Avoiding Self-Publishing Scams: What You Need to Know About Vanity Presses

Navigating and avoiding potential scams is an essential part of researching how to self-publish your book. New and established authors can easily fall prey to publishing companies who offer a churn-and-burn publishing model while making big promises but under-delivering. These types of publishing companies are called vanity presses. They are known for shady business practices and usually target new or inexperienced authors with the dream of finally seeing their book in print. Here’s what you need to know about vanity presses and how to avoid being scammed by them.  


What is a Vanity Press?  

Vanity presses generate revenue by charging authors exorbitant fees to publish and market their books. Unlike traditional or self-publishing companies, vanity presses profit solely by charging publishing fees, not book sales. Vanity presses typically publish any and all books, regardless of the quality, genre, or subject matter. Vanity presses target first-time authors unfamiliar with the typical publishing process and all available options.  


How Do Vanity Presses Compare to Other Forms of Publishing?  

There are distinct differences between vanity presses and other forms of publishing. The primary goal of a vanity press is to publish your book for the least amount possible, often while sacrificing quality. Unlike vanity presses, reputable self-publishers assume the risk and pay authors’ royalties on book sales. Vanity presses charge fees for publishing and marketing books—while taking away the author’s rights to the finished work. When you use a reputable self-publishing company, you will pay for their services but remain in control of all creative elements and marketing. You also receive all the profits from book sales. Vanity presses often take a slice of the author’s profits or inflate the author’s cost for purchasing their books to resell. Another trick vanity presses use to make money is to require the author to purchase a set number of books at this inflated price. Some even set your retail price at such a high rate that it makes selling the book almost impossible. Then, once your book has been published, you are left with a low-quality printed book retailing at a high rate, making it unsellable.  


Signs of a Vanity Press  

Here are some signs a publishing company may be a vanity press in disguise:  


Makes big promises—and doesn’t deliver 

Vanity presses tend to make promises regarding marketing your book, such as gathering national media attention, guaranteed book sales, movie deals, or becoming a New York Times bestseller. They may lie and claim to have affiliations with large publishing houses, promising your book will be reviewed by that house for possible pick up by them. However, this is hardly ever true.  


No vetting process 

Vanity presses don’t care about the quality of your book. Their goal is to publish as many books as cheaply as possible. There will be little to no vetting process to ensure your book is ready to be published.  


An extensive list of fees  

While many reputable self-publishing companies will charge a fee for their publishing and marketing services, vanity presses charge authors many erroneous fees, such as reading, proofing, marketing, and payroll processing (they charge you to send you what you’ve earned). You should never pay a publishing company for royalties. Royalties are always paid to the author as a commission for book sales.  


Low-quality production 

Vanity presses are only interested in publishing your book for the most they can charge while paying the least amount possible to produce it. They often outsource services like editing, cover design, and marketing for the cheapest amount possible, leaving you with a printed book that is poorly edited and designed using templates.  


Shady contracts  

Vanity presses often require you to sign contracts that essentially sign away all your rights to your book—indefinitely. Contracts may include signing away copyrights and adaptation rights to your finished work. They may also require authors to purchase a specific minimum quota of books.  


How to Avoid Vanity Press Publishing Scams  

The best way to avoid a vanity press publishing scam is to research and partner with reputable self-publishing companies, like EA Books Publishing. Never sign a contract with a vanity press without reading the fine print and having an attorney review the agreement, a trusted mentor, or a critique group. The presidents of these groups have seen it all and can spot the warning signs in a contract.  

Because we are a Christian company, we always tell our authors to bring all things to the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to confirm or close any open doors. We believe our God will direct your paths if you allow Him to speak to you. Don’t ignore that still small voice. 


Choosing a self-publishing partner is one of the most important decisions you make when publishing your book. Choose a company that will partner with you to share your God-given message with the world. Contact our team at EA Books Publishing today to discuss your options and get started on your book publishing journey.  

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