Vanity Publishers – A rant

 Ok, so as I was doing my daily round of soul destroying book promoting on Facebook I stumbled across a group where a fellow was proudly boasting that he had landed a publishing deal.

Living the dream? or…

Well done I thought, that’s someone living the dream right there, but pretty quickly my happiness for this author turned to one of annoyance and dare I say it anger. For you see dear reader this publisher was not a proper publisher at all but instead a vanity press (shudder).

What is a Vanity Publisher?

According to Wikipedia- ‘A vanity press, vanity publisher, or subsidy publisher is a term describing a publishing house in which authors pay to have their books published. Additionally, vanity publishers have no selection criteria as opposed to other “hybrid” publishing models. The term appears in mainstream U.S. publications as early as 1941.’

When I was first starting out as a writer I did a bit of research into publishing and at the time my younger more naive self contacted a company that seemed to offer the world. In reality, the company was a vanity press. After making initial contact with said press I was then harassed on a weekly basis by someone urging me to sign up with them, great you may think, but alas when I did some digging into the fine print I discovered that in order for them to publish my work I would have to pay them thousands of my own money for the privilege. It’s basically like me going to work and then paying my employer to use my work.


Jo Herbert’s piece on the Writers & Artists website sums it up nicely: ‘Authors owe it to themselves to be very clear on one point – traditional publishers never ask the author for ‘a contribution’. Traditional publishers only take on work they believe is worth investing their own money in, confident it’ll make a return when the book hits the shelves. Indeed, this is precisely the reason (or one of) it’s so difficult for new authors to get published. The publisher has to be sure that the book will sell.

Vanity publishers are cunning. They know many authors will be worn down by rejection. They know the elation authors will feel to finally receive a glowing report about their manuscript. However, once you’ve signed your name on the dotted line, the vanity publisher will take your manuscript, take your money and print several (usually poor quality) copies of your book. They won’t consult you and they won’t offer any help marketing or distributing the book. The vanity publisher isn’t interested in selling copies of the book, it doesn’t need to – they’ve already made their profit from the hefty ‘contribution’ fee they charged the author.’

Writers need to stop

The only reason these companies exist in the first place is because they prey on naive and foolish writers. Those that pay these scammers are giving these companies the means to exist in the first place. If you want to see your work in print then for the love of god do not pay for the privilege! Self-publishing allows you to achieve that goal without having to cost you a penny! (Paying for cover art and editing is optional but advised), but even if you do pay for those, chances are high that you will pay a hell of a lot less than if you used a vanity publisher.

The worst part is that writers who give these crooks so much cash actually think that the vanity publisher will actively promote and sell their books…sorry but that isn’t the case. Often they still demand the author to do all of their own marketing. Just look at the Amazon rankings for people who have gone down this route. Their books often languish at the bottom.

Would you use a vanity publisher? Have any tips to expose and avoid them? If so post them in the comments.

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