Tuesday, October 1, 2013


There are book publishers, there are printers, there are hybrids (publishers who also print) – and then there are vanity presses (not to be confused with the indie scene).  It’s important that people wanting to show the world their work should understand the differences. Here, in brief, is what they all do.
Publishers consider your manuscript and accept or reject it as a commercial proposition. If they accept it, they will tidy it up, have it printed, and then publish it at their expense. They will manage the marketing and will expect the writer to co-operate with any publicity arrangements. They will offer the writer royalties – an agreed percentage of the selling price – which may be modest because publishing is an expensive business.

Printers print. That’s all they do. They print anything from business cards to café menus to books. They will print your book. They do not check the spelling, they do not assess the manuscript for quality, they don’t care if it’s about world peace or your kitten, they just ask “how many copies?” The writer is responsible for everything else, including the crucial business of marketing and distribution.

The hybrids are publishers who operate in the traditional way, but who also make their services and expertise available to those who are willing to pay to have their work published. They ensure quality, help with advertising and distribution, they allow their imprint to be used, and they stand by the product; they don’t endorse any old rubbish.

Then there are the vanity presses.  The only people who know about vanity presses are writers – and the unfortunates who have been sucked into their webs. Those outside the industry have no reason to know about them until they write a book. Then they look for someone to publish it and fall for the tempting offers of the vanity presses.

These people offer to publish your book. They declare that they are connected to reputable publishers (which they often name). They promise world-wide distribution and unbelievable riches. They demand that you assign your copyright to them: never do this. They ask for money up-front (quite a lot) and then they “accept” the manuscript. They always accept the manuscript, whatever its quality. They ask for more money (a lot more) so that they can go ahead and print this amazing number of copies of the book from which you are sure to make a fortune.

This is a scam.

How can you refuse such fame and fortune?  Easily. Say no. To everything. Do not relinquish your copyright. Do not send any money. Do not send any more money. Do not believe a word they say.


  1. Excellent summary, which should be printed off and pasted up on every wannabe author's wall. How about your thoughts on writers' cooperatives, this wonderful new phenomenon where groups of like-minded authors become presses? The Women's Coffeehouse, an Aussie cooperative that first published the dreaded fifty shades is a good example. I do believe it is the away of the Future!

  2. Thank you Joan. And yes, I have in mind some thoughts about writers' co-ops which I believe to be an exciting way to go. There is a lot to be said for writers getting together, and it follows logically on from going indie, which digital publishing has allowed us to do.