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The difference between vanity publishing, independent publishing, and self-publishing

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If you have decided to self-publish a book, you may have heard conflicting information. Are you wondering about the difference between vanity publishing and independent publishing?

Vanity publishing is when you pay a publisher to produce your book. It may also be called subsidy publishing or a vanity press. You pay the publisher to turn your manuscript into a book ready for commercial release.

Independent publishing is where you do all the publishing yourself. You may use some commercial services such as design and editing. But you are the one responsible for seeing the book through to completion.

Both of these methods are referred to as self-publishing. But only independent publishing is true self-publishing.

Before you decide to publish your book, you should be clear about each of these methods.

Who takes the risk?

When a traditional publisher takes on a book, they treat it as an investment. They pay the author an advance, then they produce and market the book. The bulk of the profit goes to the publisher. The author starts receiving a royalty once the book has sold enough copies to cover the advance.

In this case, the publisher is taking on all the risk, so it’s only natural that they receive most of the profits.

When an independent publisher produces their own book, they are also taking on all the risk. So naturally, they get all the profits after expenses.

With vanity publishing, it’s a little different. The author takes all the risk since they are paying the production costs. The publisher makes their profit from the author.

In some cases, the publisher will put their own ISBN on the book and add it to their catalogue. This means that the publisher will receive a royalty for every sale.

Many people in the publishing industry find this practice dubious. The person who takes the risks should be the one who gets the profits. A vanity publisher takes on almost no risk.

There are some vanity publishers who will add a book to their distribution channels. Some will actively market the book as well. But there are also those who will take your money and produce a poor-quality book. Often, without doing anything to encourage sales. After all, they made their profit when you paid them, why bother after that.

Which one do I need?

Before you decide which form of self-publishing is right for you, you need to decide what your purpose is. If you are a budding author looking to publish your first book then vanity publishing may be right for you.

Most likely, you have no experience with publishing so you need to learn the ropes.

You’ve probably heard of all the steps involved. Designing a cover, formatting for print, testing the format on different devices, and so on. But, until you see someone else do it, you are likely going to have doubts.

Another reason why you might choose a vanity press is because you don’t care about sales.

Maybe you are publishing your memoirs for your family and friends. Then it makes sense to let a publisher handle everything. For a fee, you can have a professional-looking book made up that your family will love… Hopefully.

If your goal is a career as a self-publishing author, look at independent publishing.

In theory, you won’t have to spend any money for indie publishing, but that’s unrealistic. There will be costs involved, but you own all of your book. The ISBN is yours, should you choose to use one. The rights are yours, the cover design is yours. There are no leaks.

Some authors recommend paying for publishing on your first book. You can switch to independent publishing once you see how it all works.

They refuse to say “vanity publishing” because it’s a dirty word to indie authors. But paid publishing will teach you a lot.

Some other authors claim that there is no need to ever pay for publishing. They say that you should jump straight into indie publishing and learn by doing.

If it is your goal to make a career out of self-publishing, then you will have to decide which approach is right for you.

What are the costs?

Independent publishing is inexpensive. For ebooks, platforms like Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing are free to use.

If you want to release a paperback book, then print on demand services are the way to go. CreateSpace, which is attached to Amazon, is free to use. IngramSpark charges a fee of $49, but they are good to use if you want to distribute outside of Amazon.

You could do the cover design and all the formatting yourself. In this case, it won’t cost you anything to produce your book. More realistically, you will need to pay for at least one editor and a cover design.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $2000 for editing services. It depends on what kind and how much you need done.

A structural editor, or developmental editor, will help with the elements of your book. A line editor will work with the language and flow of the writing. A copyeditor will fix your grammar and poor word choices. A proofreader will fix spelling mistakes and punctuation.

At a bare minimum, you should hire a line editor so your book reads well. When you have more experience you can decide on what other services you need. Some editors will provide multiple services, which may help to keep costs down.

Author Joanna Penn uses one editor for both structural and line edits. She uses another person for proofreading. The total cost is $1500.

Author Catherine Ryan Howard uses one person for both copy editing and proofreading. The total cost is $600.

For the cover design, you can expect to pay $250 or more. This can vary greatly depending on who you hire. You could get a cover design for as little as $5 on fiverr.com, but this isn’t recommended. The cover is the major selling point of your book so it is worth spending money for a good one.  An experienced cover designer may charge $350-450 for a full cover for both ebook and print.

If you decide to use an ISBN, you can get them from Thorpe-Bowker in Australia. A single ISBN will cost you $44 and there are discounts for buying them in bulk.

The costs of vanity publishing will vary with each company. Typically, you will be looking at hybrid services. This is where a self-publishing company offers packages where they do all or some of the work for you.

A typical package will include editing, formatting, and cover design. You will also get some marketing and distribution. These packages range in price from $1200 to $2000.

In conclusion

Vanity publishing is where you pay someone to publish your book. Independent publishing is where you do it all yourself. There are hybrid services where you pay for some of the production and do the rest yourself. Each of these is referred to as self-publishing.

If you are serious about being an author, independent publishing is the better choice. Although, you might use a hybrid service to gain experience.

Self-publishing is a journey. There is no one right way to do it. The important thing is to get started.

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