How to Avoid the Vanity Publishing Trap

How to Avoid the Vanity Publishing Trap

First can we just say a huge thank you to Steven Lasry on Unsplash for this gorgeous image.

Once upon a time there were two ways to publish a book, being taken on by a publishing company, or publishing independently which was known as vanity publishing. The thoughts behind the disparaging tag ‘vanity publishing’ was that you were so vain and desperate to have your book published, that, if a ‘proper’ publishing company wouldn’t accept your manuscript you would pay a printing company to produce your book for you.

Because of the expense involved in setting up the printing machinery, minimum orders often running into the hundreds or even thousands had to be printed. The intrepid self-publisher then had to sell all of those books themselves, with no market available other than friends, family and possibly local bookshops.

Now thankfully it is a sensible choice to publish a book independently. There are countless marketplaces available. Entrepreneurial authors can and do make a considerable amount of money from their writing business.

However, once a manuscript is written, the novice author then has to create a saleable book. There is such a lot of emphasis on the word ‘Independent’ in terms of publishing, with the implication being that the author has to do all of the production themselves.  This does not make sense. The skills involved in creating a product of the high quality required, is beyond the reach of the average writer. Editing, proof reading, typesetting, conversion, cover design, formatting are all skills acquired after a lot of training.

The sensible step then is to hire people with those skills. Easy if you know where to find them. Valuable time, when an author should be working on their next book, can be spent searching for people to do the book production. The logical thing to do is to hire a company to do this work for you.  The writer can then hand the book over to the production team and set too, writing the next one.

This is the stage where the writer needs to use caution. Glossy websites offering to publish your book can hide a multitude of charlatans. Many state they are looking for books to publish and lo and behold when approached the author is told their book is wonderful and that they can’t wait to publish it. But there is a catch. They want money, often large amounts of money to produce your book. Some will even demand a share of the royalties and ownership of the copyright. These companies are the true vanity publishers. Yes, they will produce your book, but it will often be badly edited and will have cost an arm and a leg to do so.

A publishing services company is different. These are legitimate companies, offering one stop publishing packages for authors. They usually have a team of editors, proof readers, typesetters in house to produce your book for you. What they will not do is tell you your book is fabulous, they will expect you to be a professionally minded author who wants to work with an editor who will knock their manuscript into shape, rather than just changing a few words and telling you it is wonderful.

How to recognise a vanity publisher:- Firstly a lot of writer’s groups will go into meltdown if you mention paying for publishing. With a publishing services company you are paying to be published which sounds like an anomaly. Vanity publishing companies will usually tell you the book is fantastic, that you will recoup all of their fees in a few weeks, they will have a hard sell policy.  They will expect a cut of your royalties and assume creative control or your book. It is these companies that give publishing services companies a bad name. Publishing services companies act as a one stop shop for writers where all of the book production is done for them.

Lavender and White are the latter. We do the hard work of book production, so you don’t have too. We have a team of editors who will work on your book after it has been initially reviewed to ensure it is of a reasonable quality. No first draft is ever perfect and we will not work with an author who thinks their book is too good to be improved by an editor. Our team are available to do the whole book production, from editing to proof reading, through to formatting, typesetting and cover design. We work with authors to ensure their finished book fulfils the vision they have for it, but equally we guide authors to make sure the book will have the best chance of selling wherever the author choses to market it.

In our book that is not vanity publishing, but a wise business decision.