It completely amazes me the number of newly published writers who will brag about being “published” through vanity presses! I fail to understand the joy they feel when they have to pay sometimes thousands of dollars. Even worse is the fact they use companies without conducting proper research. I belong to several groups on LinkedIn, and the topic has come up on numerous occasions–some writers will have enough insight to ask before using a publisher. Two such examples are iUniverse and Author House. In spite of the insight of some to question the integrity of these vanity presses, a week or two later someone else will post they actually have a contract with them! Why do they belong to writing groups if they are not going to take the time to read posts, especially those that relate to a topic of such importance?
The Importance of Researching First
One of the big problems with vanity houses is they exploit unpublished writers, even to the point of telling them traditional publishers will see their book in bookstores and offer them a contract. They are so excited about the offer that they don’t take the time to weigh the facts.
- Bookstores do not stock self-published books unless the authors contact them directly.
- Vanity presses will publish any book when the author is willing to pay the price. It doesn’t matter if the book is any good or not–they are only looking for the money it will bring from the author.
- Authors usually only get a few copies of their books for the price they pay–any others they must pay for although they might get a discount.
- Vanity presses charge for every service they offer: printing, promotion, proofreading, editing, etc.
Learn to Follow the Advice of Others
While I am still working on my book, I have learned enough to know how to choose a publisher, and that includes conducting research. Whenever someone mentions I name with which I am not familiar the first thing I do is go to Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware. In the case of both iUniverse and Author House you will discover they are listed by P&E as “not recommended.” I know they have been on the list of publishers to avoid since at least the turn of the 21st century yet novice authors get in such a hurry that they don’t take the time to research first.
In addition to checking out Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware, Angela Hoy has a newsletter she publishes that includes a section called “Whispers and Warnings.” She includes various publishers who have attempted (or succeeded) in scamming writers. While these are often publications, you can gain a great deal of insight.
Speak to other published writers to see what kind of experiences they had with their publishers or agents–yes, you should check out agents first as well, another feature Preditors and Editors includes. You can learn much more from other writers than you can from just online research. It can certainly take time, but you can save yourself a great deal of frustration and avoid making a costly mistake.
Do Not Pay Someone to Publish Your Book
This is one of the most expensive lessons authors need to learn because any company that wants up front fees is a vanity press. I have had self-published writers try to tell me the term is obsolete, that they wish to be called Indie publishers, but the problem is that can also refer to a small independent traditional publisher.
If you are insistent upon self-publishing choose an online source such as Create Space or Smash Words–other authors have indicated they take a percentage of the sales rather than charging an up front fee. Of course, the perfect solution is to work hard to find a traditional publisher–print or e-book–but the bottom line is avoid any company that has a bad reputation and is listed as “not recommended” on Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware.