I simply had to share this post from Indies Unlimited on vanity publishing. It’s something which is so tempting as a self published author, especially when you are starting out. You have a dream of being picked up by a publishing house – isn’t a vanity press the same thing? No!! A vanity press is a publisher that will publish your book because you pay them. You pay for a selection of services or a complete publishing package. They also take a cut of your profits, leaving you on some occassions with as little as 30%.
I was approached by a vanity press early in my publishing journey, although their costs were not as high as some of the ones quoted in this article. Even so, around a thousand pound (which is what I was quoted for editing, proofing, cover design and formatting) is an awful lot of the majority of self published authors. Now, it is true that you can spend close to that on an editor alone, but then one must also ask oneself if you are ever going to recoup that money. I’d wager that the majority of self published books do not realise that type of profit, at least in the short term. One of the key things to being a succesful writer is doing it all the time and having a back catalogue of work – work out how much you would need to spend out before realising a return.
As a self published author you have options, it’s one of the benefits, so it pays to shop around when it comes to publishing support. Don’t get yourself into debt for a book that won’t sell. You need to spend your money where you will get a return on your investment. This will most likely involve cover design and proofreading. It might also include a detailed edit, promotional support, formatting and distribution. You can procure these services individually or as part of a complete package from an author services company (or vanity press… buyer beware!).
For my second novel, Death in the Family, I found a wonderful editor which cost me a few hundred pound. The experience was a delight. I shopped around and found one that was right for me, my book and was within a price range I could afford. I was delighted with the result and you can definitely see the difference in the quality of this novel compared to my debut one (yes, I’m not too proud to admit that!). I’m computer literate and found that publishing and formatting with Createspace was a dream! No need to get someone to format it for me. I found a wonderful graphic designer via Fiverr.com and worked with him closely on the concept and artwork. I’d have paid three times this total expenditure with the vanity press and for no better a product. Will I make my money back? Yes. Will I retain my proceeds? Yes. Am I control of the creative process? Yes.
It’s important to know what you are getting with vanity publishers – including the level of marketing support they purport to give. Whether you are published by an establishing house, a vanity press or by your own fair hand, you will need to do you own fair share of work. No wait… you will do the majority of work! Apart from contacting sellers and wholesalers, you are going to have to do the rest of the legwork.
I’m not going to say that vanity publishing is out and out bad. If you find someone who understands your work, charges a fair price for what they do and you don’t have the time or inclination to manage a publishing project, then this may well be the path for you. But do think first. Don’t get sucked into the excitement of having a “publisher” sign you. They’re offering you a service, no more. It might be a good service, but let’s be honest, they are probably going to make the bulk of their money off you, not from book sales.
But what if you don’t want to go it alone and don’t want to use a vanity press? Well, there are some more options now as we see the rise of hybrid publishers – people like 4Wills and Booktrope.com. The latter works by allowing you to create virtual teams to bring your book market. It’s my understanding that you don’t have any up front costs (eg. for editing, design and so on) but everyone takes a cut off the profits. I’ll definitely explore this in the future.
I didn’t quite expect to rant this much today.. perhaps it’s because it’s a Monday?