For authors who are exploring self-publishing options, vanity publishers are waiting with their arms outstretched. But across various websites and author forums, vanity publishing started getting a bad name due to the operational model they follow.
Rather than targeting the regular readers of a book, for vanity publishing companies, the primary customer is the author. These are publishers who have no interest or incentive in seeing the sales numbers for your book sky rocket.
Many vanity publishing players, aware of the stigma associated with the label, started presenting themselves in new ways to break away from the clutter.
Subsidy publishing – The author ‘subsidizes’ the cost of publishing the book.
Cooperative publishing – The author ‘cooperates’ with the publisher in getting the book out.
Partner publishers – The publishing company presents itself as the author’s ‘supporting partner’
Joint venture publishing – Sounds almost corporate-like, but basically there’s nothing different.
Equity publishers – You buy a stake i.e. ‘equity’ (by virtue of making an ‘investments’) in something that’s essentially yours.
If you hear any of these terms, dig a little deeper to find out what’s really on offer.
Not only did the labels change, but the operating models also started evolving to make the intentions less obvious.
Effectively it means the same thing. You pay for getting your book published. Some ask for money upfront. Others may ask for a partial payment from you before the book is published. But the contract could have clauses that compel you to buy your own book from the vanity publisher, often at a higher-than-justified price.
What you do with the stock of books is your headache. You may distribute it for free among family or friends. Or you may try to play the role of a regular distributor by reaching out to smaller book stores or other sales outlets. In some cases, the vanity publisher may offer you marketing and distribution services, but at a fee.
Vanity publishers will generally try to ensure that they get their dues whether or not your book does well. So there’s little reason for them to extend the uncertainty beyond a certain point. The model in its myriad forms has to ensure that every single book brings in profits for the publisher. Profitability is something that traditional publishers can never take for granted with all the inherent risks involved.
Many innocent authors have fallen prey to dishonest, fraud and unethical subsidy publishers who’ve not delivered the number of copies, or the quality of printing promised. In India, the number of cases reported might be small, but internationally there have been several cases of owners of vanity publishing houses going to jail after getting sued for duping their clients. So do be aware of vanity publishers who are trying to sell their services to you under another guise.
Whether vanity publishing is good or bad, is for you to decide based on your personal preferences or priorities. In fact in many cases there might be genuine reasons to go for the services of ethical and honest vanity publishers who are transparent about how they do business and will stick to their contractual obligations.
Have you used the services of any vanity publishing company? What has your experience been?