Vanity Unfair: When Do Publishing Companies Become Unscrupulous?

Hello, my sweets!

How are you all?  Hopefully good–and if you haven’t been good, I hope you’re feeling better.  Anyway, today’s hot topic is all about vanity publishing.  Since a lot of us are aspiring writers, it’d make our hearts leap if we ever see that a publishing company has taken interest in our submission/s.  We’d think that we finally hit the jackpot and our eyes sparkle at the possibility of making it big, baby!

Here’s where I say the big, dreaded ‘BUT’: What if there are publishing presses out there that are taking advantage of writers?  It turns out, I learned that some companies are doing this, and specifically, they target writers who either a) want to make it as a published author or b) are jaded and are tired of facing rejection after rejection.  This is where the vanity publisher comes in.

Usually, these type of publishers are not as strict with submissions, or they may even approach you first because they’d know you’re a writer trying to get something published.  However, unlike a traditional publisher i.e. Penguin Random House, this company would ask for a lump sum before they really take on board your manuscript.  Usually, the amount they ask for is in the (whopping!) thousands, and you as the potential client would expect that this company will do the best for you, right?

Well… not really, to answer the not-so rhetorical question above.  Typing ‘vanity publisher’ into Google and snooping around will reveal that working with these types of businesses are not exactly hunky-dory!  Apparently, there are a few horror stories around, and these serve as warnings to other writers out there who are looking to get their work published and marketed.  Some of these stories include clumsy or lacklustre editing and marketing (or lack thereof one or both of these things), poor quality of print and e-copies of works, asking for extra payments from an author if their work is to be included in an anthology or contest, or somehow paying for unnecessary “expenses” (like your publishers’ lunch).  Or maybe, just maybe, they could take the money and ghost you; a trick straight out of the handbook of con artistry!  So, how do we know we’re dealing with a vanity publisher?

Ideally, a traditional or legitimate press is fussy with submissions.  They can’t just accept every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s manuscript, because they only want to accept submissions that they know will make them gain profit.  When the final draft is finally put on print and online, the publisher will announce the up and coming title, and when the time comes, they will add it to their catalogue.  Then, the publisher will pay the author a part of the revenue that their book got from sales.

On the contrary, vanity publishers practically beg for submissions.  They even go as far as to plaster their ads over search engines and social media.  Their ads often use buzzwords to lure in writers that want a chance at getting published.  Let’s say that we give these guys a go.  We submit our manuscript, and then we get a response from the VP that they are interested in publishing us!  Hooray!  Then, after taking a stroll through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, we come out a few thousand dollars (or currency of your choice) out of our pockets with copies of our poorly edited novel with shitty covers.  We look through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Dymocks, Book Depository, but we don’t see any trace of our newly published novel.  Hell, we even check that tiny independent bookstore in the next town over to see if they’re selling our magnum opus!  Alas, to our shock, there isn’t a sign of our novel anywhere.  Nope, nada.  It went into the black hole of despair and wasted opportunities, along with my childhood aspirations of being an astronaut.

Now, if you think I’m being dramatic or being too critical regarding these vanity presses, well, let’s have a squiz at what you expect from a legitimate, traditional publisher versus a vanity one.  Let’s look at mystery novels (because we love them so much, or am I just projecting?).


Exhibit A: Penguin Random House Mystery Bestsellers.  Covers are eyecatching and in my opinion, make me curious to read some of them.  Screenshotted 5/9/19


Exhibit B: Austin Macauley Mystery novels (page 2).  Now, I don’t want to shit on a graphic designer’s work because they probably fed their families making these covers, but in comparison to PRH above, there hasn’t been as much put into them.  Personally, I find these covers not too appealing to the eye.  But, a cover is just a cover and who knows–some of these novels displayed are probably even good!  Screenshotted 5/9/19

Though, with all that being said, I can’t really blame some writers for going with a vanity publisher because it can be superbly frustrating to receive rejection after rejection from various publishers (even the indie ones), or lack of sales from self-publishing, and they only want to make their dreams come true.  Suppose, if they have the money for it, they can pay for one of these publishers to get their book out there.  There may be some people that even had good experiences with VPs as such.  Who knows.  But to summarise this post, I reckon that using a vanity publisher is a bit of a risky and expensive shortcut to get published.  You can’t truly be certain that you’ll get your money’s worth of proper editing, marketing, or appealing graphics.  It’s a bit of a gamble, don’t you think?

For more information, I suggest heading over to Writer Beware, a mecca of information regarding vanity publishers and publishing-related scams and other unethical doings, if you’re interested in learning much more.

But, that’s all the time I got today.  It’s superly late (or superbly early, since it’s like one in the morning), and I want to make a hot chocolate and go to bed.  I’m also planning on revamping the site’s theme again.  So, apologies if the site goes all weird.  Anyhow, I need to shut up now, so see you in the next post!  Keep reading and writing always!

new siggie again

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