Vanity Publishing And Self-Publishing Are Definitely Not The Same

Don't Confuse Vanity Publishing

If you are a new author, beware of vanity publishing companies that offer you a one-stop solution to publish your book.

Also, be just as wary of companies you discover that talk a lot about publishing your book.

But they say almost nothing about how much it will cost or how they will help you market and sell your book.

There are many types of publishing avenues available today. But there is a considerable difference between vanity press and self-publishing.

Self-publishing is (mostly) free

It is easy and basically free to be a self-publishing author today.

Yes, there are some preparation costs involved in high-quality book cover design, editing and proofreading, and print-on-demand proof and author copies.

But the actual cost of publishing and distribution of your finished product is absolutely free.

It is worth remembering that self-publishing is not new at all. Mark Twain self-published.

Importantly, for Indie authors, you retain all the rights to your book, and you are paid directly and usually monthly for your book sales by the retailers you choose to use.


Vanity press publishing has a bad reputation

Despite this fact, many authors are still lured to seemingly attractive offers made by vanity companies to do everything for them.

But at what cost and to what benefit?

What usually follows after initial contact with a vanity press or subsidy publisher is high-pressure selling that can last for weeks or months.

Vanity publishing is usually very expensive. But the total price is often held back from authors until late in the negotiation.


A view from the inside vanity press

I was prompted to write this article after an ex-employee of Author Solutions contacted me.

While the person wants to remain anonymous due to pending legal action, I have permission to quote some passages.

“If you would like to repeat this email, then please feel free.

Many employees, current and former, are filing a law suit (sic) against Author Solutions. The attorney’s (sic) are collecting the narratives now, This is all we can release at this time, but we wish to bring the global community on board. We are currently working on press releases. Author Solutions (currently owned by Najafi Companies, a hedge fund) is not only a toxic place for writers, scamming many out of thousands of dollars, it is just as toxic on its employees.

We wish to provide the global writing community with transparency as well as return our own integrity.

I am sure you would be aware, but we cannot divulge our names at this time as our attorney’s (sic) have warned against it.  The purpose for all of us contacting the publishing world (we know this world and many of us have been in it for over 20 years), we want the world and the authors to know what really is going on. Not only to the authors, but the debauchery that employees have to put up with is unfathomable.”

AuthorHouse is, according to the (BBB) Better Business Bureau, just one of the alternative names for Author Solutions, LLC. Other alternative names include:

Xlibris, LLC
Westbow Press
Trafford Publishing, LLC
Responder Media
Partridge Singapore
Partridge India
Abbott Press
Partridge Africa
Author Learning Center
Archway Publishing
Balboa Press
Content Distributors, LLC
iUniverse, LLC
Inspiring Voices
LifeRich Publishing

It only takes a quick Google search to discover that Authorhouse and Author Solutions have both attracted many complaints over the years about their business practices.

There are many other publishers that you should avoid or be very wary about dealing with.

You can also check the list of vetted publishers and services for writers on The Alliance of Independent Authors site for more information.


When to be suspicious of a vanity publisher

Vanity, subsidiary, or hybrid publishing is not always what it seems.

If a publishing house is honest and open about what it does and how much it charges for its publishing and marketing services, then it could be of value for some authors to publish their work this way.

Vanity publishing in itself is not bad.

But some bad actors prey on unsuspecting new authors.

Beware also of those who claim to be a literary agent and contact you directly with an offer to publish your book.

Reputable literary agents would never do this, as they have more than enough pitches on their desks.

There are four telltale signs of a vanity press that might give you reasons for concern.


1. It only talks about editing, designing, and publishing your book and says nothing at all about how you or they plan to sell books. There is rarely a mention of historical sales, readers, or book buyers.

2. It offers lots of expertise and experts in publishing your book, but there are no names, bios, or qualifications.

3. It offers you an absolutely free publishing guide as a way to get not only your email address but, most importantly, your telephone number. This is a classic vanity press ploy.

4. There is no mention of pricing packages, or if there is, it is extremely vague.


I have received numerous emails and messages asking about one new company in particular.

On top of that, one of our earlier articles warning about scam publishers has been attracting a lot of search traffic regarding this publisher.


My thoughts on Newman Springs Publishing

This is not a review, as it is only a summary of my first impressions of what this company is offering on its website.

Newman Springs Publishing is a new company that seems to have been operating since April 2017. There is one troubling entry in the screengrab below of its site details.

The owner’s name is hidden, and there is also no mention of owners, directors, managers, or even contact staff on its website.

Newman Springs Publishing

Also, when you visit the website, nothing happens when you click the About Page, so there are no faces, names, qualifications, or details about the company.

Then there is the Free Publishers Packet. But before you can get it, the site wants your telephone number.

It is the oldest and most commonly used approach of many vanity presses to get your personal contact details before you have had a chance to investigate what the company is really offering.

Free Publishers Packet

My last stop on this website was the featured books page. There are not many books. I could only find four.

The button ‘Featured Books’ did not work. So I can only presume that these are the only four books that have been published. There was no mention of the number of copies sold.

published books

Advice on Newman Springs Publishing

I would advise caution as the information on the website is lacking many important details.

There are all of the four telltale signs I mentioned above that should make any author wary of this offer. In particular, there is no mention at all of the price or pricing packages.

However, it does state:

“If your manuscript is acceptable and meets our publishing criteria, we will publish it and bring it to the retail market for a relatively inexpensive initial investment.

How can we do this? Because our publishing arrangement establishes a sort of “partnership” between us and the author, whereby we receive only a 6% commission of each book’s net sale proceeds, and you receive the remaining 94% of net sale proceeds.”

So how much is the inexpensive initial investment? What about the rest of the investment costs?

What exactly are net sale proceeds? When and how does it pay royalties? Monthly or annually?

What is a sort of partnership? There are no terms and conditions on the site, so it is impossible to answer these questions.

As for marketing your book, it offers to do a press release, give you a webpage and post your book on Twitter and Facebook.

That is not a lot of book marketing.

It is worth considering its following on social media. It must be low, as there is neither a Facebook nor Twitter link on the site.

I managed to find the Facebook Page with 899 Likes, but I couldn’t find a Twitter account.

The offer of a press release is not that impressive. Free press releases are very easy to do but are highly ineffective unless you are a celebrity. Newspapers don’t get excited at all about a new book press release from a little-known vanity press and an unknown author.

With regard to distribution, there are the usual channels, including Amazon, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. However, there is this:

“Hard copy books are distributed through the Ingram Content Network, the largest and most well-respected wholesaler of books in North America. Ingram has distribution agreements in place with nearly all retail stores in North America.”

This might sound impressive. But it certainly does not mean that bookstores or outlets throughout North America will stock a book.

It only means that bookstores can order a book if a customer requests it. It is a similar system to Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) expanded distribution.

Therefore, all the distribution channels mentioned are exactly the same as what any self-publisher can access for free.

There is very little specific information on the site. It is difficult to say if this company is offering anything more than vanity publishing or perhaps assisted self-publishing.

There is no mention of how books are produced. So it is impossible to know if quality offset printing and binding are offered for trade books or if paperbacks are only produced by print-on-demand.

It doesn’t seem to offer anything more than what any self-publisher can do themselves and mostly access for free.

Due to all the very vague information that the publisher supplies, my advice would be to proceed with extreme caution.

You would need to ask for a lot more specific information before even considering using its services as a solution for serious authors.


Unlike traditional publishing houses that pay authors to publish a book, vanity presses want authors to pay them to publish a book.

The difference between vanity and self-publishing is almost always about deciding which is the better value for your money.

Do you really want to spend four, five, or even six thousand dollars or more to publish a book with a company that can’t promise you any sales from its print run?

If so, what value will a vanity press bring to you that you can’t get by self-publishing and a little hard work?

With a reputable self-publishing company, you have the choice to only pay for the services you need.

Quality professional book covers, copy editors, and a little paid promotion might cost you hundreds of dollars. But it won’t cost you thousands of dollars.

Before you decide on which publishing route you are going to take to publish your book, do your homework and research very carefully. But writer beware.

While there are many honest mainstream publishers and small press, there are also a lot of sharks. So beware.


Related Reading: Should I Use A Publisher? Ten Questions To Ask A Publisher

45 thoughts on “Vanity Publishing And Self-Publishing Are Definitely Not The Same”

  1. Is there a company that will buy your manuscript? I have written 5 novels 2 screenplays and 2 children’s books and can’t find a reputable publishing company. I just want someone to buy my manuscript from me and maybe they can get it out there for themselves. All WGA and Copy rights on my novels and screenplays.

    1. I checked them out and saw a bunch of complaints . All vanity presses are basically a scam, though some can produce a good quality book to store in your garage. The best test is to ask for recent titles and their reviews and sales numbers. If there are no legitimate reviews its all hot air.

  2. Avatar for Scot Cannon AKA Skot Keller
    Scot Cannon AKA Skot Keller

    I had a book published by Dorrance in Dec. uv 2020 and it wuz $5000 in alltogether and Yu get 25 books. My book called ‘Shangri=La 730’s Last Flight’ haz been put for sale in a few places but there are no sales. It iz a 246 page book and it haz a half a dozen color photos in it. Dorrance haz it way over priced at $42 for the paperback and $37 for the ebook. I wrote everything on the covers and drew the frontcover. I am thinking to get rid uv the Dorrance name and barcodes and put just the ebook for sale at about $10 dollars and record an audio ebook for $14 and put it out myself. I am looking for advice about how to do that. iz the eISBN the same, what buisness licencing do I need before approaching bookseller sites

    1. Yes be wary of newman springs I used them they do good with editing and cover design… so if you need that then go for it.
      But if your expecting a full package and a publisher that cares about you the author and helping you to make money instead of just taking your money I would say stay away

      But author website and sales are a joke.

    1. Dorrance Publishing is a well-known vanity publisher, David. Yes, it will provide distribution and fulfillment. But as far as promotion goes, you will probably have to do it yourself. However, Dorrance does offer a paid promotion service. You would need to check the price.

  3. Hi Mr. Haines

    What is your thoughts on TCK publishing company? I am a new author my children’s book has been completed since 2016, and I never thought about publishing until 2019. However, I’m finding trouble making sure a company is legit before approaching. I am a very patient person because I don’t want to get scammed. Any advise is appreciated!

  4. I wish I had read the article before sending for my free package from Newman Springs. Now I will have another company bothering me. I am looking to self publish, have done my editing and had it checked by someone with experience. Right now I am working with an artist friend on the cover. I was looking at what BOOK BABY has to offer which is a package for under $2000. It seems no matter who you choose for a retail book at $12.00 all the author gets is around $1.50. You need to sell a lot of books to break even.

    1. I have just had my third book published by Newman Springs and now realize what a huge mistake I made in choosing them! Service and quality were poor and sales promotion horrible. I will probably republish them all!

  5. This scam industry (publishing) has been growing for at least a couple of decades. The scammers know that people want to be a book author. They keep the important information secret, and you find that out after you have paid $3,000 or even a lot more. They typically print a few copies for you so you feel like a published author. IT IS SIMPLY A SCAM. DO NOT DEAL with publishers. If you can find an literary agent who reviews your manuscript and then makes a deal with a publisher, then it is likely that you will become a legitimate book author. Otherwise, you will be scammed and your money taken for naught. No legitimate book publisher is going to accept your book unless you are already a known author who has been published and the book has made money for you and the publisher. If you are going to spend money, then work your manuscript into great condition with input from others who read books, and then self-publish by paying a printer to print up a hundred or so books and find some book sellers who will put them up for sale. In effect, you will be the author, publisher and distributor. Then can get some booksellers to stock a few copies and pay you the author’s portion on copies sold. In other words, you become the publisher on a small scale at first, and work to expand the number of outlets where your book is sold. Cheers and good luck -C.G.L., Ph.D..

    P.S. Then the book cover must be well done with a title that “grabs” one’s attention and makes them want to look at the contents or read the back cover, where your description grabs the reader and won’t let go.
    Cheers, — C.G.L., Ph.D. Author and researcher.

  6. I saw an add for Covenant Books. I was thrilled with their free publishing guide. Through the incentive of publishing, I gathered my notes and developed a manuscript of short stories. The outfit appeared to be Christian and a member of Better Business Bureau. I sent them an email copy of my manuscript and they said it was accepted for publication. Then they offered me a ” one time ” cost of 3,300 up front fee. I was floored. Is anyone investigating this outfit?

    1. That’s a very typical way that vanity publishers work, Jim. They fill you with hopes and dreams, and then at the end of the process, they finally tell you the cost. It’s up to you, but I wouldn’t buy it.

      1. Avatar for Chukwuemeka Livingstone
        Chukwuemeka Livingstone

        I have committed myself to Newmanspring Publishing Company already without an indebt knowledge of this information. Right now, l have some complimentary coies for review and final correction to give them a go ahead order to publish (this is what our contract specifies).
        What do l do to help the situation? I paid almost $3500 to get things done. How do l advance the marketing and monitor production? For all you said are captured in our agreement. Thank you.

        1. If you have already paid, Chukwuemeka, then there is not much you can do other than go ahead with publishing your book. As for marketing your book, it depends on what your contract states. But it is usually the case with vanity publishers that you will have to promote your book yourself.

    2. Avatar for Cricket Chatfield
      Cricket Chatfield

      Don’t go with Covenant Books.
      I did my first book with them.. it took about a year because you are one of many they are getting money from to publish. My book was ready to go so it was frustrating. The book assistant assigned to me was a gem but not the owner so he could only do what he was allowed to do. I will not use them again
      They appear to have changed employees and communication is now almost nonexistent.

      You will never get your money back. You will never earn as much money as you will put out. That is the fact.

      I am still researching. The scams are endless.

    1. I think most valuable advice here is that publishing with them may not lead to serious sales yet author’s write to make sales.

  7. I purchased a package from Xlibris/ in 2011. I really wasn’t ready to publish my book, but I got excited because I could pay out the package. I did everything over the phone , My first big mistake. My second mistake was not reading the fine print in the contract that followed. As a result, I read that Xlibris/ would take 25% of my books sales. Based on your article,, the retailer will take their portion, which won’t leave me very much profit. My question is: should I just publish something to close out this account? I decided not to use the title I originally planned on publishing.

  8. Avatar for Irene Hernandez
    Irene Hernandez

    I am considering publishing with Mascot Books. Does anyone have any experience with them?
    Thank You,

  9. If you book prints for $14.99 and sells for $22.99 and retail store takes 40% of the $22.99 it leaves you with $13.79 but you print copy cost $14.99. Figure that one out for me because that’s the kind of boat I’m in.

  10. Has anyone checked out the newer, Ghostbookwriting “self-publishing company? Vanity press or legit?

  11. They have my manuscript. They want ,$2,000 to begin editing which I’ll never raise. My fear is I don’t know how to copyright, and before I was told my cost, I was assured they would do it. Since $5,000 is out of my reach, what should I do?

    1. You copyright your book simply by putting on the inside title page below the title
      and your author’s name,
      “Copyright by [your full name here]” in [Date here].

      That does it. You are now protected by U.S. and international copyright lars.


      Copyright by John Q. Doe, March 23, 2019

      With that in place, your work is copyrighted legally.

      1. That is an old wives tale, much like the notion that you can mail yourself a copy of the manuscript to establish copyright (the so-called “poor man’s copyright”). In fact, you have to register with the copyright office if you want to be able to pursue any claims of infringement that might crop up.

  12. I have a fantasy novel in process at Dorrance Publishing and it will be published under Rosedog. I hope I’m safe from problems. True, it’s a vanity press, but I’m not technical enough to keep up with the KDP process. They didn’t charge much, $900 and promise to distribute through a variety of houses including Amazon Kindle. My hope is that once I’m published I might be in a better position to secure an agent. Am I right about that? So far Dorrance is doing everything they promised.

    1. How is it going with Dorrance? I have a novel I’d like to publish but I’ve no idea how to begin.

  13. I published with Newmansprings. It was a smooth process. They were up front about what they would do and the cost. My only complaint is their dashboard. I tried to get on it many times, with just about all browsers ever invented. I could not get on.

  14. Honestly you would be better off working with this company! they do everything for you and unlike places like create space you are listed everywhere not just on amazon. If you do your research you’ll see that to do everything properly it will roughly cost around 10k. So companies like this Not only save you time and energy. They do things the regular average Joe can not.

    1. I can’t speak about that company because I don’t know much about them, but I know a lot about self-publishing. Regular Joes have been successfully self publishing with KDP, Draft2Digital, and Smashwords for over a decade now. It can be done for very low cost. Pre-made book covers can be had for as little as $50, Draft2digital has a free formatter you can use. They also distribute books to many retailers, taking only a small percentage from the sale. That’s how KDP works as well. Biggest cost is editing. Sometimes writers arrange to edit each other, but even the cost of an editor is much less than most of the packages offered by these so-called publishers. Plus, a freelance editor is working for you, not the shady publisher.

  15. Thanks so much for your advice. I happened upon this page on accident. I published a gluten free cook book (released 2015) with my daughter. It took almost 3 years after signing a contract with Tate Publishing….it scared me enough that I was looking for an agent this time but it’s almost impossible. Most of them don’t answer back.
    I wish we had seen this page before signing a contract with Tate. They are now out of business: they stole our up front money ($4,000) and kept all our royalties…along with a bunch of other authors’ money. My daughter in law read all the reviews on them (and believe me: there were MANY) and warned us but we were proud of our work! Luckily, they’re in prison now. But how to find an agent or in an agent feasible?

  16. After 11 months with WestBow press, I severed my contract for a laundry list of reasons, not the least of which included an egregious failure to communicate adequately. The long and short of it is that it was a three-ring…mess. Thank God I’m out! I’ve just hired a project manager and editor and will self-publish, thank you very much.

  17. Good call on outing Newman Springs. I almost sent them the contract and killed myself at my job trying to get them the money. The “rep” did everything you warned us about when I talked to him. But the sad part is now I have to try getting my book to the public all over again.

  18. Avatar for Michelle McQueen
    Michelle McQueen

    My question is:

    I have already published 3 books in a series with a self publishing company-Author House. I did not buy into their marketing scheme. What is the best way for me to market my books? So far I have used Facebook and word of mouth.

    Another question
    Because my books are through Author House, they are priced as print on demand. The cost is $14.99 just to print,, making the retail price $22.99. What can I do to lower the cost of my books? I truly believe sales would improve with a lower retail price.

    Thank you.

  19. I have a contract from Newman Springs Publishing in front of me. Thought you might be interested. (I would copy the whole thing here but adobe messes up the formatting when I try and I’m not sure how much space this form has anyway.)

    They promise editing, layout, cover design, digital & physical distribution, 12 author copies, a “Publicity and Press Release”, and a web page on their site. No mention of even social media.

    But the kicker is the last sentence: “Cost of Services described above: $395 upon signing of this agreement, followed by ten (10) additional monthly payments of $299 each.”

    I’m not an expert in the space, but IMHO $3400 from an author (and hidden until the end) is the worst kind of vanity press.

    1. Hi…..This was eye opening. I sent my novel to NEWMAN Springs, it true that is what the contract said almost 4,000 dollars. Steve actually comtacted me again asking if I was ready to publish. I told him my novel is in editing at this time. I think I’ll self publish. Thanks

    2. Hey, I actually published with Newman springs myself and I was very pleased with the results. It is true there are no promise of book sales. Why would there be? Are you a talented writer or not? A talented writer should not have to have a promise of book sales from a company to get the job done. If you have enough confidence to bring your work to the public all you can do is hope that you are good enough to gain results. You failed to mention one thing off their contract…That investment you pay is actually paid back to you in full off of the book sales prior to them receiving their royalties at all. So again, If your book is good and it sells then you really don’t pay anything. You will end up getting paid plus have all the help in the world getting the job done. Perfect for someone like me with 2 teenagers being a full time mom and employee.

  20. Avatar for Arthur Wiederhold
    Arthur Wiederhold

    When I first published with IUniverse in 1999, it actually did push sales and I actually got paid royalties. This all stopped when ASI took over and the staff ended up in a call center in Cebu. Trafford went down the same awful road soon after. My biggest mistake was publishing with Author House, but at the time, they didn’t cost anything. But even though I actually sold several books, they refused to pay a royalty. They even charged me for my author’s copy! Literary agents won’t touch “unknown” authors with a 10 foot pole, so this is what we are left with. I have tried to contact several agents but not one bothered to respond. Too bad. I’;m good and I know I’m good. (yes I am bragging!). So what do we do? Who would YOU go with?

      1. It’s only been three days. But the contact person was very convincing. I like the idea of working with Newman Spring. I am Michael A Jackson of Jacksonville Florida

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