Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.

Vanity Publishing


I’m constantly surprised at how many writers don’t seem to understand the difference between traditional publishers and vanity publishers. I often read writers proudly announcing they’ve been accepted by a publisher and they’re thrilled at how easy it was and pumped by how enthusiastic the publisher is to publish their very first novel.

Most self-published writers, I presume, get unsolicited offers from publishers these days; we’re always accessible on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. We all want to have the next ’50 Shades of Grey’, or at least that kind of success and it’s nice to hear any kind of praise for anything we do, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how many writers respond to these kind of publishers.

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodLet me make it clear–traditional publishers don’t ask writers for money! They actually pay an advance to the writer which immediately puts them in a position where it’s to their advantage to distribute the book and sell as many copies as possible. The writer is still expected to make use of social media and other publicity but the publisher doesn’t make any money unless the book sells.

A vanity press is a publisher who asks the writer to pay for everything, from editing right through to distribution, while a traditional publisher pays for all of this. The vanity publisher in fact makes his money directly from the writer, whether their book is a success or not. The traditional publisher makes money only if the book is successful enough to cover the writer’s advance, the costs of editing, printing and so on with some net profit at the end of it. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for new writers to find a place in the world of traditional publishing.

I’m not necessarily saying all vanity publishers are scammers, just that writers should understand the difference. It may be that you think it’s worth paying someone to do all that’s required to produce your book for you, but if you do choose that road at least make sure you do lots of research and try to find someone with genuine recommendations from other writers. This is why I self-publish–all things considered it seems the best option for me. I can do what I like when I like, and if I do choose to pay someone for a book cover design or any of the many things a self-published writer has to do, it will still be my decision.

If you have any experience, good or bad, with vanity publishers, I’d love to hear about it.

‘Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalised version of my true story ‘Not Guilty’, is FREE from the 14th to the 18th of October. For more details about this and my other books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-fiction’ page or visit my author pages at or Amazon.UK

Excerpt from ‘Her Flesh and Blood’: We had a blazing row when George finally got home. He was drunk and he called me names that I would never say, let alone write down, even here in the privacy of my journal. I slapped him and he hit me hard across the face. I fell over and hit my head on the table. The children were asleep but we were arguing so loudly that Dolly woke up and came out crying. She cried out to George to stop hurting her mumma and he came to his senses then. He picked her up and then helped me to my feet and we both said we were sorry and put her back to bed. He refused to discuss what happened at the factory, except to tell me never to go there again. I know he was humiliated. I’m sure Mr Leggo gave him a good talking to and the workers were no doubt amused by the whole event. I don’t care. Now those women are gone and we can get on with our lives. My children will have a father.



Author: cmsgardnerblog

I'm a writer of fiction and non-fiction, for teens and adults. I live in Central Victoria, Australia and my books are available at

5 thoughts on “Vanity Publishing

  1. If a publisher finds merit in your work, he or she will want to publish it – not ask for money to do it. That’s the way I see it. Of course, it is much more difficult to get published but at least the author knows he or she has written well and overall done a good job. Those vanity publishers will accept practically anything, just to make money.

  2. Good post. I’ve had experience with a small press, which unfortunately went out of business, and I’ve self-published too. However, I have friends who have worked with vanity presses to get their books out there. I doubt if they made back the money they spent with those publishers. Although the small press that published my book didn’t do much in the way of promotion before they went under, at least I didn’t have to pay them for cover design, editing, proofreading, etc., and I did make a little bit in royalties. I’d suggest that writers compare the cost of hiring their own editor, cover designer, etc., to the cost of hiring a vanity publisher before deciding how to proceed.

  3. From the about page of my Blog: I do not pay to publish. If recognition has to wait until my work is discovered in whatever nursing home I end up in, so be it.

    It’s poetry, so we know what that means. The next Shades of (pick col0r)? How about small amounts on a regular basis to supplement my social security?

    • LOL. I’m glad to see this opinion because that has been weighing heavily on my mind, whether to pay a publisher. One is called Author House…asked for less calls from them since I wasn’t sure nor ready. I’m a procrastinator and getting better at taking action (be fearless), but I admit I want a lot of help (agent, sales-marketing, development, etc.) to get published. Chris’ article was very good, timeless.

  4. Great advice! More writers need to read this.

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