The Sacramento News & Review ran an interesting, and very balanced, article about the pros-and-cons of Print-On-Demand publishing (ie "vanity presses").
there’s a difference between the POD printing technology–which has many
uses–and POD publishing. In recent years, a number of companies have begun to
offer POD publishing services to authors who want to see their books in print
but haven’t been able to interest a traditional publishing house in their work.
These writers often turn to companies with names like AuthorHouse, iUniverse and
Xlibris to publish their books for them. For a fee, which varies depending on
the level of marketing, editing and other services the author selects, POD
publishers will set up the book and print copies as they are ordered.
Wales, who published his first novel with AuthorHouse, makes a distinction
between using a POD publisher and self-publishing. “The basic difference,” he
said, “is that when you use a company like AuthorHouse or iUniverse, they are
the publisher. That means they own the ISBN [International Standard Book
Number], and all payments for the book get channeled through them.” But because
the author has paid for the publication, and the company has no input into
content other than banning obscenity or pornography, according to Wales, “those
companies are vanity presses.”
“They’ll set you up,” he said, “but they don’t have any sort of criteria for
what’s going to be published and what isn’t.” Wales initially went with
AuthorHouse (which was called 1stBooks at the time) because he’d had difficulty
finding an agent or publisher for his first book, a rather epic fantasy novel.
It runs more than 600 pages–more than 300,000 words–in length.
…Many would-be authors decline to use the editing services offered by POD
publishers–either because it costs extra or because they think, wrongly, that
editing isn’t necessary. Without the agents and editors of the traditional
publishing system to weed out the unprepared and unworthy, some really bad books
are out there.
I’m genuinely torn between a
healthy respect for access to publishing for all and aggravation that so many
people think anybody can write a good book. It’s like saying anyone can be a
brain surgeon; it would be nice if it were true, but it’s just not so.
I recommend the article for anyone who is thinking about self-publishing their book.