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What You Need to Know About Vanity Publishers – Part 2

I know I said a lot of bad things about vanity publishers in Tuesday’s Definition of the Week. And I’m going to continue saying bad things about vanity publishers in today’s writing Challenge.

As before, I want to be as fair as possible. So I need to state that I’m sure there are reputable, honest vanity publishers out there. I’ve just never come into contact with them myself.

That’s why I caution every single one of my editorial clients and creative writing students:

Don’t Give In to Vanity Publishers’ Sweet Nothings

Vanity publishers will promise you the world. Like modern-day Casanovas, they’ll tell innocent little authors-in-the-making everything they want to hear.

“You’re an amazing writer,” they’ll whisper in your ear. “The publishing world will be lucky to have you.”

Then as soon as you give in and give up your $$, they’re suddenly out of sweet nothings and full of excuses.

Here’s what they might say to get into your wallet...

Wait. Scratch that. Because I did have every intention of giving you an actual example of a vanity press email, which one of my non-fiction writing clients received from WestBow Press. Except that it has a disclaimer at the bottom prohibiting even a review of its contents, much less a reproduction.

Wow! Okay then.

Is it just me, or does that smack of a cult?

Speaking of cults, whenever I hear the name WestBow Press – which I’ve come across more than once in my editorial travels – I always think of Westboro Baptist Church, that horrible religious institution that pickets funerals and proudly promotes hatred.

Not to say the two are actually the same; it’s just a word association that pops into my head. Besides, Westboro Baptist Church is a lot more direct in its marketing schemes. And I’m sure it doesn’t have any disclaimers preventing people from disseminating its messages.

Since WestBow’s policies are what they are, let me talk about my own direct experiences with vanity press marketers instead. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. They will compliment you up and down. You have a truly awesome idea here! We would be honored to work with you. You know, our big-name publishing company owners could potentially pick you up for a paid publishing contract. I’ve called them out on that last one before… and never gotten a straight answer for the effort. They just hem and haw and change the subject. That’s not a good sign, my intrepid authorial hopefuls. That’s not a good sign.

  2. They will tell you why their $10,000 option is such a good deal. Oh yeah. There are $10,000 vanity publishing packages. In fact, that’s cheap compared to some of the other offerings these presses so graciously offer. What are the chances you’ll make your money back though? Well, there are no guarantees, of course. There rarely are in any business. But, once again, I might trust Westboro Baptist Church more than I’d trust a vanity publishing press. I mean, you’ve gotta give ‘em this much: Those cult guys do know how to get the word out…

  3. They will sound like they know what they’re doing. This is largely because they do know what they’re doing. And what they’re doing is taking your money. Now, that’s what every business does. It’s called capitalism: an economic system I wouldn’t trade for any other out there. (Sorry, socialists.) But capitalism is best implemented when something valuable is given in exchange for that money. It’s supposed to be a well-balanced give and take between the customer and client – something you might be hard-pressed to find with a vanity press.

So there you have it: Innovative Editing’s editorial scoop on the subject for all you authors-in-the-making.

As for any vanity presses out there who’d like to take issue with my statements, shoot me an email at with statistical data about how many of your published authors actually make their money back after signing on with your publishing house.

I’m open to the idea of granting you exception-to-the-rule status from the rest of your vanity publisher buddies – if the numbers work out.

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