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Thoughts on Vanity Publishing

If you have plans to have your novel published by a vanity press, think again. Vanity presses do not have a good standing in the publishing community. Books they publish die in obscurity. Most of the time, they do not help to launch the careers of promising authors. Still, many authors, the hopefuls and those disappointed in traditional publishing, are lured by the sweet promises of vanity presses. While it is true that traditional publishers do not always publish quality books (and perhaps the one you wrote is far more deserving of getting published), traditional presses will never ask for an author’s money upfront.

Let’s face it. Many of us have a cognitive bias of overestimating ourselves, and this Dunning-Kruger effect can blow up to delusional proportions. Look at how many American Idol hopefuls risk their dignity in front of national TV, only to get rejected. Their misplaced confidence has led them to believe that they can sing. The same holds for many who aspire to writing greatness. Just because you live a colorful life worthy of telling does not mean you have the skills to write about it. Writing as a vocation does not flourish overnight. When your overconfidence or vanity overrides your self-assessment in pursuit of achievement, you become easy prey to those who profit from people’s gullibility. You become blind to the details of the enterprise as your mind hones in on the sweet promises of fame and recognition. Vanity publishers ask writers for a subsidizing fee to have a book published. This setup often leads to a sour outcome, with the writer suing the publisher for failing to keep their part of the bargain in advancing the writer’s objective.

Vanity publishers only work if the writer wants to distribute several physical copies of his book to friends and family. On a larger scale, bookstores, libraries, and major publications do not bother to take a second look at vanity-published works. Your work will never get that much-needed review (unless you pay for an expensive public relations service).

If your vanity still makes you firm in your resolve, take this simple test: Before dishing out $3,000 to $6,000 for vanity publishing, send your chosen press a synopsis or a few sample chapters of your novel. Make deliberate errors in grammar, spelling, mechanics, style, characterization, and plot. Tell the publisher that you have worked years to come up with your masterpiece—the more obvious the errors, the better. When the publisher responds, study their analysis. If they laud your work as the next great American novel and tell you that they would be happy to publish your work, chances are they are more interested in your money rather in than providing you with a publishing service that represents your best interest. Vanity publishers can never be bothered with providing a thorough assessment of manuscripts. Some vanity publishers do, and they throw in editing and proofreading services for an additional fee. Vanity publishers have evolved in the competitive world of self-publishing and digital information. As always, writers must remain vigilant and be wary of any publishers offering to have their book published for a fee.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Vincent Dublado