card and lots do pay up.

This even happens in secondary school, so it's not confined to parents of young children. Although my children did think they knew children whose poems hadn't 'been chosen' - I wasn't really convinced, I still think they take all submitted.

Vanity publishing all the way.

If for some reason any parent out there did want to buy a copy, for goodness sake make sure you club together with other parents - they always do some 'special' deal like buy 2 get one free, so if you clubbed together with 2 others at least you would only be ripped off to the tune of say £10-ish, rather than the full whack. Although I know parents who have bought lots of copies to give to grandparents...

I think the school gets a cut too, UQD- they did when DDs school did it anyway. It wasn't G & T, it was everyone write two poems, one is selected.
Like you, first we knew about it was when dd arrived home radiant, to say she was going to 'be in a book and so were all her friends.'

Yes, it is a rip off, yes parents are set up BUT worth the appalling price to see such pleasure in her work. I thought.

RosaIsRed Sun 23-Mar-08 15:25:09

Yes, we had this last year. It is infuriating, but of course we had to buy the bloody thing. I didn't even protest to the school because the children were so pleased and I didn't want to look like a killjoy.

chopchopbusybusy Sun 23-Mar-08 15:36:22

DDs school submitted poems for this a few years ago. The first the parents knew about it was when we received a letter in the post inviting us to order a copy of the book. Some parents created a real fuss about it and the school have not been involved since. I didn't buy the book,although many of DDs friends parents did.

IMO Primary School is one long parent-fleecing. At last parent's day we had to walk a gallery of child art to reach teacher's table which was equipped with jam jar of cash and sheet of red stickers to be stuck on purchased art as we exited. (Just to make sure that all unappreciated artists were thoroughly labelled for public viewing by lack of sticker.)
And every year we have had own-child-designed-mugs, teatowels, placemats, Christmas cards, calendars, all sent home by excited kids at very high prices. Not to mention the hideous school photos, class photos, sports photos, eco team photos...
And I won't even start on sponsoring.
So one book of poems v small beer in the grand scheme of things.

TheAntiFlounce Sun 23-Mar-08 15:46:08

The whole of ds1's reception class was 'published' in this - and the skeleton poem they were given to fill in was crap, tbh.

UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 15:50:16

"Young Writers"/"Young Laureates" are all part of Forward Press.

Does the school get a cut? I wasn't aware of that.

It still should not be encouraging this. It is not "worth it to see their pleasure at being published" - it isn't being published. Any more than appearing on one of those cheap-backdrop "sleigh ride" videos is "being on TV".

UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 15:54:27

I've emailed the company and also written to the head teacher about it. Here's the text of my email, addressed to the person the letter came from. It may be slightly over-pompous, but that's how I was feeling....
------------------------------------------

Dear Ms X,
Thank you for your letter of 17th March concerning my daughter [name]'s poem, which you say has been chosen for inclusion in a collection 'representing the best of the pupils' work'. I would like to make you aware of one or two points and to raise some questions.

This work was entered by the school without the prior knowledge or consent of parents. Had I been aware of the exact nature of the 'collection' I would not have consented to my daughter's participation.

I am a professional writer, tutor and consultant with 15 years' experience. I have had nine books published by major and leading independent publishers, have had work in several anthologies and am represented by a leading London agent. I have been a member of the Society of Authors since 1994. I am teaching my daughter that the way the industry works is that I provide a service, in return for which I am paid. With this in mind, I would like to establish what rate of advance and/or royalty you anticipate paying my daughter for the use of her work in your collection.

At the start of my career I was published in small press magazines and anthologies who could not afford a royalty because of their being small, non-profit-making enterprises. This is entirely fair and understandable. Contributors were, in this case, rewarded with a complimentary copy or two of the magazine or anthology in which they appeared. If this is the nature of your enterprise, I would be happy for you to clarify this - although the tone and content of your letter lead me to think that you are a profit-making company. It is completely unacceptable to ask contributors (or an adult on their behalf) to pay to see their own work in print - this makes you a borderline 'vanity press', and the kind of organisation which I continually direct my writing students to mistrust.

Increasingly, writers are being expected to work for nothing - with the kudos of publication or publicity itself being presented as some kind of reward in itself, and one which allegedly means that they do not need to be paid. The Society of Authors strongly resists this attitude and encourages writers to insist on a fair fee at all times. You would do well to remember this.

It is, I feel, morally dubious that you are encouraging children to send their work to you to be anthologised and then emotionally blackmailing parents to pay for copies. It is a standard industry practice, endorsed by the Society of Authors' and the Writers' Guild, that all writers (of whatever age) should be given at least one complimentary copy of the work in which their writing appears. If the work is published for a profit (and at an exorbitant £15.99 per copy it cannot be anything but), the writer should expect several complimentary copies.

I do not believe that you are in the business of encouraging young writers at all, but simply that of making money. Furthermore I have seen anthologies produced by Forward Press before, and found them to be extremely shoddily produced with poor-quality paper and blurred ink, and obviously containing every piece of work which they were sent (thus removing any element of competition or editorial quality control).

The copyright form will not be signed unless these concerns are addressed to my satisfaction. In the meantime I will encourage my daughter to direct her energies towards genuine competitions and publications.

Yours sincerely etc.

RosaIsRed Sun 23-Mar-08 15:55:33

I agree, UQD, but what are you supposed to say to your child when they want you to buy the bloody thing? No, I won't because your poem is rubbish and they are just in it for the money?

UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 15:56:56

I explained to mine that they should pay her for her work and that if they weren't prepared to do that they aren't worth dealing with. To be fair she is 7 and so understands this a bit better than your average 4-year-old would.

RosaIsRed Sun 23-Mar-08 15:57:05

Good letter, though.

You are right in principle UQD, I will admit, even though you misquoted me.

So now you had better get on to the long list of child exploiters in my last post. I suggest you start with the tea towels which are Very expensive.

Wait till you hit secondary school and get the ski trip letters!

UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 16:37:15

I agree, although the tea towels, mugs, etc don't do anything beyond what they say they are going to.

One main reason I take issue with the poem anthologies is that that they are presented as "being published". If they are, then contributors should get a free copy, and/or royalties. And if they don't intend to do this, then they should admit it's not publishing and not mislead.

Reallytired Sun 23-Mar-08 22:40:48

I think that a small amount of vanity publishing is not a bad idea, but I think schools and companies should be more honest.

Printing costs are far less than in the past. It would be possible for a school to pubish and bind a book at a much lower price. The school would get more money and the kids would not get ideas above themselves.

UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 23:43:43

I know of schools who have done their own.

Not sure what you mean by "ideas above themselves", reallytired! That wasn't quite my angle. I think it's the parents who are being deluded - kids don't really know.

I actually don't think any vanity publishing is a good idea.

madamez Sun 23-Mar-08 23:51:02

UQD, good for you! I too work in the publishing industry and have had a couple of books published, and as and when DS is old enough to have this sort of thing occur I will be telling him the same thing. I will also be writing to the school concerned to suggest that it would be a lot better to simply publish an anthology of the children's writings themselves (via something like Lulu.com) and include a cut for the school if they like ie present it as a bit of a fundraiser etc.
I hate vanity publishers and have often advised people to avoid them. Vanity publishers once cost me a relationship

edam Sun 23-Mar-08 23:52:53

You are quite right, UQD. It's the dishonesty that bothers me - if they were upfront and presented as 'pay £x to have a nice copy of Year 2's poems professionally bound and printed' that would be fair enough.

Mind you, I had to endure an hour long lecture from a distant American in-law yesterday on the novel-what-he-has-wrote-and-is-having-vanity-published. He very kindly offered to send us a copy... was worth it to see his face when, after 90 minutes, dh dropped into conversation what I do for a living, though. grin

UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 23:53:31

I composed a letter to the head at the same time suggesting that very thing - although not via Lulu as I consider them to be a bit dodgy too!

UnquietDad Sun 23-Mar-08 23:55:27

Edam, I feel your pain - I teach aspiring novelists and have met a few who have gone down this route...

What irritates me is that vast swathes of the general public just don't see the problem. They don't see the difference.

edam Mon 24-Mar-08 00:00:12

I think writing is like teaching. Teachers often complain that every one thinks they know what happens in schools because we've all been pupils. Equally everyone believes they can write because they sat there in English and learnt c-a-t.

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