How to Identify a Vanity Publisher



It’s been years since SFWA exposed Publish America as a vanity publisher, a company only interested in parting the aspiring author from their money and then holding onto the rights of their book for far too long. I was one of the millions of people who enjoyed reading the book “Atlanta Nights” that was probably one of the worst books I’ve ever read but was touted as the best science-fiction/fantasy novel to come along by PA… for a few months.

To say that the outing of PA as a vanity publisher changed how authors see the publishing world is an understatement. One would think that people would remember this debacle, the exposure of vanity publishers as companies more interested in charging an author to publish their book than attempting to make it the best book possible. Yet, as impossible as it seems, vanity publishers still saturate the marketplace, even PA remains but as America Star Books, in an attempt to draw the unknowing author looking for a publisher into their net.

There are two types of publishers, three if you count the authors who publish their books on their own. First is the vanity publisher. Their only objective is to earn money, no matter how they do it. Second is the traditional publisher. They will never charge their authors for anything. Anything means just that—formatting, editing, proofreading, cover art, and uploading the book to sales venues is all done before the publisher sees any earnings. A reputable publisher will also ensure their authors receive statements and royalty payments in a timely manner, unlike the horror stories I’ve heard about vanity publishers producing statements that indicate the author still owes money on their fees, some hidden from sight until it’s time to bring them out of the closet. The third type of publisher is the one encompassing the thousands of books uploaded daily to sales venues such as Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble—the self-published author.

A self-published author may be an author who was once associated with a traditional publisher or even a vanity publisher but who has decided to strike out on their own. There are many good self-published authors but there are also many bad ones who need to re-examine their commitment to being an author and look into seeking help from professional editors. Self-published authors often tout their way of publishing as the best, but they don’t have what those who are traditionally published have, a built in team of people willing to assist you with marketing your book.

The vanity publisher, as mentioned previously, only looks at the bottom line—the money. They’re not interested in waiting on the royalties to roll in. More often than not, they offer a contract for every book that comes into their submissions system. Their editing and proofreading are poor to non-existent. They might even be a local printer, whose experience is more with banners, calendars, and sports programs. None of the authors I know well will ever consider this route to publication, as they feel it’s not the way to make their name.

The traditional publisher is what those not interested in self-publishing want. A traditional publisher, be it large or small, has a certain type of book they’re looking for. They want an author ready to market strongly but also be part of the larger group. A traditional publisher puts out the money to edit, proofread, format, and upload a book before they make anything on it. The benefits of being with a traditional publisher far outweigh any of the drawbacks.

In the world of vanity versus traditional publishing, the one way to notice if you are connecting with a vanity publisher is to read their website carefully. Is the home page nothing but the book covers they’ve recently released? Are their FAQs loaded with what seems to be a lot of information but really tells you nothing about them, and you’re stopping to stare at “a fee for  this” or “a fee for that” constantly? Do they guarantee instant fame and fortune? Are you left feeling like you need to shower off the sensation that someone has just picked your pocket? If you are having second thoughts about submitting to such a place, have third and fourth thoughts. Click off that website and continue your search for a publisher who will be more interested in making your book the best possible without charging you to do it.

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