Vanity or Subsidy Publishing

Vanity publishing and conventional publishing differ in an important aspect: money. The conventional publishing company accepts manuscripts and reviews them. If, in the company's judgment, a book has commercial potential, the publisher will decide to risk its own money to have the book published and promoted. The vanity or subsidy publisher requires the author to underwrite either a partial or total amount of publishing and promoting the book. Thus, the risk to the publisher is nominal, enabling them to accept many manuscripts which conventional publishers reject as a poor investment.

Success with a vanity book publisher? 
Rarely does a subsidy publisher put out a commercially successful book. The few exceptional success stories are often repeated to potential authors. Vanity book publishers and their operating procedures are well-known to those who buy books for resale to the public. Books published by the so-called vanity press are recognized as such. News releases and other publicity or advertising reflect the vanity status of the books, which are reviewed in this light.

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People who deal with vanity book publishers should recognize that their books may have little or no commercial possibilities, especially if their manuscripts have already been rejected by a number of the better known publishing houses. Such authors should realistically expect no more than the satisfaction that any author would derive from seeing his or her book in print.

Promotion of a book produced by a vanity publisher
An author should bear in mind that the typical contract between the vanity publisher and author does not spell out what percentage of the fee paid by the author will be for promotional purposes. Nor does it vest any control of such promotion in the author. (Generally, 10% of the total money paid by the author is the maximum which would be allocated for promotion of the published book.) In addition, the publisher normally is not obligated to bind more than a nominal number of books if there are no orders. Authors should realize that the vanity publisher often makes its money from merely printing a books at the authors’ expense.

Vanity publishers always insist on payment in advance, for the "cooperative publishing" venture. Therefore, it is imperative that the author of any literary work exercise extreme caution. INVESTIGATE BEFORE YOU INVEST!

Be wary of claims such as:

  • None of their books have resulted in failure.

  • Sales will result in more than one edition of the book, so more copies will be produced.

  • Only those manuscripts which have literary merit and sales appeal are published.

  • The publisher supplies authors with the same promotional services that the largest book publishers give to their big-name, best-selling authors.

  • The publisher has salaried traveling salespeople who spend all their time selling only clients’ books.

  • Leading libraries generally purchase large numbers of books from the vanity publishers.

  • The promotion of a book always results in its placement in stores located in the author's vicinity.

  • The book will be nationally advertised.


  • Read the contract carefully for specific details of services to be performed. Consult an attorney if you have questions.

  • Ask the publisher for the names of other authors who have achieved commercial success with the publisher.

  • Ask for details on how the book will be promoted.

  • Keep in mind that of the thousands of books published by conventional publishers every year, only a small percentage make any real profit for the publishers or provide an income for the authors. Be realistic about your work.