Discussions about self-publishing and vanity presses seem to be in the air today. I received this question in my email…
I’m a guy with a day job working on a business book related to my profession.
As a business person I am comfortable with self promotion and like the cost
structure of self publishing. I was curious about the distinction you made in a
recent post about the difference between a vanity press and a self publisher.
What is the difference in your view?
Vanity presses and self-publishers are the same thing… companies you pay to publish your book. There’s nothing wrong with vanity presses… as long as they aren’t trying to fool you into thinking they are a traditional publishers.
IUniverse, for example, is a reputable vanity press that turns out a nice looking product at a reasonable price. They don’t pretend to be anything but what they are… a company that offers authors a way to self-publish their books.
I’ve had several of my out-of-print titles republished in trade paperback editions (at no cost to me through a special Authors Guild program) and have been very happy with the results. The books look great and I get nice little royalty checks on a regular basis… and I can double-check my sales at any time by logging into their website.
But before you get involved with a vanity press, you should have realistic expectations about the kinds of sales, distribution, promotion, and critical notice you are likely to get.
Figure close to zero.
The burden of selling the book, promoting the book, and getting any critical notice at all will be entirely up to you. Stores are reluctant to carry self-published titles because they rarely get a discount and can’t return unsold copies. Critics will rarely review a self-published title. Reporters are loathe to interview a self-published author unless there is an incredibly compelling angle to the story (It helps if you’re a TV star (Buddy Ebsen), a controversial politician (Richard Lugar), a famous songwriter (Lee Hazelwood), or a key player in a sex scandal (Amy Fisher).
I can see how going to a vanity press would make sense for a non-fiction book if, for example, you want to market it yourself at speaking engagements and seminars… or use as a promotional item for your company and its services. There is a place for self-publishing…it’s a useful service. But it’s not a replacement for authors looking for all the things that come from having a book bought by Simon & Schuster, Penquin/Putnam, or any other "traditional" publishing house.