- Simply explaining the difference
Vanity publishing (also termed as ‘subsidy publishing’) is an actual publishing house which charges authors to publish their book. Self publishing is when an author publishes a book all on their own, without using an established publisher. Another form of publishing which seems to get confused with self publishing and vanity publishing, is independent publishing (also sometimes termed ‘small presses’, or ‘indie press’). Independent publishing is a very small publisher which has a much smaller annual income compared to traditional publishers, and generally their sales fall below a certain amount (this varies from country to country).
- Self-publishing is a control freak’s dream come true
Out of every form of publishing, there is no doubt that self-publishing offers the author full control (take a look at my blog ’10 compelling reasons to publish your own book’ for further and complete details). Self-publishing is incredibly popular, and its popularity grows with every year. No other way of publishing will allow you the total authority to choose your editor, cover, formatting, selling price, how to market the book, and where exactly to sell your book. Authors are drawn in by the freedom it affords, and the ease in which an author can make decisions about something they have worked so hard on. The fact that self-publishing is not just limited to an ebook, that authors can still publish a physical book, is also a major draw card.
- What attracts an author to vanity publishing
Many authors who aren’t interested in self publishing and completely controlling their book, turn to vanity publishing. Unlike traditional publishers or even independent publishers, vanity publishers generally have zero selection criteria. They are mostly not picky about the genre or style of book an author wants to publish, this is in vast contrast to traditional and independent publishers who have very strict rules and guidelines authors must follow when submitting their book. Many authors see vanity publishing as the best way to still be involved with the publication of their book, without having to deal with every minor detail. Another hook for vanity publishing is that authors are able to purchase large quantities of their book, and use those copies for promotional purposes.
- Why vanity publishing isn’t for everyone
While vanity publishers do allow the author far more independence and the ability to make decisions, compared to traditional and independent publishers, they also have much higher fees, and their contracts are usually quite restrictive. Vanity publishers make their money upfront directly from the author, regardless of whether the book they publish is successful or not, so marketing and promoting a book is not important, or necessary, to them. They can also control how much a book sells for, which isn’t alway beneficial to the author. Because they have made their money upfront, the care levels are not as existent, like they are with self, independent, and traditional publishing. They can also be traps to unsuspecting and vulnerable authors, laid out by scammers who make big promises, and just don’t deliver. Because of this, Vanity press do not have a good or reputable name, and authors are continually warned to stay away from them.
- Why vanity publishing has such a bad reputation
For authors who are just using vanity publishing to gain physical copies of their books, for personal or promotional reasons, then they’re generally not let down, and know exactly what to expect. Unfortunately, there are many inexperienced authors who spend an enormous amount of time writing a book which is extremely important to them. They then spend so much time sending their book to every publisher they can find, and they are continually rejected. Then they receive an offer from a vanity publisher, very quickly, who tells them how fantastic their book is, and how imperative it is that the author make sure their book is published. Lucky for the author, the vanity publisher can help them, they just need the author to invest a percentage of the overall cost (normally up to 50%), then they can publish the book right away and the author will receive 50% of the book’s profit earnings. Once the author has paid the unscrupulous vanity publishers, they very rarely receive any of the earnings, or any sales information about the book.
- Why self-publishing is the safer choice
When you self publish a book, you still need to invest money upfront. However, you are still in total control of every cent you spend, and you know exactly where each cent is going. What you are paying for upfront is readying the book for publication (editing, formatting, and cover design), and promoting and marketing your book. You know exactly how much profit the book is earning, and how many copies have sold. You have control of every aspect, and you can change the selling price as often as you like, as well as the retailers you choose to sell your book through. Once you self publish, there is never the possibility of you losing control, and this is exactly why it is so highly regarded by many authors.