The Self-Publishing Insider

Lean what a vanity press is and if it's right for your publishing dreams from the the experts at Publish Pros

What Is a Vanity Press?

As an author, it’s natural to get excited when it comes time to publish your book. And for good reason – you’ve invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, and you just can’t wait for your readers to get their hands on your book.

Publishing is a tough business. It can be even tougher if you work with the wrong publisher. Here are some tips to help you avoid working with a vanity press.

What is a vanity press?

A vanity press, also known as a vanity or subsidy publisher, is a company that prints books for anyone willing to pay their fees. They look for people so eager to publish a book that they’ll pay anything to do it.

Vanity presses take advantage of authors by selling them on the idea that if the author pays them a huge sum of money upfront, they’ll end up with a high-quality book, a fancy marketing package, millions of book sales, and instant success and stardom. Unfortunately for most authors, it’s just not true.

How vanity presses work

It’s not hard to find horror stories about authors who have been duped by a vanity press. And while it may be easy to blame the author for being naive, the reality is vanity presses succeed by seducing authors who don’t know how the publishing world really works.

Vanity presses exploit several common psychological pain points:

  • Feeling like an outsider and/or eager to get noticed as an author
  • Uncertainty about all the necessary steps or decisions you need to make to get published
  • Having a sense of urgency to achieve your dream of being a published author as soon as possible
  • Lacking the knowledge or confidence to promote your work effectively
  • Believing instant fame and success is just around the corner, if you simply pay for it
  • Thinking the self-publishing business is too difficult or time-consuming for you to manage by yourself
  • Constant pressure from friends or family to “prove” you’re an author

Spot potential red flags, before it’s too late

Let’s be honest – the self-publishing process is hard. You won’t know how to do everything to get published. Or you may not want to do everything yourself. Either way, it’s okay – even expected – to ask for help along the way. Many authors work with legitimate self-publishing assistance services like Publish Pros to design, print, distribute, or market their book.

However, if a publisher reaches out to you first with a bunch of flattery and an offer that sounds too good to be true, or shows any of the signs below, it may be a vanity press:

  • Fees and royalties. Real publishers will never ask an author to pay fees and royalties. Traditional publishers pay you upfront to publish your book. You sell them your rights, they assume all the publishing risks, and you collect a portion of royalties, based on book sales. If you self-publish, you pay upfront for the services you need – editing, design, formatting – but you retain your rights and full royalties. Vanity publishers want it all, expecting you to pay a fee upfront and assume all the risks for your book, while they get to reap all the benefits.
  • Services. Vanity presses like to make the self-publishing process sound extremely complicated so you pay them to handle everything. For example, you should never have to pay a reading fee to have a publisher read your content, and if they charge you to upload your book to Amazon, you may be getting ripped off.
  • Limited book samples. Take a close look at examples of the books they’ve published. Flip through and look at the quality. Many vanity presses outsource work to the cheapest freelancers possible, then overcharge you for services you could probably do better yourself. If they keep showing you the same three or four books, these may be all they’ve ever published, or, they may be the only high-quality samples they have.
  • Big promises. If a publisher promises to get you exclusive book deals, instant bestseller status, or unrealistic Hollywood, television or other media successes – run away. No publisher – no matter how good they are or how much industry experience they have – can guarantee that kind of success. Ever.
  • Restrictive contracts. Self-publishers like Publish Pros will never require you to sign a contract. You pay for the services you need, with no obligation or contract. Vanity publishers will push for you to sign a contract, which usually has restrictive terms or controls on your rights buried in fancy legal language in the small print.
  • Banking on book sales. Producing a quality book takes money, and paying for your book means investing in your future as an author. Vanity publishers often tell authors not to worry about spending that much money upfront, because they’ll make it back through book sales. In reality, many authors don’t make a lot of money from book sales. Instead, they earn money from the opportunities that come from writing a book, including greater visibility, reaching more clients or investors, or leveraging speaking or business opportunities.

Let us help you

As a new author, it can be hard to know who you can trust. Don’t be fooled by deceptive vanity publishers. Let our expert team at Publish Pros help you on your publishing journey. Remember that reputable companies want to genuinely help authors, not just collect unrealistic payments and hidden fees. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you make your publishing dream a reality.