I hate vanity presses. I really do. They prey on their victims, bleed them dry, and then toss them aside. Are there exceptions? I’m sure there must be a few, but not enough to invalidate my point or change my view of the execrable creatures operating these businesses.
The only thing I detest more is a vanity press masquerading as a traditional publisher. They can be hard to spot, especially when they hit all the right notes about not charging authors for editing, proofreading, cover art, printing, and marketing assistance. You have to read closely to discover the red flags. Here are some that I’ve found:
- They require the author to buy a minimum number of copies of their book, maybe as few as 10 or as many as 50. If you do that, you’re paying to publish.
- They hold back earned royalties until their publishing expenses are covered. They might as well drop the charade and charge you upfront.
- They charge a reading or submission fee. Run the other way! They just want your money.
- They will include language in the contract that says they can drop you after a specific period of time, say six months, if you haven’t sold a certain number of books. When you’re 20 books short of the goal at the 5 1/2 month mark, guess what you’re going to do.
- They will try to cross-sell you special services like a personal publicist or marketing consultant. These so-called services are worthless. If it’s a small publisher, they lack connections and will just do the same things you’re already doing on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. If it’s a Big Five publisher, congratulations! You can stop reading now.
Submitting to publishers is a time consuming and emotional process. More than once I’ve received a contract offer, only to discover the publisher was a well-disguised vanity press. That’s an awful feeling, but I’m learning to spot the flags. I wish Preditors and Editors was still around. Thank God for Absolute Write.