Book Publishers Watches and Warnings: Vanity Publishing
**This article was written by the Publisher Standards Board**
The Publisher Standards Board a Self Regulatory Trade Organization for the book publishing industry. This organization focuses on providing self-publishers with vital consumer information so that writers can find a legitimate publishing company. Aside from tips and warning about the industry, they also provide many different resources for the self-publisher.
The phrase has gained a bad name in the book publishing circles. Self-publishing, on the other hand, is gaining more respect every year, as successful books, like The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield and The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman have become giant successes. Successful author M.J. Rose launched her career by self-publishing her novel, Lip Service. Even Publishers Weekly will now look at self-published books, something they never would have done just a few years ago. As self-publishing continues to gain more acceptance in the book publishing world, many vanity presses hide behind the phrase and disguise their vanity press status.
What is the difference between true self-publishing and vanity publishing? There is only one fundamental difference between the two. In order to self-publish your book, you-or an entity you own-must be listed as the publisher. Every book that can be bought through brick-and-mortar or online stores must have an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN. This number is registered by the book publishing company. To claim you are self-published, this number must be registered to you. Otherwise, you are just the author, and the book publishing company you use is the actual publisher.
When you are no longer the publisher, you lose control over your book. If someone wishes to buy additional rights to your book-like foreign translations, turn it into a movie, or print it under their imprint-it is the publisher of the book that has that control. At that point, you are at the mercy of your publisher and how much they will share with you, unless you protect your rights.
If you have made the decision to self-publish, you must be aware of what to look for when you are evaluating the many book publishing companies. The Internet has become the number one place to perform research, and is frequently abused by individuals and companies that are looking to make a profit. They often hide behind misleading phrases, like: offering self-publishing services; joint venture publishing; cooperative publishing; subsidy publishing, or shared responsibility publishing.
Many companies claim to offer self-publishing services, and it often takes deep digging to discover the truth. A quick search on Google provides nearly 30 companies claiming to be self-publishing companies, but a check reveals many are actually vanity publishing services, and will charge you a large sum for the privilege of seeing your book in print - sometimes as much as $4000.
Some companies, such as Dorrance Press and Vantage Press, make no efforts to hide the fact that they charge you, calling themselves subsidy presses on their websites.
A number of these companies do a very good job of disguising what they really are. Their advertising implies they provide true self-publishing services, when they actually don't. Looking through their website, they may provide little information about the costs involved. Quite often, these companies tell you that "you deserve to be printed," and they feel they can make your dream a reality.
Among these misleading book publishing companies are:
- Infinity Publishing
- Llumina Press
- Magic Valley Publishers
- Tate Publishing
Other companies provide the publishing services-often at very inflated prices-and give you the option of providing your own ISBN number-allowing you to maintain your status as publisher-or providing an ISBN registered to them, again, at an often inflated price.
Among these book publishing companies are:
- Advanced Self-Publishing
- Blitz Print
- Dog Ear Publishing
- Falcon Books
- Printmedia Books
- The Great American Press
- Long Dash Publishing
With all of the advertisements for self-publishing book companies on Google, it was refreshing to see that a few actually refused to attach their own ISBN onto your book. Dick Margulis offers his services and experience at editing, typesetting and more, while companies like Morris Publishing, U Build A Book, and Total Printing Systems are just book printing companies and do not prepare the manuscript for you.
No matter what company you choose to self-publish your book through, the need for research cannot be overemphasized. One place where vanity presses will try to capture your money is by emphasizing how much they will do for your book. They use phrases like "make your book available to over 25,000 retailers." Their salesmen may assure you that "you will be taken of." They may even provide marketing products for you, but rarely do they actually do much in the way of marketing for you, even though their advertisements mislead you to believe otherwise. Names like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, or the New York Times Book Review may be used as examples of where your books could be reviewed. What they do not tell you is that most of these famous review markets will refuse to look at your book if it is published by a vanity press.
Self-publishing can be a rewarding experience, but it is a journey that must be started with care. Choosing the right publisher can be the first step to a beautiful relationship, or the first step into doom. Whomever you choose, make sure you read the fine print, get everything in writing, and possibly even have your lawyer review it to make sure that you know what you are getting, and don't get taken in the process.
A link to the Publisher's Standard Board website can be found here.