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What are Vanity Publishers?

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Something that I am seeing more and more authors who are falling foul of on Facebook groups…. Vanity publishers. You may have heard of them, or you may have even been approached by one of them. But do you know what they are and what they do? And more importantly, do you know how to avoid them?

I read a post today where someone uploaded a letter that they had received from a supposedly ‘Reputable Publisher’. This person was over the moon that their manuscript had been chosen to be taken forward and published. There was mention of all the leading high street stores and the future possibilities of fame and fortune. This group member thought that this was truly their lucky day. Until one by one, the comments from other authors started to roll in. They shared their own experiences and stories, many of whom even said how bad they felt about shattering this poor author's illusion. So within this post, I would like to share what a Vanity publisher is and how to recognise them so that you can make an informed choice as to whether to use one to publish your book.

So what is a Vanity Publisher

Basically, Vanity publishers are companies that offer to publish your book for a fee. They may promise you all kinds of services, such as editing, marketing, distribution, and so on. They may even claim that they are selective and only accept high-quality manuscripts. But don't be fooled by their flattering words. They are not interested in your book's quality or success. They are only interested in your money.


Vanity publishers are different from self-publishing platforms or legitimate publishers. Self-publishing platforms allow you to publish your book yourself, without paying any fees upfront. You only pay for the services you need, such as printing or formatting. You also retain full control over your book's rights and royalties. Legitimate publishers, on the other hand, pay you for your book. They invest in your book's production and promotion, and they share the profits with you. They also have a reputation and a network in the industry, which can help your book reach a wider audience.


They are risky and harmful for several reasons. First of all, they charge you exorbitant fees - we are talking thousands for low-quality services. They may not edit your book properly, or they may use generic covers and templates. They may not market your book at all, or they may use ineffective methods. They may not distribute your book widely, or they may use shady channels. They may also hide additional fees and charges in their contracts, or they may make you pay for things that should be free!


Secondly, vanity publishers can damage your reputation and credibility as an author. They may publish your book without your approval, or they may make changes to your book without your consent. They may also publish your book under their own imprint, which can make it look like you were paid to get published. This can lower your book's quality and value in the eyes of readers, reviewers, and other publishers.


Thirdly, vanity publishers can limit your options and opportunities as an author. They may lock you into long-term contracts that prevent you from publishing elsewhere. They may also take away your rights and royalties, which means you lose control over your book's future. You may not be able to revise, update, or re-publish your book later on. You may also miss out on chances to work with agents, editors, or other professionals who can help you improve your craft and career.


So how can you avoid vanity publishers? Here are some tips:


- Do your research. Before you submit your manuscript to any publisher, check their website, reviews, testimonials, and credentials. Look for red flags such as vague or unrealistic promises, high-pressure sales tactics, negative feedback from authors or customers, or complaints from watchdog organizations.

- Read the fine print. Before you sign any contract with any publisher, read it carefully and understand what it entails. Look for clauses that specify the fees, services, rights, royalties, duration, termination, and dispute resolution. If anything is unclear or unfair, ask questions or seek legal advice.

- Trust your instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a publisher contacts you out of the blue and offers to publish your book without seeing it first be wary. If a publisher praises your book excessively and asks for money upfront, be sceptical. If a publisher pressures you to make a decision quickly and discourages you from seeking other opinions, be cautious.

- Finally think if this is what you want. After all, you can self-publish your own work and stay in control.

Remember: publishing your book is a big decision that can have lasting consequences for your work and career. Don't let vanity publishers take advantage of your dreams and aspirations. Be smart, be informed, and be careful.

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