Why I Don’t Like Vanity Presses

Why I Don’t Like Vanity Presses

Over the years, vanity presses have gotten a pretty bad reputation for duping people into printing a whole lot of books that won’t sell. (Ironically, one of the biggest reasons that the books won’t sell is that they were published by a vanity press.) ┬áSince the term vanity press has become synonymous in some circles with “ripoff,” many have taken to calling themselves subsidy presses instead. Whether you call them vanity presses or subsidy presses, they are the same thing.

Vanity Presses require the author to pay all the costs to print and ship your books. Many of these presses will claim to help you with marketing, sales and placement of your books. From the many experiences that I have read from people who have used vanity presses, it does not appear that they do any real marketing, sales, or placement of your books, even though the contract you sign with the vanity publisher may give the impression that they will market and help place your book.

As part of their services, the vanity/subsidy press will file copyright documents, provide ISBN, and secure LOC (Library of Congress) CIP (cataloging in publication) data as necessary. The author pays all the costs (usually higher than normal) of editing, design, production, and printing. Vanity presses try to make you think they will “take care of everything” for you. Some might even tell you that you don’t have to do much to sell your book. Every published author knows that whether you are self-publishing your book, or going with a big mainstream publisher, you have to do a massive amount of the marketing yourself. Only the very biggest name authors, less than 100th of one percent, get a big marketing budget from the mainstream publisher.

It will be your job as the author to promote your book as much as you can by acquiring book reviews, doing interviews, and book signings. This is true no matter where your book is published. If you want to see sales, you must be deeply involved in the marketing of your book. So, one of the first signs that you are dealing with a bad situation, is the lies that come from the vanity publisher claiming they will do all the marketing for you and you don’t have to do anything.

Even if the vanity presses did send books to reviewers and bookstores, it is unlikely that any sales would result because reputable reviewers and bookstores have little or no respect for vanity presses and will pretty much ignore anything that comes from them. Unfortunately, the poor reputation of vanity presses works against you in this instance.

Most of the vanity presses offer to inventory your books for you. (Usually for an additional fee.) In many cases however, after the specified length of the contract ends, the vanity press will tell the author that the books are not selling and therefore will be destroyed–unless the author buys them.

As the author, you have already paid up front more than the cost of producing and printing the books, but you find out that you do not own them. In order to keep the books so that you can market them yourself, you must buy them (again) from the (vanity press) publisher.

Unfortunately, the author is also “stuck” with the vanity press’ ISBN, which is as bad as an ugly grotesque cover in the trade market. If the author wants to market the books herself, she will likely have to market them to individual buyers. Because the vanity presses publisher’s name and ISBN are so poorly thought of in the legitimate book industry, the author will have little chance of getting the book into wholesalers or bookstores.

In many cases, the author has given an assignment of rights to the vanity press (hidden somewhere in the contract) and, depending on the wording of the contract, the author may be forced to “buy back” the copyright.

Even though these vanity press may have promised you a wonderful deal to publish your book, it is more likely that you will have the following problems:

  • No book reviews in any reputable publication.
  • You will not get your book into the wholesalers, and bookstores to sell your book.
  • Your costs to produce the book will be far more than you would have paid if you just went to a good book printer.
  • It is highly unlikely that you will have clear title to the rights to your book.

My advice is to do yourself a favor, and a run, don’t walk the other direction from vanity presses. There are several other viable alternatives for you to get your book published while still maintaining your rights, and keeping your costs down.

One Responseto “Why I Don’t Like Vanity Presses”

  1. I’m not so sure there are any “vanity presses” per se anymore. Sure, there are bookmills that sell packages of services to unsuspecting authors who want to get their babies in print, but don’t know enough to make sure the writing’s been tweaked to its finest (and that’s just for starters). But the vanity publishers of old were far sleazier and bloodsuckingly expensive propositions. Nowadays, there’s at least info readily available for finding one’s way to publishing one’s book using professionals for editing, design and layout, and marketing. Of course, nothing helps like getting off to the good start of writing really well about something readers have shown an interest in.

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