You want a leather cover? They’ll tell you how much it costs. You want full color illustrations? Again, they’ll give you a cost. You pay it, you get the book you’ve been dreaming of.
The main challenge here is that the price they charge is usually far above actual market value, because they figure you won’t know any better. And, second, they usually don’t turn over the files to you – so you are now forever trapped with using them.
Some vanity publishers, in an effort to sweeten how they present themselves, call themselves “assisted self publishing”. Here is why that is NOT the case.
In most cases, the author signs a contract with this vanity press and relinquishes their rights. They pay for work to be done – editing, covers, etc. - but they never receive the source files. So they are eternally trapped with using that publisher.
For example, let’s say the vanity press says they’ll lay out and format your book for you. But say they do something wrong and your pages end up with strange gaps. Usually they’ll charge you more money to make those fixes.
Let’s say you find typos after the fact. They’ll charge you per typo fixed.
You want to make the changes yourself? Nope. They won’t give you the source files. In fact, if you decide you want to stop working with them, they either hold everything hostage or they make you pay a large fee to get your OWN files back again. This is incredibly dangerous – what if they go bankrupt? It happens all the time. Now you’ve lost everything. You have to recreate your entire book from scratch.
Any time you are paying money up front to a company and they hold the rights to it, that is a vanity press. It is a situation to be incredibly cautious about.
If you were truly self publishing and you hired an editor, they would send you the finished, edited file for YOU to have. If you wanted to make more changes after that, that’s fine! It’s your file. You can change whatever you wish. If you wanted to then use another editor instead, that’s fine, too. You’re in control.
Similarly, if you were self publishing and hired a cover designer, they’d send you back the finished PSD (PhotoShop source file) along with their other files. If you wanted to make more changes after that you could either edit the file yourself or hire someone else do make more changes. You would never be locked into that one original person.
You want to make an ebook version? An audible version? A Vanity Press will often require you to go through them. And if they’re not in the mood to handle it, you’re just stuck.
It can definitely seem tempting to simply hand over a block of money - $5,000 is typical – to a vanity press and assume they’ll handle everything. But often they handle next to nothing. They’ll make a cover, do some formatting, and then they want more money.
Want marketing? They charge more. Want sales reports? They might tell you every 3 months if something sold. And your “share” of those sales is often quite small. A true hire-on-demand person would never take shares of your sales or profits.
As you might tell, I have had atrocious experiences with vanity presses and I know a number of authors who were extremely traumatized by vanity presses. They typically charge enormous amounts of money for something you could get done for $50 or so on pretty much any standard website.
Still, if you belong to a writing group and six other authors there absolutely adore an inexpensive vanity press, and you want to give it a try yourself, here are the pros and cons.
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... Pros of Traditional Publishers
... Cons of Traditional Publishers
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... Cons of Small Press Publishers
Vanity Press Publishers
... Pros of Vanity Press Publishers
... Cons of Vanity Press Publishers
... Pros of Self Publishing
... Cons of Self Publishing
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