Vanity publishing: a company that you pay to publish your book. Usually very shady and expensive, and their services are subpar. You take the risk.
Traditional publishing: a legitimate publishing company that offers you an advance for your book and makes money by selling your books. They take the risk.
Self-publishing: the author handles everything and publishes his manuscript on his own. He keeps the money.
Now that vocabulary time is over, allow me to tell you the seven deadly sins of vanity publishing.
Vanity publishers want one thing and one thing only: your money. They do not care about your book. They do not care that you spent years writing it. They want your money—and a large sum of it.
But they don’t stop with the publishing expense. Surprise! There are a ton of hidden fees. You didn’t know that editing was extra? It is. Will the editing be poor? Most likely. Also extra: marketing. They tell you they will market your book, but they don’t. Unless you count spamming your friends and family as marketing, which it is not.
Vanity publishers are lazy. They do not take the time to give your book the best care it deserves. It’s like a sweatshop: quantity over quality. Lazy and sweatshop sound like an oxymoron, so allow me to elaborate. They're slothful because something wonderful takes time, but they take the easy way out by acting as a publishing mill.
They’re called vanity publishers for a reason.
They want you to believe they are traditional publishers. They are not. They are too prideful to admit that what they're doing is conning the author.
Let me clear this up for you: if you have to pay a company to be published, then that company is not a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers give you an advance for your book and then make money by selling your books.
Vanity publishers don’t care how many of your books they sell, because they already got your money. Why do you think there are so many atrocious “self-published” books out there? Because vanity publishers don’t read them. They don’t care whether it’s good or not. You paid them. They have what they want, and they’re ready to go to the next person.
They lust after insecurity. If you’re a self-conscious author looking for your big break, they will tell you your book is the greatest thing they’ve ever read.
Except: they haven’t read it. Not at all.
They take their lust to an extreme level when they become possessive. If you've used a vanity publisher, you'll know that they'll tell you everything you want to hear to calm that gut feeling. Perhaps something like, "Those reviews online aren't true—it's just customers who broke their contracts and got mad."
Mandy Keef, fellow editor extraordinaire, perfectly summed this up when she said, “Vanity publishers can’t offer clients what larger publishers can, and they’re envious that the larger publishers get the better books. They want to be bigger so they’re willing to make sacrifices and take bottom-feeders to try to get there.”
Again, this goes back to acting as a publishing mill—quantity over quality.
They eat whatever money you have left by charging your to buy your own books when you published with them. 'Nough said.
When you call them out on their horrible editing, their outrageous fees, and their shady marketing, they become hostile. They’ll make you think you're an idiot. They'll say terrible things about the author in meetings. They’ll send out emails poking fun at the author. Except it’s not fun. It’s unprofessional.
Vanity publishers aren’t the only ones who experience wrath. So do your friends, because vanity publishers spam them to death. Oh, did I say that already?
So what do I recommend?
- Do your research. Just because a “traditional publisher” emails you wanting you to sign with them (for $4,000) doesn’t mean you do it. And by the way, that is not reality. I would say, 99.9% of the time, the agent/publisher will never email you.
- If you pay for anything, pay for print books. That’s obvious. Don’t pay a wannabe traditional publisher to publish your book and “market” it. You can do that yourself. All you need are the print books (or ebooks). You can do this through Amazon KDP Print or IngramSpark. That's what they're doing! They're just upcharging you! Yeah, for real.
- Use these lists as a guide. The first one is probably one of the better ones I’ve seen, because it shows the royalties for each POD company. Remember, WinePress doesn’t exist anymore. I do not suggest Lulu. Keep in mind that these lists include subsidy publishers, which I just explained I do not recommend.
3. Self-Publishing and Print-on-Demand (insanely in-depth)
If you want to self-publish, then do it! You don't need to pay someone to do that. Hire you own editor and designer, print with Amazon KDP or IngramSpark, and call it a day.
An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric marketer, Shayla Raquel works one-on-one with authors and business owners every day. A lifelong lover of books, she has edited over 300 books and has launched several Amazon bestsellers for her clients. Her award-winning blog teaches new and established authors how to write, publish, and market their books. She is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, The Rotting (in Shivers in the Night), and her novel-in-progress, The Suicide Tree. She lives in Oklahoma with her two dogs, Chanel and Wednesday.