- When you use a vanity publisher, you hand over the rights to your book. When you self-publish, the rights to your book remain yours. Self-publishers who use other services are in complete charge, and that should be written into the agreement.
- When you use a vanity publisher, you’re expected to underwrite the costs of the book yourself. They take a (large) share of the profits if it does well; their money isn’t at risk if it doesn’t. Self-publishers take the risks, certainly, but they also take all the profits. In addition, the books actually belong to the author, not to anyone else.
- Vanity publishers will provide a number of services for the author – they’ll design your cover, edit your book and print it for you. But each of these services will be under contract to the vanity publisher, and in all likelihood commission will be charged. Self-publishers are free to choose whoever they want to design their covers, edit their books, even print their books. No commission.
- Vanity publishers will distribute your book for you. That means they’ll charge you a regular fee for storage and postage, to be deducted from your profits. Self-publishers have to make their own arrangements for storage and distribution. (Hint: spare room/Royal Mail.)
- Vanity publishers will log your book’s ISBN with Nielsen, who manage them in the UK, send copies of your book as required by law to the six Legal Libraries. Self-publishers do it all themselves. It’s not hard.
- Vanity publishers will probably ‘market’ your book by sending out a press release to all the major booksellers. Self-publishers market their own book by all means available, including press releases, personal visits to bookshops, and even to libraries.
I’m sure that some authors have great success with their vanity publisher; I’ve just not come across one yet. Some are certainly worse than others. In addition, there are commercial self-publishing firms, who are quite open that they charge a fee to help ythe author self-publish – the best-known of these is the Matador imprint. They’re fine, if a little expensive.
What about Comely Bank Publishing? We are a group of self-publishing authors who get together to limit our costs and help each other. The authors pay for everything themselves and keep all the profits, every last penny – we are completely not-for-profit. However, books don’t get out on our imprint unless they pass a quality test: we only want to be associated with good stuff, and if you see our name on a book, you know it’s of a decent standard, been thoroughly edited, and the physical book looks, feels and actually is extremely well produced. And authors can pull out and take their book away any time they like.