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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.
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?
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.