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  • Writer's pictureStacey Ebert

Series: Avenues of Publishing (Part III - Vanity Press Publishing)

Have you started that novel? Are you halfway through that memoir? Are you up to that last chapter of your story and ready to take the plunge into sharing it with the wider world? We’re here to help. In this series, we’ve done a deep dive into the realm of traditional publishing and taken a look at the array of options available in the area of self-publishing. Our next publishing area deserves a sincere word of caution: whatever options are out there, choose a different one - chances are this is probably NOT the one for you.

What does publishing with a Vanity Press look like?

Look up Vanity Press anywhere amidst the millions of megabytes that is the internet and you’re hard pressed to find a whole heck of a lot of positive anything. One article went so far as to say, ‘quite simply, what’s involved here is that a bunch of loathsome vipers try to steal your money’. While that’s only one person’s opinion, let’s take a look at what vanity press claims to be all about. Essentially, ‘a vanity press charges a fee to produce a book, or requires the author to buy something as a condition of publication, such as finished books or marketing services.’ While often they offer no selection criteria, meaning they’ll work with anyone, authors are sometimes even solicited for the rights to publish their book yet still asked to pay for the process. While the vanity press model shares a similar business model to those of hybrid press, ‘where authors pay the press to publish their books’, most opinions are that ‘vanity presses only care about making money off their authors’. Perhaps, we need to delve further.

Why would you go the Vanity Press Publishing Route?

As I am diving headfirst into this research, every single piece of evidence finds me envisioning a dark scene in a Dr. Seuss book with those misshapen signs pointing all over the place screaming at the voyager commands like caution, danger, turn back, go the other way. While it’s conceivably possible that paying someone to actually publish your book sounds awesome (and might even be a financially viable option for a handful of authors), there are many warnings that shouldn't be ignored. There are always some good companies in the mix, so if you find one that you (and a quality lawyer) like and trust maybe you can go for it. But definitely check through that contract, be sure you’re actually getting some semblance of editing and design and - without question - don’t give away those copyright rights to anyone asking you to pay them to do so. There’s even a watchdog company out there who can give you a quick read on the company so before you sign anything on the dotted line, be sure to do your research.

Why wouldn’t you go the Vanity Press Publishing Route?

In Oh the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss reminds us to ‘step with care and great tact’ and that’s exactly what’s needed here. Going the self-publishing route, the traditional route, or even doling out the cash to a host of third party associates to help position you and your creation to where you want to be is fine – but think quite hard before delving down the Vanity Press publishing route. Traditional publishers pay the author in some fashion. True hybrid publishers function with concern and compassion for their author creates a true partnership that will ultimately pay out the author and provide other assistance. And even best practices of the ebook self-publishing movement like the powerhouse, Amazon, allow authors to upload for free and offer royalties. Beware: when the subsidy (Vanity) publishers actually publish an author’s work, it often changes hands and becomes their property. Once it shows up in the catalog of published listing, the author – you – loses all of the rights to the work. If you’re up for spending some cash you might look into getting ‘fair service at a fair price’ but the key word there is 'fair.' Vanity Press typically compounds rights acquisition with ‘hidden costs, low quality of services, and practically no distribution or marketing services.

In todays’ world there are heaps of available avenues for publishing. While there’s a myriad of methods available, there will be one that’s right for you. You’ve poured your heart, soul, and spirit into the work you’d like to share with the world. Find the one that works for you and leap; just promise us you'll research first before joining up with a Vanity Press publisher.

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