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  • Writer's pictureMaria P Frino

What is a Vanity Publisher?

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

The publishing industry can be daunting for authors. Many become overwhelmed by the choice of companies eager to publish their book. There are many pitfalls and one of the biggest is vanity publishing.

a woman sitting at a desk with books open in front of her. She is a book publisher and this blog post by Maria P Frino is about book publishing.

Vanity publishing is not the same as self-publishing. When you self-publish you control everything to do with publishing your stories. Many authors are not confident with this and want to go with a traditional publisher. There is nothing wrong with this other than it takes time, a long time. But if you are lucky enough to be offered a contract, some of the work can be done by the publisher. It is when authors who have waited years to go the traditional route without success look for other ways to publish their work and don't understand the pitfalls.

There are many ways to know whether the contract on your desk, which you are very proud of, is from a vanity publisher. The main one that screams out is, they ask you to pay upfront. This does not happen with a traditional publisher, they give you money to publish your book in the hope it will sell and you both make a profit. A traditional publisher has the expertise to know what will sell, and most of the time they get it right.

A vanity publisher will tell you that your book is a viable, commercial option and they are willing to publish. Unfortunately what they don't tell you is they don't really care whether your title sells or not because they already have your money upfront.

Doing an online search about vanity publishers will give you quite a bit of information about them, some sites will name publishers with warnings to stay away. If you are a member of the ASA - Australian Society of Authors, they give writers advice on various issues and one of them is Vanity Publishing -

When I started my writing journey over five years ago, I had three contracts on my desk. All were from vanity publishers and I did my research on all of them before making my decision. Each of them was asking for around AUD $5000. This was an amount I couldn't afford and they couldn't tell me whether my books would be successful. I decided to self-publish and in late-2019 I published my first short stories and then my debut novel, The Decision They Made.

Front cover of a fiction book by author Maria P Frino, titled The Decision They Made. It shows an archway made of uneven stones and two women walking under it. They have their backs to us.

The publishing industry has many pitfalls and any author will tell you to do your research before committing to any offer. Find what suits you and your stories then go with that feeling, your instincts will usually send you in the right direction.

Happy Reading

Maria P Frino

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