Why Self-Publish — Part 3

Vanity Press or Subsidy Publishing

In my previous two blogs on this matter I discussed going down the traditional publishing path and straight-forward self-publishing.

The third path is to have your work published by a ‘vanity press’ or ‘subsidy publishing’ business. There are publishers who will take a manuscript and publish it at the author’s expense. This is, in fact, just another form of self-publishing disguised as traditional publishing.

Some subsidy-publishers will provide editorial and proofreading services (which the author pays for), but most take no responsibility for any errors in the text supplied. They also do not get involved in the book’s distribution. 

These ‘publishers’ should be avoided at all costs. Writers’ associations and others routinely provide lists of specific companies to be avoided. There is no definitive list, however. As soon as they begin to acquire a bad name in the writing community, many of them simply re-badge and then reappear under a different name. They are often associated with outright scams and they prey upon the uninformed. It is not uncommon for their charges to run from anywhere from $5,000 to upwards of $20,000. Some will, in addition to those charges, then take a significant percentage of any royalties as well. They usually don’t publish the books themselves, either. Most commonly, they will simply put your book through Amazon KDP on your behalf — something you could have done yourself at no cost at all!

An acquaintance of mine recently decided to publish with one of these publishers. Unfortunately, I did not find out about it until the deed was done and they had already spent several thousands of dollars for something that could have been done just as well at literally no cost at all.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Why pay a subsidy-publisher what can amount to thousands of dollars when you can do all of that yourself, with no great effort other than an investment of a bit of time and care? Who, after all, cares more about your finished manuscript than you?

Yes, doing it yourself requires a bit of skill (computer skills, mainly) and knowledge. That is the aim of these blogs — to provide you with the knowledge and the skills to do all of the things required.

My first book took me some three or four weeks of work to publish, not counting the considerable amount of time I spent trying to find out how to do it before I started. When I subsequently published a combined version of what had up to then been a two-part story (i.e. it was originally published as two books: Books One and Two of The Chronicles of the Ilaroi), it took me two hours. That was because by then I knew what I was doing! The aim of these blogs is to put you in a situation where you know what you are doing when you undertake to self-publish your work.

Whoever you decide to deal with, do a bit of research on the internet to see if others have had bad experiences with them. Writers’ associations, particularly the pre-eminent national bodies in each country, often publish lists of ‘publishers’ to be wary of. If a publisher wants to charge you for some part of the deal they are offering you, that can be a warning flag. Check them out thoroughly before you agree to anything.


Traditional publishing has some advantages (though these are being eroded by self-publishing with every passing year) but is extremely difficult to break into. Even if you can secure a traditional publisher for your manuscript, you may find the final sales and profit outcome is no better (in fact they may very well be worse) than if you had self-published. In most cases, it is also an inordinately lengthy process.

A handful of authors out of the hundreds of thousands if not millions out there hit the big time with their first manuscript. Writing is a craft. Even the most gifted of individuals tend to misfire with their first effort. It is something that writers tend to get better at the more they do it.

Self-publishing is a way to take the first few steps with a relatively small investment of your precious dollars, and without a lot of heartache or sitting around waiting for years for it to finally happen.

It’s also a way to begin to build a portfolio of work which you can then use as a springboard if you want to try to build a career as a professional writer. 

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

For the one-off producer of a memoir, a self-help book, or some similar work, it’s a very easy way to get that product published and quickly available for others to access or purchase.

The key benefits of self-publishing include:

  • Control:You will retain ownership of your work and will have complete control over every aspect of your publication. Traditional publishing requires you to hand the rights to your work over to a publishing company for the duration of your contract.
  • Royalties:You can often make more money by self-publishing and promoting your own work. Royalties from traditional publishers range between 8% and 15%. Royalties for self-publishers range from 35% to 70%.
  • Costs:Self-publishing is not as expensive as you think it might be. It can even be achieved with no up-front cost at all, though judicious use of professional service providers, within the bounds of what you can afford, will help lift the quality of your publication and potentially significantly boost its marketability. With Print-on-Demand services available from a number of service providers, and digital formats that can be produced at almost zero cost and then made available worldwide within a matter of hours, some of the few benefits of going with a traditional publisher are being quickly eroded.
  • Speed: You can get your book published and available for purchase within a matter of weeks, at most a few months — as compared to most likely years.


In the meantime, if you want to know more about self-publishing, and get some easy-to-follow advice on how to do it, why not have a look at my publication: Self-Publishing: A Step-by-Step Guide.

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