Vanity Pitches – Don’t Believe the Hype!

July 26, 2012

If you are a professional in your field you may be offered the chance to appear in a vanity publication. You may be told that your name and accomplishments will be displayed in a publication with other well-known dignitaries and distinguished leaders. Don’t believe the hype! Many of these publications do nothing more than boost your ego and empty your wallet.

All too frequently vanity pitches for “Who’s Who”-type publications, biographies or nominations for awards or special memberships have a catch to them. In some cases, honorees who receive such e-mails, letters and calls are not chosen by a select committee, as they are often told, but plucked off mailing lists or their e-mail addresses harvested from web sites. Their name may never appear in the well-known biography directory or they may never receive any award as promised.

Vanity pitches often target executives, writers, poets and students. Those who are flattered into providing details of their career or accomplishments may be stuck with a subscription fee, a membership fee, a charge for listing, an inflated price for buying the publication or a solicitation to purchase one or more copies of the publication.

There is no guarantee that the advertised publication will be distributed beyond those persons purchasing copies for themselves or even that it will be published at all. The appeal may be based strictly on personal vanity.

To distinguish a reputable biographical directory from those of little to no value, the Better Business Bureau suggests the following tips:

· Before agreeing to anything, check with your local library. The public library will stock well-known and useful general biographical directories and can advise you about its knowledge of the volume in question. Also, the reputation of professional and business directories may be checked with relevant trade associations. For student directories, check with your local schools or universities.

· Ask questions. A reputable publisher will be willing to tell you who subscribes to its publication and the number of volumes published in past years.

· If the subscribers to the directory are mainly limited to those whose names appear in it, you can logically infer that it is, in fact, a “vanity publication” for the self-aggrandizement of those listed.

· For students, keep in mind, that listing your name in a directory will not guarantee college acceptance, nor will it ensure financial aid for you to attend college. Admissions counselors and scholarship committees evaluate students on the basis of their school records, test scores and other factors.

· Contact your BBB for a Business Review for the company.

Be suspicious if the publisher:

· Refuses to provide a firm price. The exact cost of the book should be stated up front and in the contract.

· Claims that the offer is for a “limited time only” or that unexplained circumstances require you to “act immediately.”

· Makes verbal promises that are not duplicated in the contract, like promising that he/she can get you on national talk shows, or will organize a speaking tour or a national booksigning campaign.

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Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: or E-mail: or