What's The Difference Between Self Publishing And Vanity Publishing?

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Alright. You’ve written your novel. You’ve edited it yourself three or four times. You’ve had a few friends from your reading group to read your novel, preferably offering advice and possibly even editing for you. Maybe you even went to the expense of hiring a professional freelance editor and/or a cover artist. You’ve written your blurb for the back of the book.

Now what?

It’s time to publish.

The traditional publishing route goes something like this: the writer mails off his or her’s manuscript to editors and publishers in hopes an editor or publisher will be interested in the book and will offer a contract on the book. Some writer will instead mail a manuscript to literary agents in hopes an agent will be interested in the book and will take the writer on as a client; in that case, once the writer becomes a client of the agent, the agent will begin trying to get an editor or publisher to become interested in the book, all for a percentage of whatever money the writer make make, usually 15 percent.

All that quite often takes years. Sometimes decades. For one thing, it is rare that a writers first book is great. Many writers must write anywhere from three to seven or more novels before the book is actually any good, or at least good enough for professional publication.

Because of all those years, many authors decide to publish their own work, which can still take time.

Okay, so you think you’re ready to publish. What to do?

You go looking for a publisher or printer or a publishing service.


But wait a second? If you are self-publishing, do you still need a print publisher?

More than likely, yes. Or, at the least, you’ll need a publishing service.

How so? Well, let’s put it this way: You could potentially shop around for a traditional book printing company, but the prices are likely to by sky high. Most of these printers are likely only going to work with you if you agree to purchase thousands, possibly as many as ten thousand, copies of your book from the printer. That runs into thousands upon thousands of dollars. Perhaps even into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Vanity publishing

Another option is to find a vanity publisher/press and work with them. A vanity publisher basically works as a traditional publisher, except you, the writer, pays them to publish your book. Some vanity publisher are quite expensive, again running into the thousands of dollars.

There are also different types of vanity publishers. Some basically just print your book for you. Others offer a variety of services, often including editing, book design and more.

There are two problems that come with vanity publishing. The first is the cost. Vanity publishers are often expensive. Second, their is a common stigma against vanity publishing among many writers, editors and publishers, often to the point that they will look down upon a vanity-published writer and will not work with them. Which is kind of silly considering many famous authors published their own works, including the likes of Mark Twain.

Self publishing

The two options I mentioned above, finding a printer or going through a vanity publisher, are a form of self publishing. But not all self publishing efforts are vanity publishing.

For instance, today there is what is known as print-on-demand (POD) technology. This entails using machinery, usually a sort of super laser printer hooked up to one or more computers, that can print an entire paperback book in a matter of minutes, usually around a half hour or less.

Several publishers and presses are taking advantage of POD and allowing authors to self-publish through them using POD. What this means is that the publisher and the author don’t have to go to the extravagant expense of printing hundreds or thousands of copies of a book. The printer/publisher can simply wait for someone to order the book, then they can print the book through POD in a half hour or less. This saves lots of money on printing costs, but also on storage, as there’s no longer a need to store thousands of books.

Two of the most common POD printers are Lulu and Lightning Source. Each has its fans and its perks and quirks, so I will not suggest which one is right for you. Yes, there will be some essential costs right up front, but it’s often a couple of hundred dollars or less. Each company has different programs, some more expensive than others, so you’ll have to study them to decide which one works best for you.

Just remember, if you want to make money, you’re going to have to spend money. You can try to get by as cheap as possible, but when it comes to printing and publishing, there will likely be some initial costs.

Digital publishing

Digital publishing of e-books is a fairly new phenomenon, and it is somewhat different though in some ways similar to print publishing.

One of the great things about digital publishing is that you can do it without it costing you one penny.

Don’t believe me? Then go check out the website Smashwords, and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, and the Pubit! program with Barnes & Noble.

Digital publishing brings its own joys and challenges, but it is a quickly-growing section of the reading market and is worth your looking into.

So, what’s the difference?

I still haven’t answered the question, “What’s the difference between self publishing and vanity publishing?”

It’s quite basic, actually.

Vanity publishing is a form of self publishing, one in which the writer pays the printer/publisher to produce the actual book.

But self publishing is exactly that, self publishing, where the writer publishes his or her own work, and it might or might not cost the writer an initial investment in cash and might or might not include paying a printer/publisher to produce works.


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