Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

Vanity Presses – Pros & Cons

Last week we touched on the three basic forms of self-publishing: vanity, subsidy and independent publishing. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the first item on that list.

A vanity press prints and binds a book at the author’s sole expense.  Sometimes the author maintains all rights, owns the books and retains all proceeds from sales. Sometimes the publisher claims various rights, owns the ISBN and pays the author a royalty. There is little, if any, screening process – anyone who can pay can be published. Any adjunct services (such as editing, marketing, distribution) are usually minimal. Vanity presses derive their profits from the authors of the books they publish. That is their intended market.

•  The press may absorb some of the upfront costs (though usually a lot less than the author invests)
•  They will publish anything, without any screening or selection process – which may be good for ‘niche-market’ works with specialized appeal or those simply interested in seeing their books ‘in print’ to give to friends and family members.
• Offers more freedom/independence for authors than conventional publishers with respect to editorial content, design, layout etc.
• May offer web-based sales, or make a book available via online booksellers or their own website

• Negative association about vanity published books/authors in the industry
• Many conventional distributors, fulfillment houses, bookstores, libraries etc. will not carry vanity press books
• Generally do little to no marketing
• Costs include the publisher’s profit and overhead, so usually more expensive than other forms of self-publishing
• No economic incentive for the publisher to get books into the hands of readers, since their target market is authors themselves
• Some don’t have arrangements with distributors or wholesalers, making it impossible to obtain books except through the author.
• A number of these houses are unethical/fraudulent
• The publishers’ name alone may tip off industry professionals – reviewers, booksellers, librarians, etc. – that this is vanity/self-published, rendering title less likely to be reviewed, stocked etc.

Due diligence and reading the fine print is the key to working with a vanity –  or for that matter, subsidy – press.


4 Responses to “Vanity Presses – Pros & Cons”
  1. Joanna says:

    Another great comparison, Emma. Would speed/time taken to publish, also be a pro here?

  2. Emma says:

    Absolutely! Thank you Joanna!

  3. Beth says:

    I admit to a Pavlovian response of an inward shudder at the very mention of vanity presses, a response gained through years of working in a university library (where we sometimes did order from one particular vanity press, since it seemed the only place to obtain certain works that faculty members insisted were key research materials).

    I am wondering if publishing with a vanity press would effectively sign the death warrant for one’s future writing, as far as being published by a traditional publisher goes? (Not that I’m considering it for myself… see Pavlovian response above.)

  4. Diane says:

    wow! thankyou Emma, more cons than pros…. now I know why I haven’t heard about vanity publishing before.

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