How to identify vanity book publishers

Written by barb nefer
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When you want to find a publisher for your book, you must be careful about where you submit it. Legitimate publishers pay you for your book via an advance and royalties. However, there are many publishers that will want you to pay them to publish it. They are known as vanity publishers because they appeal to a desperate writer's desire to get published at any cost. By following a few steps, you can identify and avoid vanity publishers.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Read the publisher's website to determine whether it's geared to readers or writers. A real publisher's website is geared at selling books because that is how their money is made. A vanity publisher's website is aimed at writers and focuses on enticing them into submitting manuscripts.

  2. 2

    Ask the publisher what percentage of submissions are accepted for publishing. Vanity publishers accept close to 100 per cent because they make their money from writers. They don't care if a book can be sold to the public, as long as the writer is willing to pay. Real publishers only accept a small per cent of submissions because they screen for quality and saleability.

  3. 3

    Ask the publisher if you will be asked to pay money at any point during the process. A real publisher will never ask for money for any reason, including a reading fee, part or all of the production costs or the cost of copyright registration. Those are costs of doing business for a publisher and are not passed along to the author.

  4. 4

    Ask the publisher if you will receive an advance on your royalties. While some small but legitimate publishers don't pay an advance, it's a sign to be cautious. Vanity publishers never pay an advance, no matter the size of their business, because they expect you to bear the cost of producing the book and don't expect it to sell to the general public. If it sells at all, they know it will mainly be to your own family and friends.

  5. 5

    Check a watchdog website such as Absolute Writer or Preditors and Editors to see if the publisher is recommended or if there are any warnings.

Tips and warnings

  • Vanity publishing should not be confused with self-publishing, in which the writer pays but handles the process herself. There are many legitimate self-publishing services, such as Lulu, which do not require the writer to put up any money up front. They make their money through sales, printing books as they are ordered and taking a cut of the sale price.
  • Many vanity publishers will try to lure in new writers by claiming that they don't stand a chance of making a sale to a legitimate publisher. This is just a scare tactic, and if you have a well-written manuscript, it's not true. You may have to submit to dozens of publishers or spend some time finding an agent, but even though you're new to the business you can still find a legitimate publisher if you're willing to do the necessary work.

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