Vanity Publishers, a good fit for you or not?

Vanity publishers have also known as subsidy publishers or vanity press are different from a mainstream publication. It’s an established fact that it’s hard to get noticed by traditional publishers. J.K. Rowling was turned down by 12 publishers when final Bloomsbury decided to give her a chance. After a certain number of rejections authors might find the process of getting published exhausting. Previously looked down and frowned upon self-publishers and vanity publisher’s start looking appealing now. Even when it is certain that no traditional publisher will ever touch your manuscript, you should still stop and ponder which way to go. It is important to know the difference between self-publication and vanity publishers.

Self-publication vs vanity publishers

Self-publication is a suitable option when traditional publishers are not willing to risk publishing your work but you are certain it’s worth a shot. You can pay your way to get published, and that’s ok. Many well-known authors, like Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain, initially took the route. This way you pay for all and any services you get from proofreading to marketing. This way you get a better hold of what you get to keep in your manuscript and also greater share in proceeds. However, this could backfire too, for example, Mark Twain’s business of self-publishing went bankrupt.

With vanity publishers, it’s different. It’s expensive. They offer no editorial or designing facilities. You are on your own in marketing and advertisement. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. The inexperience of Peter Finch, a Welch author, historian, and poet, employing vanity press is not only expensive but also damages the author’s chances to be published by any reputable press in future.

So what floats the boat for vanity publishers?

It was originally targeted towards the market of author’s who wrote and wanted to get published out of vanity. They just didn’t care about the quality of work. Mostly these author’s didn’t wish to make a living out of their books. They were already rich and famous people, who planned to give away most of their copies free, as gifts, as publicity tools, or something to boast about later in life.

Mostly, former showbiz stars, public speakers, sportsmen, and other celebrities publish their writings through a vanity press. They do not need bookshops to stock up their books to sell. Their books are often sold at temporary book stalls set up during their public speaking or meet and greet events. A large portion of their books is sold online on their websites. They do not care for being grammatically correct nor do they need to invest in publicizing their books. Their name is enough to persuade the fans to buy their books and forego the grammatical errors. All they need is a glossy cover and fine pages. Writing could be shallow and words could be misspelled, still, they will sell and earn money for the author.

What went wrong with the vanity press?

Sometimes, authors, who seek to write professionally and make a living through it, dishearten by multiple rejections from traditional press, turn to vanity publication. Obviously, self-publication or hybrid publication would have been a better option for them, but out of sheer naivety, they turn to the wrong side of the press. Some vanity publishers fully aware of the wrong choice the author is making, take advantage of his inexperience and publish him anyway. Costing thousands of dollars to the author, he is left with a ridiculously large number of copies and nowhere to sell them. Such deceptive practices towards desperate authors earned a bad name to vanity publishers. A few greedy publishers made people skeptical towards the entire vanity press community.

Interestingly, it rose suspicion even towards the self-publishing publishers and hybrid publishers, leaving traditional publishers as the only trustworthy party. But again, not everyone gets accepted by traditional publishers, in fact, very few first-time writers are published by them.

While many have serious doubts in regards to vanity publication, and some go as far as regarding it as a scam, this is not the case. Vanity publication is just not for everyone and especially not for a first-time author hoping to make a living out of it. It is all about knowing which publisher’s policy will be more suitable to you and your circumstances.

Another more agreeable form of a vanity press is print on demand publication. This type of publishers only print the number of copies author requests and do not hold any claims on the intellectual property of the author. This way an author can budget according to the risk he is willing to take and experiment with the market, publishing more copies later if the feedback from consumers is promising.