Writing Tips - Chapter 11 - Self Publishing and Vanity Press

Writing Tips - Chapter 11 - Self Publishing and Vanity Press


Self publishing is a whole venture in it's own right and very rewarding, especially if you are interested in the process. You can put as much work in as you like, or go straight to the end product without a care in the world. You can even take it as far as becoming a publisher in your own right. 

Vanity Press - boo!

The Vanity Press was coined long ago for authors who would pay a publisher to print their book. It's generally used as a negative, insulting term, suggesting that a book is so bad that the author had to pay a whopping amount to get someone to print it. It's a silly, snobby term based on the idea that paying someone to provide a service is somehow lowering yourself.

What about the Golden Rule?

Back in Chapter 1, I did include a line in red text: 

(Golden Rule: an author never pays a publisher, agent or anyone else. EVER.)

That's only if you're going down the traditional route, where you want a publisher to invest in your book and get it in the shops. Self publishing is different, this is you taking the steps to publish the book yourself.

If a big publisher won't consider it, why bother?


What if you've written a family memoir that is only of interest to your own family? Or maybe a guide to 1971 windscreen wiper blades? Neither of these books is going to interest a mainstream publisher. Both are specialist interest, but that doesn't mean they're bad books. You could have gone through all the stages, even hired a professional copy editor to get everything just right... but neither will be accepted because there's no profit in them. In these cases, self publishing is the perfect option.

So now it comes down to how much you can do yourself. If you happen to have skills in typography, cover design, you're laughing. If not, you'll have to get someone to help out. So does that mean we're stepping onto the dark and crooked path to the Vanity Press. Of course not. The Vanity Press doesn't exist - it's a term of abuse, remember?

Self publishing services

If you don't have any of the skills, but have a manuscript that you're happy with, you can pay for a service that will take you through all of the steps. But do your research - the Vanity Press isn't only a term of abuse for authors, it's also applied to publishers who are there to rip you off. If you see an ad in a writing magazine for the full service, take it along to a local printer and ask if they could help you out - chances are they can, for a fraction of the price.

KDP - Kindle Direct Publishing. 

I simply can't get over how easy this service is to use. It's fabulous and free. I've published two YA books this way, just for the pure fun of it. You can go from a simple manuscript to a fully formatted ebook and paperback in just a few days. In some ways, that can be a negative because it's very tempting to release a book that isn't properly edited. Bear this in mind. Yes, you can go back and edit and update your book, but those who have already bought it will still have that first version. If you do major changes, you can ask KDP to let buyers know they can download an updated version, but this is not automatic: someone has to make a judgement call as to whether your edits count as a major revision.

KDP give it their own ISBN or you can register one yourself. If you buy your own ISBNs, you effectively become a publisher. Cool! Plenty of info out there on that subject, so I'll not go into it here.

Make your book the best it can be

Whichever service you use, whether you do it yourself or pay others to help, think about the buyer. In a world where reviews can make or break you, you need to keep the buyer happy. Don't give them an excuse to put your book down. Make it the best it can be. Take your time with copy edits, get a few proof readers, show the cover around friends and family. Make it something that impresses the buyer and makes you proud.

And have fun doing it. 

Colin Mulhern

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