A List of Differences Between Vanity Presses and Self-Publishing Companies

The Great Debate

I enjoyed spending my evenings with friends who love to write and publish. We all understand the writing business, but I suspect that writers have their own "religion" they follow. One was strongly for self-publishing and another was all against, and it made for an interesting debate. Is there really such a great debate?

To these two there always will be, perhaps it is because they have seen success in only one type of publishing or not. It is after all a business so some will have success in different areas than others. So being me, I had to ask them: what would you consider a vanity press as opposed to a self publishing company?

Answer A: "A vanity press is anything where the writer pays for services to bind a book. That is a vanity press. It's only for the author's use. It will never sell the books it took to pay for the money it took them to get the package they bought. Also the writing is bad.'

Answer B: "A better and stronger form of writing, which is available to all who want it. I wouldn't call it vanity press, but self-publishing. The ISBN needs to be your own but you can buy that cheap, and your work is yours, not anyone else."

Okay, so I'm middle ground, but what about the self-publishing companies who sell packages to people are they self-publishing companies or marketing companies?

Well there are many here are the list that both agree aren't so reliable to work with: AuthorHouse, IUniverse, Xlibris, Publish America, and Trafford. To varying degrees neither one of them were happy with the services rendered. Price-- or money spent-- was one of them, although you can find them on any of the websites you can get the newest prices, but still can if you market the book well- you make a profit with these self-publishing companies. They agree that these are closer to vanity presses than they would care to do business with.

They also agreed, about Lulu press and Lighting Source are two of better ones. One even went as far to point out that the above mentioned self-publishers use Lighting Source to publish their books.

In my humble view: self-publishing is when you pay for services and get books for said services, that you sell to readers, you are the author and the writer, and the chief marketing executive and inventory personnel and anything and everything in between. You are also responsible for the outcome of the book, and you have your ISBN to your own self-publishing company. In other words you own the rights and the ISBN.

There are another few things I will add.

An original type of printing press, where some important documents were published to a wider audience.
An original type of printing press, where some important documents were published to a wider audience.
pens are simply a way to printing and publishing
pens are simply a way to printing and publishing
A Old printing press
A Old printing press
So teh big debate: where should money go?
So teh big debate: where should money go?
just write.
just write.

So What Else? Things To Understand About The Publishing Industry

I would also say that the company you do go to also is the publisher of the books, not sending it out to another company to do the printing work for them, there is such a thing as a distributor of books. I don't feel the need to have my own "work" done by a large company who then sends it out to someone else-- however with this statement sometimes vanity presses use a distributor like Lighting Source to create a large number of books when I can use this very distributor myself.

If it was something that I would do, I would use a local printer, this way I can say my book is published "homegrown" and I can also see the process. I can also garner local support. People enjoy knowing that they are valued. The key is to know your market and to network from there.

You, the author can create a unique bond with your reader. This may not make you money, but will be a step in creating a lasting relationship and business. You also need to be able to understand what you can and can not do. if you don't know the difference between a vanity press and a self-publishing company, you're in the wrong line of publishing.

So, this also leads me to my next point, when writing do you know the rest of what goes on? This Is one of the reasons why I think going to get a book self-published is a good thing, it gives a writer an idea, a small idea, of what really goes on in the publishing industry.

Just as publishing via the traditional route gives an idea of the type of choices a publisher must make each and everyday. There is value in everything.

As for calling something a vanity press, I told both of them that I would call something a vanity press if it doesn't give back at least part of what they promise, by this I mean books. ( You understand the kind you can sell for profit) Even if I spent 100 dollars, and not get books, I still would consider it a vanity press. If I spent 100 dollars, and got enough books to break even or close to even then it's (to me at least) a self-publishing company. Also I'll add the ISBN must be mine not theirs otherwise again it's a vanity press.

When I told this to my two warring friends, I got some bemused looks. I suppose some people won't ever change.

Could Both of My Friends Have a Point?

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Self-Publish or Vanity Publish? A few Final Points

My one suggestion is to not get caught up in the money thing. You might make money with your self-published book or you might not. What is important is that you avoid the dangers of a vanity press.

A Quick run down fo some vanity press as a list: AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse, who are all under the parent compant AuthorSolutions, then there is Tafford Press, and Outskirts to name a few. These are the most high profile of the vanity press list but there are many more.

Points to be aware of:

1) If it's not under your own ISBN you've lost some rights to your work already.

2) Don't get caught up in marketing. Market your books, but you will need to edit your self-published work.

3) you need to edit your work before sending it out to a traditional publisher, you will need, and you must, do the same with any self-published works as well.

4) If someone says your writing sounds awesome-- beofre they have read your work, back away, and don't come back.

5) Never spend money on a book simply to get the most "free books" possible. This is common with vanity presses. Look for editing and also look for the types of promotions you can get for your book elsewhere.

6) Ask a lot of questions: Not a good enough answer? then this is not a self-publsihign company but rather a vanity press looking for your money-- at best, or a scam artist at worst. Never stop asking questions.

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Comments 30 comments

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 2 years ago from Canada Author

Neil- I agree some but not all. There are still too many people who are too eager to "get into" the publishing aspect of their writing that they forget all the details- like editing, and re-editing, and overall work.

Neil Waring 2 years ago

I think Amazon and Create Space, have chased away some of the more disreputable publishers. I like the points about editing, still needs to be done, if you are publishing your own stuff it may be even more important.

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 2 years ago from Canada Author

skye2day-- I try my best, it's all about letting people know about publishing, I would say what I said then is still true now. Much thanks my dear!

skye2day profile image

skye2day 2 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Rebecca E, Hello precious woman. There is something about your writing that intrigues me. I think it is your heartfelt desire to help others. It is a beautiful quality. This hub was written several years ago so I wonder if you would feel the same? It is no big deal at all. As you mentioned it is all where the writer is at and what the writer is wanting.

I love how you gave a red flag warning in your article. There are wolves out there and most everyone wants the buck. They will do what it takes to make it too. Be on watch for the one that says you are fabulous writer and they know little if any of your writing!! Good advice. I know of a couple that got ripped off by publishers. So sad but we do make errors and God is a fixer upper. He can turn all things for the good for those that love Him. We grow from mistakes, amen.

God Bless you for helping others girl. I know he does. May His favor be on you in all of your comings and goings. As for myself rebecca e my dream is for a publisher to pick me up because I am a one of a kind writer and they just gotta have me. All expenses on them. JK, not but huge dream. Got to keep going for those dreams, Amen? Of course with God all things are possible. With the huge competition out there praying would be the first order of business for me. God could and would if He were sought. Matthew 6:32

I love ya girl. You so remind me of my becca. She is so talented as well. must be the Rebecca name, JK. She is an interior design artist. The best in her league. She has a heart of love and lead designer for a large firm.

I hope all is well with you and yours rebecca e. Do stop in for a visit on occasion. I love seeing you in my neighborhood. Keep going girl. We reap what we sow. You are a giver and God knows your heart. It is lovely and generous. Thanks for the info. I will bookmark for future.

Love ya girl. Skye

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 4 years ago from Canada Author

htodd-- anything else? you are welcome.

htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

Thanks Rebecca for the nice post

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 4 years ago from Canada Author

John-- thanks for the suggestion I will add something on vanity presses once I get the chance about them.

John 5 years ago

This is great,can you add why you wouldn't go to certain places or is this something that you cahven't had time to think about?

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 5 years ago from Canada Author

htodd-- you are welcome.

htodd profile image

htodd 5 years ago from United States

Nice post...Thanks

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 5 years ago from Canada Author

Book Person-- you have spoken no lies, it is a harder journey, and you do need to work ten times as hard to get sales. Again, if it is something that you know will not sell in great numbers it is an option, but as with all things, best suggestion of course is EYES WiDE Open

Book Person 5 years ago

As someone who is both a writer AND works in a bookstore- I just want to say that while I have no disrespect for self-publishing- it's unlikely that your book will regularly be kept in bookstores. If it is a local independent bookstore it is possible- but I think it's unwise to think that someone could write a book and make it the next Harry Potter through self publishing. Chain bookstores do not regularly carry self-published books- not out of disrespect but because with the volume of self-published books out there it's just not realistic. I understand wanting to own your own work- but if you actually want people to PICK-UP and READ your work- you should take the extra steps and go to one of the big guys.

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 5 years ago from Canada Author

jandee-- thanks! it is true without self-publishing I would be hard at work getting "no" again editing and getting an editor to look over your work is key.

jandee profile image

jandee 5 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

Hello Rebecca, very interesting topic. Without self-publishing not many new writers would have a chance. The requirements from publishers are high,enjoyed reading,


Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 6 years ago from Canada Author

jason-- that is the general idea.

jason 6 years ago

vanity presses No.

real self-publishing company yes.

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada Author

there is that sort of fear when we say "self-publishing" but in many cases it can be good, and inexpensive.

It just depends on what you are doing with it.

seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 7 years ago

I think self publishing is a sensible and sometimes inexpensive way to write a memoir or family history. I am one of eight children and we all contributed a chapter each to our family history. My mum wrote a chapter too.The idea was to hand out copies to our children and extended family. We saw it simply as our own family record that might be of interest to future generations. Never intended for sale or a wider audience. Nevertheless , a certain amount of censorship took place before publishing.

However, when my older brother first proposed the idea , I have to confess, I teased him by saying "so you think we should go down the route of vanity publishing". He was seriously not amused.

So you are certainly correct in how it is perceived.

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada Author

WHat do you think of Create Space?

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks for all the comments, as I've said before there is a time and place for all types of publishing.

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 7 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

I have bookmarked this hub and also passed it on to my s/o. I happy to have read your comments on the popular self publishing companies.

stars439 profile image

stars439 7 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

wonderfull talented work.

glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

This is good to know! I have always heard the term "vanity press" but never really understood what it was! I totally advocate self-publishing

glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

This is good to know! I have always heard the term "vanity press" but never really understood what it was! I totally advocate self-publishing

Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Glad to have your experience here on HP. Would actually be interested to know what you and your friends ate (could skew the debate, could it not?). Seriously, I have questions about publishing and would love to get your thoughts sometime. Cheers. MM

Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

Good start on a hot topic for writers. It made me want to dig deeper. It's interesting that you had 2 very opposed opinions with just the 5 of you. Sounds like a very intense group of people. Also sounds like good company.

For myself, I would have liked to hear what you'all ate and those "less interesting topics". LOL

Where did you find the pens?

JS 7 years ago

Nice introspection I must say! I learned from it. Wonder what the two friends had to say after those bemused looks of theirs. And yes, the pics are amazing!

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada Author

awsydney, thanks for the comment. A person with a thought is important!

awsydney profile image

awsydney 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Rebecca, unfortunately I dont know enough to give my opinion on this matter. But I would say great pics on the printing press tho! Cheers.

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada Author

yes this is a true conversation i've simply left out the non-important parts, you know what we ate and the other less interesting topics

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