Vanity Publishing and the Abyss

Suspended deep sea diving bell at ocean bottom

Achieving publication today in the traditional book writing arena is now harder than ever. Only a tiny minority of presented manuscripts ever reach publication, perhaps as a result of an illogical mix of persistence, patience, perseverance, slight craziness with a little luck!

Yet the numbers of writers who seek to have their book published in the traditional manner continues to rise. The sheer determination of writers desperate to see their work in print, can mean that some fall foul to the questionable practice of vanity publishing (VP). In this article, we'll define vanity publishing and offer some ways that writers can avoid this beast and choose better options.

What is Vanity Publishing?

Organizations exist who, for a fee, will publish anything that a writer writes. Often, this "handling fee" is packaged in all sorts of seductive ways. If the results don't deliver the level of sales you seek, a vanity publisher may "encourage" the writer to opt for a further round of "promotional techniques." Before long, our writer can almost feel like they're entering a financial, logistical and managerial abyss.

However, the bottom line is that a new or desperate writer is encouraged to pay a [vanity] publisher/printer to print their books, often with vague promises of a specific number of "guaranteed" sales.

Although I believe vanity publishing is a bad idea at almost any time, it is especially insidious when a new writer first starting out is persuaded to go down this route.

Why is Vanity Publishing such a bad idea?

Any respectable publisher can publish your work without asking for any money from you if they can see a market or a potential profitable return for your work. Period.

Granted, many traditional publishers can't keep up with the offerings that new writers might have available — and in most instances, don't even try, as often there simply isn't sufficient time available.

Vanity publishers may also have a vested interest in simply not telling you if your work is really not ready for public viewing.

Therefore, my advice here is do not under any circumstances be duped into vanity publishing. Ever!

Often, unscrupulous VPs will tell anything and everything a writer wants to hear, in an attempt to part them from their money. By already contacting a VP, you're already more emotionally vulnerable and so perhaps more susceptible to VP-tailored deal.

Make no mistake, VPs can come across as incredibly professional. Don't fall for it.


Smart Alternatives to Vanity Publishing

In this author's opinion, vanity publishing is simply not needed as other, better value options are now available to both new and established writers. Instead, learn about what is possible and how to gain publication from genuine sources.

For example, consider:

  • Write and publish your own ebook. Today, you can publish easily on Amazon Kindle, Apple iStore, and more. Digital publishing provides you with a worldwide market for your ebooks (and your books if you choose to also use a POD publisher as outlined below).
  • Print On Demand (POD) self-publishing techniques. With the rapid development of high quality printers, books can now be printed economically with just a few at a time — or even singly.
  • Internet publishing options including conventional websites, e-books and even members subscription websites like this one. Digital e-publishing is low cost, provides a great way to test out ideas and limit your risk. Plus, if your first publishing expedition goes awry, you won't end up with a garage full of books that might not sell.

Whether you're a new or established writer, simply say No to the VP abyss.


  • Keep learning.
  • Ask approachable, reputable authors for opinions about your ideas.
  • Work only with trustworthy, professional sources who can demonstrate that your best interests are paramount.

Email Us

You may also like: