Avoiding Vanity Publishers

Last month, my mom mentioned to me that her friend’s daughter had just published a book. She paid $3000 to have it done, and now it was on Amazon for $18 IN PAPERBACK. Wow! All I could think of is that this woman had found a vanity press to “make her an author.” With the relative “ease” of becoming an author today with Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace (among others), I hadn’t really thought much about vanity presses.

And the funny thing is that a week or so later, the topic turned up on another blog I help promote through Triberr. The author wrote about Vanity Presses as her letter V topic in the A to Z challenge.  (Check it out for seven signs of a vanity publisher.)

So, I don’t want to assume everyone knows the difference between a traditional publishing house and a vanity press, here is the difference.

With a traditional publishing house, they take all the chances on you and your manuscript. They pay for the printing, cover design, layout, editing and any other cost of publishing the book and distributing it to book stores and online retailers. The author pays NOTHING.

A vanity press, on the other hand, will often offer to “help” you get your book printed by guiding you through the system for a PRICE. You PAY them for editing, using their cover designer, for printing the book and distributing it. And often, you still pay them a percentage of the sales.

I am sure many authors in their quest to be published run into vanity publishers. Basically, if a place promises to help you get published but want to charge YOU for it, then you have run into a vanity publisher. My advice is to say no, thanks and walk away from these businesses. Even if they are not a scam to get your money, you are better off either continuing to look for a true publishing house that believes in you or go the self-publishing route.

Now, be careful as some vanity presses promote themselves as out to “help” you become self-published through them. If their names appear on the cover or inside of your book, you have not self-published. When you self-publish, you are in charge and are publishing under your own name or company name, not someone else’s.

And even worse is having to watch out for scam artists who will take your money and leave you with nothing. If anyone is charging you for your copyright, don’t do it.  (Your book is already copyrighted as soon as you wrote it though you can choose to register it if you want.) Other key words to look for – joint venture, subsidy or offering to be your partner.

If you see a publisher advertising for authors (or to include people in an anthology), it is probably a vanity publisher as major publishing houses NEVER have to advertise for authors. Heck, they get way too many submissions as it is to even read but a percentage of the query letters and sample chapters.

My suggestion of course is to run as far away from a vanity publisher as possible. You shouldn’t have to pay someone to print your book (and you shouldn’t be listing it for $18 on Amazon either.) Either continue looking for a real publisher or go ahead and become an independent author and do it yourself.


3 thoughts on “Avoiding Vanity Publishers

  1. Joan Lindgren says:

    Very good information.

  2. Susan – Thanks for linking my post to yours. Not everyone who has an open submission for anthologies are vanity publishers. If they are not sharing in the profits but are however combing the bundle, marketing it, and in general being a project manager, that is not the same thing. A vanity press will ask for $$ for doing all these things and demand a share of the profits. I try many ways to help authors market themselves and I am a firm believer in cross-promotion between authors – my call for submissions to be included in multiple box sets was done in an effort to help authors build their community and reader bases, with manuscripts already published, not to take money from authors and all the profits of a box set. If you think this is a vanity type offer I would be interested in knowing it.

    Again, thanks for linking to my rant against vanity presses.

  3. Alex Hurst says:

    oooo…. that was cringe-worthy! That poor author. 😦 Always do your research on publishing houses! Even the ones that DON’T charge you to get published through them!

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