Chris A. Baird | May 8, 2023
Self Publishing vs Vanity Publishing - [Which is Better?]

Which way have you tried, self publishing vs vanity publishing? Let me tell you which is better between the two.

Congratulations on finishing writing your book! But now comes the hard decision. You need to decide how exactly you're going to go about publishing your book. Are you going to go the self publishing route, or should you go for maybe a vanity publisher as a possible route take?

In today's video, we are going to discuss self publishing vs vanity publishing, which is better? Alright, so let's get straight into it. What exactly do we mean by self-publishing? Well, self-publishing is where an author like yourself finishes writing the book, and now you're going to do all of the different steps.

Now, that doesn't mean you do them all yourself. So, it could be you outsource somebody to do the formatting, somebody does the cover, somebody does the editing, you have the different parts of the book, and maybe even somebody writes the book (it's hard to tell), but based upon what you're going for, you have to at least coordinate all of these different services.

It's not like any sort of a package deal if you're going to the self publishing route, so you're going to have to figure out all of these things to do and which tools are best to go for, and how the title should be, and if you want to order ISBNs and assigning those and barcodes, and running ads, and setting up your accounts.

There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to self publishing your book that you're going to have to consider. But in reality, that's the flexibility that's what you get when you go with self publishing, is that you get this ability to decide for yourself how wide and broad you want to distribute, what exactly your book should look like, and that can be good, and that can also be bad.

What is Vanity Publishing

So, what is Vanity Publishing? Well, unlike self publishing, we lose a little bit of flexibility on this. But in this model, the authors write the book and the vanity publishers are going to go through, and they're going to put the book together.

They're going to get a cover on the book, they'll be doing the book blurbs, the keywords. They're going through every aspect of your book to make sure that everything is great, right? So, you don't have to figure out any of these things.

They may be able to do the editing, the marketing, all of these things. You've got lots of money, you have no time, and you're looking for an easy way to do it. Now, a huge difference here to consider, compared to the standard traditional publishing, is that you have to pay in advance.

So, you're going to pay for all of these services. You may continue to pay even after the book is created, especially if the book is registered under your account. After all, they're saving you time and money by publishing it underneath their account.

I have spoken with many authors who have gone this route and then changed their minds about trying to get the rights back. Now, they have the rights to their book but are trying to get the book back so they can publish it under their account.

And then, what about all the reviews that they have on the account? Everything starts to be lost, and it can be a very risky endeavor because you can put all this money on the line. The end quality may not be what you were looking for since you weren't in the driver's seat.

You gave up control of your entire project as you were going along with this vanity publisher, in hopes that when you got to the end, this book would sell like crazy since they have so much experience putting books together.

Which may or may not happen. Somebody the other day was just asking me, "Should I go with this one? Should I go with this one?" They were asking about different vanity publishers, and there were two red flags.

The first was that they felt that they had been chosen by this publisher, when in reality, that publisher chooses everyone. The second problem they had was that I asked them if they had been in contact with anybody who has done two books through them.

In other words, you do your first book as an author through this vanity publisher, and then at that point. We asked, "We ask, we see, wow, this went so well. I want to do another book. But for some reason, for many of these companies, we just can't find authors like yourself who've done more than one book.

In fact, for that matter, where are these groups on social media? Where are the Facebook groups? Where are the websites where I can see these authors interacting with each other and talking about their positive experiences when going with these vanity publishing houses?

Check out this related article: 15 Best Self Publishing Blogs for Aspiring Authors in 2023

This is something that I've had many clients say, "Can you please show me where they are so I can go in and see how positive and glowing they are?" The problem is, I don't seem to be able to identify where any of these groups are.

It's as if anybody who goes with these companies is isolated from everybody else who goes with these companies, and that's a bit of a problem in my mind. That's a big red flag. Why are they? Where are these people? Because they could vouch for the fact they've done multiple books.

So, if you're ever considering (and I never name names on any of these companies, I have no intention of getting in trouble with them), I would just do you a favor by saying, "Check with somebody who's done it more than once with them."

If they've only done it a single time and you ask them, they're like, "Yeah, it was really expensive, and then they just wanted to upsell me, and the book made no sales, and they have control over the book."

I have to ask them how many sales I made, and they say nothing. We'll let you know if you make any real sales, and that wasn't exactly what this author was looking to do with their book, so that's something else to consider.

Self-Publishing vs Vanity Publishing - The Difference Explained!

 Now, the biggest part here is self-publishing vs vanity publishing, and the difference is explained. So, we're going to go through several key differences. 

The ‘Traditional' Track Record

The first one is the traditional track and the think track record. Now, the thing is that when you're looking at it, you know right out from if you're going the traditional route. Well, it's a little bit clearer. You're going to be getting paid money.

So, if you're wondering, 'Is this a vanity publisher or is this a traditional publisher? The easiest way for you to find that out is to ask, 'Am I paying them money for the service?' And you might be thinking, 'But they told me they looked at my book, and they chose it.

They made a choice.' And I would say that it is fantastic that they chose your book. I don't know how many choices they make, but they told you out of all of the books they were reviewing, yours was the best. 

But then the next step comes; they want money. They want thousands of dollars to produce. Your book, is going to be a vanity or hybrid publisher, okay? Sometimes, people get caught up in the word 'vanity publisher,' even though it's not vanity.

You just want your book on the market. It doesn't have to be anything vain about it, so it's a little bit of a misnomer. It's sort of a hybrid concept where it feels a little bit like traditional publishing, where they do all this stuff, but then you're paying them for everything, so it's sort of like the self-publishing route on that as well.

The Main Differentiation Issue

The next point is the main differentiation issue, and I can tell you the main issue of differentiation is the control level because as a self-publisher, you've got control of the content, the design, the distribution, and the marketing, as compared to some of the other vanity publishing routes. You lose a lot of that control.

Now, they're going to let you make some decisions, but really at the end of the day, they have an idea; they're going to be putting it through the cookie cutter. Your book's going to look a little bit similar to a lot of the other books that they've done.

And, in addition, any changes you're going to want to make, you're going to have to pay a lot of money for each of those changes, and that may be okay for you, but for many of the self-published. Authors, I know they don't want to just have to keep on paying and paying and paying.

Wouldn't it be better if you just do it yourself and not have to pay somebody else? And that's a huge one here, but you have to decide based on your goals and priorities which one is most important for you when it comes to that. Does that make sense? And I think this is one that so often many authors get confused about.

The Risk Factor

The next point is the risk factor. There are risks associated with both of these. On the vanity publishing route, you are risking spending a lot of money quickly, and once you see your books not selling, then they'll sell you their thousand or five thousand dollar marketing package, which is probably not going to get you the money back.

Because any self publishing coach worth their salt would be able to tell you that you're starting, so you're going to run ads, and we're going to be making some sales on your books. Sometimes somebody's going to win the lottery, but for the most part, it's going to be a little bit of a slow climb as you're putting book after book on the market, running ads against them, and using content marketing to get those sales that you need.

But there's a risk associated with self-publishing as well, which is, what's the risk associated? Well, it's the risk of you getting burnt out trying to learn these different tools and these different methods.

So, for people who don't have time or energy, or maybe if you have no technical knowledge at all (like you don't even own a computer), well then you probably should not self-publish your book. Okay, that's hard for me to say at self-publishing made easy, but still, you probably shouldn't publish it.

The Control Conundrum

The next point is the control conundrum, and this is the idea of if you want to have this high level of control, you're going to lose flexibility in the process. as opposed to when it comes to self-publishing, if you want maximum flexibility, well, in one sense, you can start to lose a bit of control on that as well.

So, when you're wanting to do it, if you go with the vanity Publishers, it's a lot more controlled in the sense that they have a steady rhythm in the way that they're going to do it, but they're not going to be flexible with you. If you go with the self-publishing route, you're going to have an insane amount of flexibility, and you'll also have control.

So, that's one of the reasons why I do sort of lean in a self-publishing route if you know you're not going to lose the motivation to keep on producing these books. 

Check out this related article: Success Stories: The Power of Self-Publishing

Price and Personality

The next point is price and personality, and this comes in as an interesting one because sometimes the pricing issue, you'll be told to do it one way or whatever, let's say on vanity publishing.

Whereas, on your own, if you're doing it with a self-publishing route, you can pretty much choose the price. On the personality front, if it's the vanity side of things, it's a cookie-cutter, so it's going to be very similar to a lot of the other books that they're producing.

Whereas, if you're doing it self-published, you can control exactly how this book looks and feels and how you wish to market it. 

The Property and Ownership Debate

The next point is the property and ownership debate. Now, this one is so important. Many vanity publishers will take your book and publish it under their Amazon KDP account. And you can see why this would be such a huge problem.

Because if it's published underneath their own KDP account, well, how do you see the sales on it? If you want to set up ads, how do you set up ads so that it's all integrated, and you can see sales on the dashboard? And you can compare it to the ads, and it gives us a very good feel.

You're completely dependent upon the vanity publisher to tell you how the sales are going. But they don't make money by telling you this information. They'll just do it in batches every three months, say you sold some books or something, and then send you a check for that of whatever value they'd have.

And they'll extract for that service of even telling you how few books you sold. They're going to extract money even on that process. They're not just going to do it forever. And if they go bankrupt, what happens to their KDP accounts? There are a lot of questions we want to know the answer to. 

The Market Presence

The next point is the market presence, and that would be these vanity publishers. If some of them have bad names for themselves on the market, it's not going to look good. If it was done by some of them, as opposed to as a self-publisher, you're able to control the name of your publishing company that you're doing it through.

And I would not recommend doing it in your name. These are some of the tips. There are 1,000 strategies for self-publishing, and those are the things that we discuss in these very videos. I discuss them also in detail with my group coaching clients, as well as my one-on-one clients where we're able to do it.

And even for seven dollars, I'm willing to go into a 15-minute, well, you can only do it once power session where we go back and forth answering all of your questions regarding self-publishing, looking exactly at your situation. For seven bucks, it's kind of a steal. I don't even know why I do that deal.

But sometimes it just gives you a feel for the value you're going to get, and then you can decide if the group coaching or one-on-one program is right for you. Right? So, the next point is the stocking and selling. 

The Stocking and Selling

What about stocking and selling? Well, when it comes to your books, one of the things is, you know, are you going to end up with a pile of books in your garage? In the old days, that's how it was sort of done.

But nowadays with print on demand, it makes it a lot easier. But if you do want to place orders, if you have control over the account, then you can place publisher orders. You can be able to place these orders for your books so that they send you steeply discounted copies of your books.

Now, they will put a little marker on those books, but you can also do cheap books. You just can change the price of your books. Because keep in mind, as we mentioned before, in vanity publishing, they're setting the pricing because it's under their KDP account.

If you're wanting to adjust these prices up and down continually, it's not going to work because they're going to want to charge you for every one of those ups and downs, which can be very painful. 

The Wants and Needs

The final point I wanted to hit was the wants and needs. What exactly do you want when it comes to self-publishing? Do you want everything done for you? Do you have tons of cash, and you're okay with how they do it? Well, then vanity publishing might be right for you.

My problem though is, if you're putting out multiple books, you're going to have to keep on changing the books, and suddenly, you're going to lose all of the profits that you possibly would have made. Thousands of dollars go out, they come in, and they just leave immediately in terms of paying for the vanity publisher's services, which they're going to charge a lot of money for.

And if you want to change anything, you're going to pay a lot for that, and you're going to pay a lot for the marketing. And then, everything at the end of the day is under their account for many of these companies. And so, this is the reason I do not recommend going with a vanity publisher.

But when it comes to self-publishing, you can meet all of your needs, assuming you have the time to figure out the tools in the process. That's one of the things I like with coaching, is the fact that we can go back and forth to help you make sure you're on the right track with your books.

And as you're doing it, you'll have that flexibility. Well, should I choose this cover or this cover? This title or this title? There are a lot of decisions to be made, but look, we don't have to do this super fast. When you're doing your first book, I suggest taking your time through the steps. Don't press yourself. I'm planning on getting 100 books out by Christmas.

Or something, don't do that to yourself. One book at a time, we learn the process. As we learn it, we can start to implement all of the stuff that we're learning step by step. That's going to skyrocket our results in the long run, and you're not going to have a dependency on other people as you want to make the changes to your book that you want.

Final Thoughts

So, final thoughts. Here are a couple of things I want to say. Again, I'm not saying anything wrong with vanity or hybrid publishing. I think they can work out okay. But if you're going to go that route, make sure that when you're doing that, you've spoken to people who've had success when it comes to vanity publishers.

People who've been through that exact publishing house and they've had success, and maybe even did a second book. I can tell you there are tons of these people who have just started the process and are very happy it's going so well, but as we move forward in time, you discover they start to become frustrated.

Then, when the book comes out, there's a disappointment, and many of these authors, I've never met one who went for a second book, just one book. That's why I comment if you can't find a person who did at least two books through the same vanity publishing house, I do not recommend going with that, no matter how much money you have.

You're going to find the process to be painful and not very fulfilling. With self-publishing, we're getting a sense of mastery. We have control. We're staying on the cutting edge of what's happening on Amazon KDP to make sure that we're putting stuff out there.

Check out this related article: Self-Publishing: The Best Option for You?

That's going to be right for your target audience and your readers, to make sure that they're going to be able to read those books and buy additional books as you come out. Book after book, you're going to control the marketing on those books, you're going to see the sales, and you're going to be able to react to what happens out there.

And that's the most important thing you can do as an author when you're looking to make these really difficult decisions. Now, my question for you is: which route is right for you? Is the vanity publisher house route right for you, or is self-publishing a better option for you?

Also, if you've gone with vanity publishing houses, what was your experience? I want to know down in the comments because that will help me make better videos to meet your needs when it comes to self-publishing. And check up above me here for more video answers to your self-publishing questions.

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