Even believing that there are decent, honest vanity publishers out there – which I’m sure there are... somewhere – these professional publishing presses are almost never worthwhile choices to consider.
Except, perhaps, in the following two situations:
You can’t get a traditional publisher or don’t want one, but you do want to print a hardcover book.
You can’t get a traditional publisher or don’t want one, but you want to print a uniquely shaped book.
In either case, that’s when you’re probably going to need to go with a vanity publisher or perhaps even a mom-and-pop printing press that can cater to your special orders. As today’s writing rule says: Vanity publishers might be your only choice if you want hard-cover copies. And the same goes for books meant to come in non-traditional (i.e., non-rectangular) shapes and sizes.
If you’re more of a traditionalist, you might be wondering what other shapes and sizes books can come in. It’s an understandable question when 99.999% or more of published books are non-slanted parallelograms that are taller than they are wide.
In other words, they’re rectangles.
But there really are those writers out there who picture their pieces set in much more unique bindings.
For instance, they could want them to be circular because their subject matter focuses on beach balls or sports or donuts. Or they might want something triangular if the book is about pyramids or sailboats.
If that sounds a bit childish, then yes, we’re typically talking about children’s books here. But there are “grown-up books” that come similarly designed. After all, once upon a time, I did meet a graduate studies student who needed a custom print job to suit the particular topic she was covering for her master’s thesis.
Which I won’t repeat here since it was admittedly a little… umm… unusual.
As for hard-cover books, some people think they look more academic or professional that way.
Fitting or not, and professional or not though, real self-publishing companies won’t print either of those formatting choices as far as I’m aware. Keeping and maintaining those templates for custom-order jobs is either too expensive to operate or too pointless to offer when these businesses are making six- or seven-figure sales on the normal stuff.
The relatively smaller guys, however, have more of a financial incentive to help you out. Believe it or not, they can more easily cut corners so to speak while charging you appropriately. And by appropriately, I probably mean a lot.
So if “normal” doesn’t fit into your publishing plans, then vanity publishing it probably has to be.
Even so, just stick with their printing services. Forget all the potential add-ons, including the marketing stuff. Both you and your book are probably still better off having as limited a relationship with a vanity publisher as possible.