In 1959/60 when two American companies were advertising widely throughout the UK offering to publish individual poems in anthologies at £9 and £12 each respectively, I coined the phrase “vanity publishing”. Since 1991 I have campaigned unceasingly for truth and honesty in the vanity publishing world and have become recognised as the authority on the subject.
See my feature article in the Writers’ & Artists’ Year Book
My work has been featured in both national and regional radio and tv programmes which have exposed the business practices of various vanity publishers and by many responsible newspapers and magazines (many of whom now refuse to take ‘publishing’ advertisements). In 1999 I was invited to the House of Lords to speak to members from both houses about the need to change the law to stop the “rogue traders” in the publishing world. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that the law was changed, enabling the authorities to better curb the excesses of rogue vanity publishers.”
My advice pack for authors seeking a publisher, or seeking to self-publish, or who have experienced problems with a publisher, is available as a download from this website – see
Many unwary authors are encouraged by a vanity publisher’s initial promotional material which usually praises the work submitted – whatever its quality. Such publishers often misleadingly refer to themselves as ‘partnership’, ‘self-‘, ‘joint venture’, or ‘subsidy’ publishers. But however they may refer to themselves and however much they may deny that they are – if they charge you to publish your book – they are a vanity publisher.
A dishonest vanity publisher makes money not by selling copies of a book, but by charging clients as much as possible to print an unspecified number of copies of that book. Some vanity publishers will print as few copies as they feel they can get away with. Most will claim to market their publications. However, major bookbuyers have gone on record recently stating that they “do not buy copies of books centrally from vanity publishers,” but only “as a result of the effort of the author in that author’s local area.” Which speaks for itself.
It does not follow that all vanity publishers are underhand, and those who tell you there is never a need for an author to pay to have a book published or that all vanity publishers are ‘bad’, simply display a lack of knowledge and understanding of the publishing world.
So how do you tell the difference? See “A Good Vanity Publisher . . .”
I cannot stress too strongly . . .
If you cannot find a mainstream publisher to publish your work at their expense, you must look on the whole process of publishing not as money invested to make you a return, but as money spent on a pleasurable hobby which you have enjoyed and which has provided you with well-manufactured copies of your book. If you do also manage to make a small profit, then that should be looked upon as an unforeseen and unexpected bonus!
Examples of authors seeing a return of more than an extremely small part of their outlay through a vanity publisher are extremely rare.
My advice is that you do not answer advertisements in newspapers or magazines which offer to publish books. Mainstream publishers NEVER advertise for authors – they have no need to do so.