Writing Done Right
Summary: Vanity Press prays on new authors who do not understand all the elements of book distribution for these reasons.

Related Software

Related Affiliates

Vanity Press is a publishing gimmick where you pay a company to design and publish your books. This method of publishing is the worse way to go for publishing your books for the many reasons we will discuss in this article.

The word 'vanity' means to express pride in yourself; not in a good way, but in a way that reeks of arrogance. 'Vanity Press' is like the old concept of 'adulterated cheese' (that is what the cheese industry used to refer to Velveeta), in that in the publishing industry of the past, if a person was not 'good enough' to be published by a traditional publisher, they would just pay a lot to have their book in print. From that difficult seed was actually the start of the self-publishing industry that is a very good option for most authors today.

The Types of Publishing

Before we dive into the issues of vanity press, let's define the ways we can publish books today.

  1. Traditional: In this publishing scheme, a company accepts your book for print and does all the work to bring the book to the market without cost to you, and in fact, they will often pay you an up front advance for your book based on the number of sales your book is anticipated to generate. If you are a huge author, they will share the burden of marketing, but usually you are on your own with driving book sales. While you can get paid up front, the downsides are the royalties are typically much lower (you are splitting them with the company), you need an agent to represent you (and they get another cut), and it usually takes a long time to bring the book to the market.
  2. Indie: Indie press are small publishers. They will not charge you the production cost, but will not pay you an advance either. The royalties can be a little better than traditional publishing and you can publish with or without an agent. Books come to the market faster, but typically have little marketing (depending on the company).
  3. Self-Publish: This is when the author of the book is also the publisher. In this scenario, the royalties are generally not split up unless the author does a royalty deal for the cover art or typesetting. The books come to the market the fastest in this publishing type, but the author has to either produce the book or pay someone to produce it. This resource exists to help you learn this step if you want to save some money and tackle these tasks yourself.
  4. Vanity Press: Vanity press takes all the worst of all the worlds and combines them into one pricey package. In this setup, the author pays the company up front for all the cost of production, but then also shares the royalties with the company, who usually takes more royalty than the author gets for each sale. They also do not market the book unless you purchase an extra package, and even then, it is not marketing that really generates sales that an author can do on their own.

What is Wrong with Vanity Press

These are the reasons you will not want to consider vanity publishing.

  1. Cost: It typically costs over $1500 for a simple package that includes the ISBN, Cover, Typesetting, and eBook. It will list the book with all the major retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but unless they sell thousands of books, an indie author cannot recover the high costs of vanity publishing.
  2. Low Royalties: When someone buys your book, there is a royalty associated with it. In traditional publishing, the royalty is calculated by the sale price of the book minus the cost to produce, minus a retail cut. The rest is only a few dollars on a $12 book. In my experience, a vanity publisher takes between 30-60% of that which remains, meaning my first book profited me only $1.30 per book I sold, much lower than the $3.50 I make per book now publishing on my own.
  3. Expensive Inventory: When your book is listed with a vanity publisher, you need to pay a lot of money to receive a copy of the book. What you are really paying them for is the cost plus their commission on the front end. So my book that retailed at $12 would cost me over $8 per personal copy. But when you are publishing your own book, the fees are only the cost to print and ship the book, which hovers around $3.50 for each 35,000 word copy.
  4. Low Quality: Despite the high fees, a vanity publisher spares every expense in bringing your book to the market. They will generally outsource the production of the book to the lowest bidder and return a book is of mediocre quality. Of course, to a young author, anything with your name on the title looks impressive, but do not be fooled into lower quality service at a premium price tag.

What is an Author to Do?

My advice to any new author is to learn. Take the time to get some feedback. Perhaps interview an agent or two and test out the free software we mention on this website and play with it. It may surprise you what you can do self-publishing your own book.