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 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 edit, design, 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 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 regards to distribution, there are the usual channels, including Amazon, Apple, and Barnes, and 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 themselves 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 what could be 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 is supplied by the publisher, 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.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

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

  • Avatar for Lula
    November 15, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    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.

  • Avatar for Jennifer
    October 18, 2021 at 7:21 am

    I am considering vanity publishing with Fulton Books. Any thoughts on them? Are they legit?

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      October 18, 2021 at 8:39 am

      I haven’t heard anything about Fulton Books, Jennifer. Your best option is to check ALLi for details on this publisher.

  • Avatar for Scot Cannon AKA Skot Keller
    February 6, 2021 at 7:40 am

    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

  • Avatar for David T Shoemaker
    April 29, 2020 at 12:55 am

    Will Dorrance actually offer my book for sale?

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      April 29, 2020 at 10:35 am

      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.

  • Avatar for Sheena
    January 25, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    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!

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      January 25, 2020 at 8:28 pm

      Your best option is to check ALLi for details on this publisher.

  • Avatar for George F.Hatch
    December 25, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    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.

    • Avatar for Tim
      February 24, 2021 at 12:41 am

      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!


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