What makes a good vanity publisher?

17 Dec

As authors, we’ve all heard these two words, “vanity publishers.” Can be scary. Right? It doesn’t always have to be. Vanity publishers should be avoided in most cases however, there are some good ones. You just have to find the right one:

A good vanity publisher will not: 

  • tell you how well written your book is. He will discuss with you the true market potential of what you have written and how you can best present your book to the public. He will explain about such things as the function and use of an ISBN number and bar code, and the need for your book (if it is to go on general sale) to be shelf-friendly in appearance.
  • tell you how much better his services are than his competitors and swamp you with reams of review cuttings of other books he’s published. He will simply tell you what services he offers. Bear in mind that although it is important to send out review copies, they normally do not sell books in any significant numbers. Your publisher should, either himself or through an agent, be sending copies of covers (in the first instance) to book buyers and library suppliers well in advance of your publication date.
  • tell you he offers a ‘subsidy’ or ‘co-partnership’ or ‘joint-venture’ publishing service; or any other term that implies he provides a financial commitment of his own to your book – none do. All vanity publishers are in the business of making money, they are not philanthropic nor will a genuine one try to give you the false impression that he is.
  • tell you that their way is the only way for you to be published and that this or that, author in the past had to pay to see his work in print. They did pay to see their work in print, but not as one of today’s vanity publishers would have you do.
  • tell you that, because your work has been accepted on merit, it is to appear in an anthology, then offer to sell you a copy (which he says you don’t have to buy) at a ‘special discount price.’ He will give you a fee to publish your poem, or offer you a free copy of the anthology, or both.
  • tell you that their anthology is to appear in libraries, and will be on sale in bookshops, when it is read – almost without exception – only by those who appear in it and their families.
  • offer to publish ‘as many copies as the market demands’ or ‘x number of copies’ while you receive only a few ‘free’ copies. A good vanity publisher will agree to publish a fixed number of copies for you at a fixed price, and will explain to you that once you’ve had your manuscript typeset and good quality plates made, you can always have more copies if necessary after your first run – have too many as that first run, and your grandchildren will still be trying to get rid of them from your loft 10 years after you’re dead!
  • tell you what a wonderful marketing department he has and that because of their hard work you will recoup your large outlay through its royalties, which are ‘higher than anyone else will offer you’ and then give you a breakdown of how those royalties work and what they are likely to be. Which paragraph usually makes little sense – even to a highly trained Accountant. A good vanity publisher will make sure you understand that the chances of recovering anything other than a very small part of your initial outlay is very negligible as the marketing possibilities for a book by an unknown author are invariably poor and very seldom amount to much more than a launch and promotional follow-up in your own locality. (

Just another day in the life of Mr. Guru (aka Evin Wilkins –

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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Uncategorized


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