Vanity publishing

They say everybody has at least one book in them itching to get out, so how do you get it out there? I know a couple of well known bloggers who have written books, so out of interest I thought I’d take a look…

For many years – and certainly before the digital revolution and eBooks – authors have been self publishing. Mark Twain, for example, did just that. The costs however can be prohibitive so the so-called ‘vanity publisher’ appeared on the scene. These less than scrupulous people preyed on authors sick of getting rejection letters, offering to publish their books in exchange for contributions towards costs. More often than not, these costs were considerable and the services offered in exchange minimal. Basically, they were exploiting the vanity of the author, hence the label.

In addition, you need to ask yourself whether you are signing away a proportion of your royalties because, in general, if you are then you’re probably being exploited. If they have your money and the book sells, they make a good profit. If the book doesn’t sell, then you’re the one out of pocket. If they’re not marketing or promoting your product, then why are they charging for it? It’s a reasonable question and a win/win for them not you.

Vanity publishers should not be confused with genuine companies who offer editing, proof reading, design, ISBN registration and other genuine services in exchange for a fee. These processes can be expensive, complex and time consuming so you are being offered a genuine service in exchange for your money.

Now, of course, it is possible to do it all yourself and sell digitally on line. This keeps costs to a minimum and makes your book available to a huge potential market – provided your seller knows it exists. Amazon is the obvious choice for your eBook. You can get it on there for a reasonable cost and the returns are potentially enormous – or, indeed, non existent if nobody buys it. But beware of the main pitfall of eBook publishing. Piracy.

Books are no different to music in that respect. Loads of people out there will download your book without paying for it. My friend Chas C has the same problem with music. He has several albums on Amazon, iTunes and other sites. He doesn’t make much from them but is proud of the fact that he’s got a couple of albums heavily pirated throughout Russia and Portugal on download sites. He’s about £10,000 out of pocket on what he would have got if the downloaders had bought them. Of course, not everyone who grabbed it for free would have parted with cash for it.

So if, like him, your attitude is to spread your work for the artistic pleasure you get from it rather than the money, then digital could be the way to go. On the other hand, if you need the money…

It’s a minefield alright, but if you want to give it a go, I wish you all the very best.


5 responses to “Vanity publishing

  1. It’s very simple. If a publisher asks you for money at any stage, they are a con.

    No real publisher charges authors for anything, ever.

    • Summed up nicely Leggy.
      Incidentally, good luck to you and Mark with your latest works.

      The great thing about paper, of course, is that you can’t put it on Pirate Bay …

    • Just read the latest piece at your place, Leggy. Just to clarify there is no implication here that your operation is in any way a vanity publisher. In fact, when I wrote this piece, I knew you were an author but had no idea you were also into publishing!

      I wish you well with that venture. Seems like a good idea from what I’ve just read…

  2. Back in the 60s we were approached by a music ‘producer’ who would take us into a studio to record a track, put it on a LP with 11 other bands and hoick it round the record companies. The catch was that we made a ‘nominal contribution’ to the cost and signed an exclusive and permanent management contract.
    Basically if it flies, they make lots of money, if not we’re out of pocket. Of course if we make it big later, we’re still under contract to the guy. I refused to sign so they threw me out of the band.
    I now do all my own production and artwork on a Mac. How times have changed! I use Distrokid to get the albums on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and others for a sub of $20 a year and I get all the royalties. Its a no brainer isn’t it?