Beware of vanity publishers

The world of vanity publishing can be very murky. For the uninitiated, vanity publishing sits somewhere between self-publishing and traditional (commercial publishing).

However, some vanity publishers are blurring the lines and preying on aspiring authors who would do anything to see their books in print.

It’s important to note that vanity publishing is different to self-publishing, which has become increasingly common in recent years. This is where the author takes responsibility for all costs associated with printing, distributing and marketing their book. While some literary snobs pooh-pooh the idea of both vanity publishing and self-publishing, there can be merits and advantages to self-publishing – if you know what you’re doing and if the medium suits your goals. In particular, business books in niche markets may never have a big enough market to attract a commercial publisher. So self-publishing can be a fruitful and effective way to reach niche target audiences.

Vanity publishing, on the other hand, is an entirely different kettle of fish. Here, a vanity publisher charges the author to get the book printed. The Australian Society of Authors website says: “Such publishers exist from the fees that they receive from the payees, not from proceeds from sales of the book. They therefore have no motivation to market and sell copies of the book. Vanity publishers offer limited or no marketing service and transfer responsibility for the sales of the published book to the payee. They are merely an expensive production facility. If you are contemplating using a vanity publisher you should first consider self-publishing, which is likely to be both less expensive and more fruitful.”

This week, Radio National’s Background Briefing program released an investigation into the practices of vanity publishers.

Hundreds of Australian authors pay thousands of dollars to ‘vanity publishers', often based on unfulfilled promises that their books will be widely promoted and distributed here and overseas. Hagar Cohen investigates the dubious practices of one Australian publisher as she tries to find the authors’ books in any bookstore.

It’s a good insight into a world that you need to be aware of if you’re considering this path. You can read/listen to the report here.

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