Home : Self-Publishing & Vanity Publishing: Confuse Them and Pay the Price

self-publishing - paying somone to publish you is like paying someone to take your vacationWhat is true self-publishing? What is the difference between self-publishing and “vanity publishing” or “subsidy publishing?” How do these differ from “traditional publishing?” Don’t publish until you understand these terms; that knowledge can make or break your book. Learn about publishing paths and pitfalls before stacking the odds and balance sheets against yourself.

Traditional publishers—the folks who invented the publishing game—are book investors; they purchase manuscripts and rights, pay advances and royalties, and assume risk in exchange for hoped-for profits. Their model provides a good working definition; a “publisher” is a person who takes a risk on a book.

Who’s taking the risk? Who pockets the profits? Who owns the ISBN (International Standard Book Number)? These questions shed light on potentially expensive differences between publishing strategies.

Subsidy Publishing

Also called “vanity presses,” subsidy publishers offer production services like editing and cover design that make them attractive to writers who want “one-stop shopping.” For a fee, you can have your rough manuscript turned into a book and made available through major book distribution channels. Basically, you pay someone to be your publisher (hence the term “subsidy publishing”). The bait and switch happens when your book becomes part of the “publisher’s” catalog. Subsidy publishers assign your book an ISBN number that belongs to them; they become the publisher of record which entitles them to receive an additional royalty whenever a book sells. Charging for editing, design, and production services is perfectly acceptable, but charging an additional publisher’s royalty is unethical unless they’ve taken some risk. Also, the publisher sets the book’s retail price so don’t be surprised if your book is priced higher than you’d like it to be.

Read the small print. Authors are often reassured by language in subsidy publishers’ paperwork that allows them to cancel their contracts at any time, but in most cases, the cover design, typesetting, and ISBN number remain the property of the “publisher.” Even though these assets were paid for by the author, the digital files needed to reproduce the cover and bookblock are not made available. In other words, changing horses means you get to start over from scratch with a word processor file.

If you’re a grandmother who wants to distribute twelve copies of your memoir to family members, subsidy publishing may be a great way to get a finished, “pretty good” book without having to learn about publishing or marketing. If you want to publish, distribute, and offer books for sale, paying someone to be your publisher is like paying someone to take a vacation for you so you can get more work done.

Risk/Profit/ISBN: With subsidy publishing, the author takes the risk and then pays the publisher! This is the exact opposite of how the publishing ecosystem is supposed to work. Vanity presses are the #1 trap for new authors. The only claim they have to being your publisher is based on ownership of the ISBN they slipped into your “publishing” package to “make things easier.”

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishers are shrewd risk-takers. They buy and sell intellectual property the way market traders buy and sell stocks. Though many of their books flop, they count on longstanding favorites, already-popular authors, celebrity titles, licensing deals with Hollywood and occasional blockbuster hits to offset their losses. As investors, their size empowers them to leverage one of the oldest and most fundamental of business principles—diversify your holdings. A serious publisher pays writers an up-front advance against royalties and then gambles they’ll sell enough copies of a book to make a profit. Consider the costs of maintaining a full-time staff of quality editing, design, typesetting and printing resources. It’s no wonder traditional publishers are extremely picky about which books they’ll take on. It’s only fair that trade publishers take a majority share of the profit when a book sells.

Risk/Profit/ISBN: This is the model for how publishing should work. The publisher takes the risk. The publisher pays the author. The publisher owns the ISBN because they paid for the rights to publish your book.

POD Publishing

Though you’ll often hear the term “POD publishing,” there’s no such thing. POD stands for “Print On Demand,” not “Publish on Demand.” Don’t allow well-meaning advisers to steer you clear of the very miracle that has empowered the self-publishing revolution. POD is simply a printing technology; instead of having to manufacture hundreds or thousands of books at a time, POD allows you to affordably produce single books to order. Without POD, your garage would be filled to the rafters with boxed copies of your book; those days are over. Many vanity presses do rely on POD printers for production, but don’t let this bias you against the technology.

True Self-Publishing

True self-publishers own all their rights and receive 100% of the profit. They own their own ISBN numbers and have access to all the digital files associated with the production of their work. Their imprints are displayed on their books’ spines and title pages.

Self-publishing is difficult. The writer is tasked with finding qualified editing and design resources, handling administrative chores like ISBN and copyright registration, managing the production of the book, choosing print and distribution partners, and marketing the finished product. However, this path offers control over both creative aspects of the work and business strategy. Authors who wish to produce literary art that’s unfettered by the demands of popular genres, and authors who have ready access to niche audiences may find opportunities in smaller-scale publishing that large publishers won’t. Selling a few thousand books represents a disaster to a big publisher while that’s usually enough volume for a small publisher to realize a profit—both from book sales and from speaking and consulting opportunities that come from having “written the book on the subject.”

Risk/Return/ISBN: The conceptual lines blur when the author also happens to be the publisher, but think of the writer as an individual and think of the publisher as a corporation that individual happens to own stock in. Though self-publishers are unlikely to pay themselves an advance, the publisher “accepts the manuscript,”  produces it, markets it, and deducts expenses (printing, shipping, seller commissions, etc.)—just like the big players do. The publisher assumes a higher risk by banking on a catalog that may only contain a single book, but the profits—actually a greater percentage of profits than with traditional publishing—ultimately go to the writer. In true self-publishing, the ISBN number may belong to the author or to the author’s imprint; it certainly does not belong to a third party.

Conclusion

If you want to sell books, don’t sabotage your pricing and profits by using a vanity press. If you don’t want to get involved with production, marketing, distribution, and other aspects of bookselling, shop your book to agents, hire a reputable production service or hire a book coach to guide you through the process. Above all, do everything you can to ensure your book is excellent from cover to cover. When it comes to editing, cover design and typesetting, take the “self” out of self-publishing and work with the best resources you can afford. If you do self-publish, buy your own ISBN numbers and keep track of the digital assets used to produce your books.

There’s no one “right way” to publish. Do your homework before releasing your book. Understand the benefits and liabilities of each approach. When the time comes to evaluate business relationships, ask who’s taking the risk and who’s making the money?


Comments

Self-Publishing & Vanity Publishing: Confuse Them and Pay the Price — 60 Comments

  1. My name is Johnson Grace Maganja. I live in Kampala-Uganda.
    I am a journalist and book author. I work with Capital radio and write for The Observer newspaper in Kampala.
    I just wanted to thank you in a special way for your educative information i just read today 9th December, 2015 which you posted on 4th February, 2013 titled:
    Self-Publishing & Vanity Publishing: Confuse Them and Pay the Price.

    I have self-published 3 books so far and i can assure you that it’s the best way to go.

    You indeed have control over your ISBN, Book rights and all the other benefits that come along with it. Before i self-published many traditional publishing companies here in Kampala, tossed me up and down. It was too expensive for me to have them publish my books.

    I then decided to take control of my dream and destiny by taking the risk. It has really worked for me. The 3 books i have written are: 100 QUOTES THROUGH LIFE(Inspiration book), PASSAGE TO DESTINY(Fiction Novel) and THE ADVENTURES OF MAGANJO (A story book for children)

    I encourage everybody out there with a passion for writing not to be discouraged by the expensive Traditional Publishing houses. Follow your dream and passion. And indeed the way to go is SELF-PUBLISHING.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Johnson. You’re (mostly) right, but be aware that traditional publishers are quite different from vanity publishers. A traditional publisher pays you up-front for your work, assumes all the risk, and takes a loss if your book doesn’t sell. Traditional publishing houses charge nothing. Though I work primarily with self-publishers, I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage an author to find an agent and pursue a publishing contract if I thought a book was a potential mass-market product. However, I would always advise an author to steer clear of vanity presses. Especially as a journalist, be careful not to conflate trad publishing and vanity publishing; they’re as different as can be and the “expensive” ones you speak were not traditional publishers by definition.

      • True there’s a difference between Vanity press and Traditional publishing houses. But i am speaking through experience i know of a leading Traditional publishing House here in Kampala-Uganda that asked me to pay them money in order to get my book published by them. That was way back in 2011.

        • They may call themselves “traditional,” but publishing is a very old tradition. Traditionally, publishers pay authors to license their works. Subsidy publishers like to masquerade as traditional publishers, but that doesn’t make the wolf a sheep. I only give you pushback on this because I wouldn’t want readers of this blog to think of traditional publishers as either expensive or dishonest. Your operating concerns are 100% valid, but traditional publishing is not the problem.

  2. This article is a real bonus for me as I nearly parted with £700+ in my first instalment to one of the top three vanity self publishers, and literally had to fight my way out to withdraw from the conversation in order to take time out to think about it. When I made the 0800 call I was certain I knew what I was doing, but the more the senior publishing consultant spoke(from the Philippines) the more I realised that getting my money was his top priority before I put the phone down. Since I emailed to inform them I was not committing their response has been quite nasty and unrelenting in getting me to commit. They now want me to sleep on my decision. As a complete ‘newbie’ to publishing and writing my own book this has been a steep learning curve.

  3. How would you define a Print On Demand outfit that also distributes the books through their online store and can assist with obtaining the relevant resources required to get a book the book produced but does not take over ownership rights? (eg. They can assist with ISBN numbers, editors, artists, writers if it’s an artist looking to illustrate a story etc.) What do they come under?

    • It’s hard to tell – and I’m not sure the categorization is what’s important. You mention they can “assist with” ISBN numbers. Who owns the ISBN? The number owner is the publisher of record. Most vanity presses do not take “ownership rights” strictly speaking. They assure you that you can leave at any time. But they do own the cover art and the digital assets used to produce the book. If you leave, you get to start over with your manuscript in Word. Do you publish under their imprint or your own? Do you control seller commissions and prices or does the “publisher?” Does the “publisher” take a royalty on every book sold without taking any risk? There’s nothing wrong with selling books for people and there’s nothing wrong with charging for production services. There aren’t many worthwhile POD options out there so choose wisely. (I previously wrote “many” instead of “any.” Thanks for the correction, Joel.)

  4. I am totally confused – self publish, assist publish, vanity publishing – I am not sure which way to turn. Has anyone dealt with the Australian Self Publishing Group?

    • The article is quite clear about the differences but if you self-publish, be sure to get a good artist, editor, and typesetter. Your local self-publishing group may have good advice to offer, too.

  5. Excellent article! I have published 4 books through the vanity publishing, no more! I’ll republish all of them myself as well as the other 15 or 20 that I have waiting.

  6. This information was invaluable. I just self-published on Lulu and although I don’t have huge inventory to worry about I do all the marketing. Marketing can be daunting and I find myself doing more of that then the creative process of writing books and blogs. I plug it on FB. But I also spend a lot of time listening to marketing webinars online that are often free. I can’t afford to hire a marketer but I really enjoyed all of the information here on this site.

  7. Loved the post, Dave. I agree we should be wary of vanity presses. At one stage in my writing life, I considered paying a VP to print a few hundred copies of my first novel and selling them myself at flea markets from the back of a van. Now I self-publish enovels on Amazon KDP and Smashwords and play the long game.

  8. I have used Google AdWords, Facebook, and Microsoft Bing advertising to good effect to promote my books, along with an aggressive social networking regimen. In the last 5 years, I estimate I have sold over 20,000 books (5 titles in paperback and Ebook versions). The cost of advertising during that period amounted to roughly $35,000, yielding about $25,000 in net profit (royalties).

  9. Good survey, but I consider myself self-published even though I accepted the offer of free IBSN from CreateSpace. If I had any reason to be dissatisfied, I could simply buy another ISBN and re-issue a new edition and print with another POD outfit. A friend of mine at first went with a published which made him pay so much per copy that he found even book signings unprofitable; he switched to CreateSpace and doesn’t care if they make a buck: after all, they invested in the printing equipment and allow him to but a copy for under $4. Amazon gets a cut for its store the way all other booksellers would.

  10. A fantastic and informative article that I will pass on to folks who ask me for advice. But fairy tales do come true, so here’s my story. With the help of a “book shepherd,” I started my own small press, Banot Press, to publish Volume 1 of my “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy in 2005. In order to get distribution, I prepared a thorough marketing plan, a task that is even more important today. I started with a website and Yahoo group, but now I’ve added Google+, Facebook, Linked-In, Goodreads, and Amazon author pages. But those are passive efforts. I also actively sought out my target audience, Jewish women.

    To reach them, I joined every Jewish women’s organization I could find so I could: 1. get their magazines so I could send them review copies and take ads, and 2. approach their chapters and regions to speak at their meetings. Believe me, Hadassah and the like are much more likely to invite you to speak if you’re a life member. I offered to speak without a fee if I could sell books myself afterwards. Considering all the Jewish women’s groups, including synagogue Sisterhoods, who have monthly meetings and are desperate for free speakers, I had no shortage of invitations. In my first 18 months, I spoke at over 150 venues and sold over 25,ooo copies, all while still working at my day job.

    The big publishers keep track of such things, and when it came time for me to publish the second volume, there was a bidding war between Penguin, Harper Collins, and Crown for the trilogy. I sold out to Plume, a division of Penguin, for a six-figure advance and the rest is history. But I haven’t stopped promoting, and I have spoken at over 600 venues since I began my author career. Now that the first volume of my new series, “Rav Hisda’s Daughter,” is out, I have over 50 speaking gigs lined up for the first 6 months of 2013 and will soon be scheduling fall events. I invite folks to visit my website, http://www.maggieanton.com, and check it out.

      • Magic is right! 25,000 books sold in 18 months at 150 speaking venues! Wow! That’s an average of 167 books per appearance and 8.3 speaking gigs per month!

        What is the estimated market size for these historical fiction books? And what in the world did those daughters of an 11th century Talmud scholar do that is so captivating to 21st century Jewish women? Also, what is the cost of the speaking tour? Finally, what is the book price?

  11. I have published two books with a vanity publisher (before I knew better). They did a good job in terms of cover and printing although the editing was left to me. They distributed the book to the usual range of distributors but did no marketing whatsoever. It cost me nearly £3000 for the first book and just over £2000 for the second. At the time I felt it was the worth the money to get started but I was wrong. I will never recoup that outlay, neither directly nor indirectly. Since then I have self-published three more books using Createspace at first (completely free) and then Lightning Source (a very modest fee £75-£100). If you have to do all the marketing yourself then you may as well go for the cheaper option. The quality of the books produced by Createspace and Lightning Source is excellent. It is not difficult to self-publish but it does entail some work. At least you then have control over the marketing, pricing and royalties. I would sooner pay £300 for a professional editor to look over my work before I publish it than pay out money to a vanity publisher who gives you very little in return and whose editing input is minimal.
    http://www.joanfallon.co.uk
    @joan_fallon

    • Right niche, right time, and a lot of careful thought, planning, hard work and dedication. What entity printed your book on your first run? What one(s) would you suggest now for someone trying to do the same? I have a non-fiction work of art, poetry and prose niched to a certain target market. Am already associated with organizations around this. I have already paid for layout, design and editing. Will soon employ promotion and marketing help. My question is – who do I have print this for me to best retain my control and allow me to garner the most income – (proceeds from book will benefit a particular well-known organization)?

      Thank you

  12. Hello Dave,

    Awesome information.

    My contract for some of my books published with “Self-Publishing Companies” are up. I would like to now re-publish my own books without the services of those companies. I would like to redesign the covers, layouts, and get new ISBN numbers.

    How do I go about this and maintain distribution via amazon, B&N, Lighting Source, ebook ….?

    Thanks,
    Gregory

    • I could pitch my services or offer excellent recommendations but before you spend any money, see what assets you can recover from your current publisher: image files, indesign files, etc. Then read this blog and buy a book or two on self-publishing. I’m partial to mine, but see what’s out there and buy a few. Also read Joel Friedlander’s TheBookDesigner.com blog. Get educated. Make informed decisions. Contact me offline if I can advise or assist.

  13. You missed the whole class of what is generally considered self publishing. Smashwords, Amazon KDP, B&N, iTunes, Lulu, and Createspace do not fit cleanly into your categories. Amazon, for instance, does not require an ISBN. Smashwords provides one for you, either for free or at a small charge. Lulu and Createspace deal in POD self-publishing, but the rights, price, and distribution are entirely selected by the author. True self-publishing as you label it, is an almost unknown thing. I am quite capable of turning any book into an ebook, but I don’t have to go to that effort thanks to the automated process these various distributors offer. For that is what they all are, distribution outlets for self published writers. They are not vanity publishers, which your definition would seem to partially fit.

    • You’re right. None of the booksellers and distributors you mention present themselves as PUBLISHERS—which is why they are not mentioned. True self-publishing is actually an increasingly common thing; hundreds of thousands of books are self-published every year. Service providers who sell editing packages and offer bundled ISBN numbers rip off thousands of authors every year. Read again. The article is quite clear about who vanity publishers are—companies that represent themselves as your publisher and then take a publisher’s royalty out of sales profits even though they take no risk. Smashwords, Amazon, et al take seller commissions—an entirely different thing than profit-skimming or rights-grabbing. Distributors and self-proclaimed “self-publishing companies” are entirely different entities.

  14. Sometimes there is a mixture of self and subsidized publishing as I have with my non-fiction book, which is coming out in paperback, March 1, 2013. I actually own the copyright because I self published the original manuscript as an e-book prior to getting a contract and then withdrew it from circulation following the start of the editing process with another company. The book has two ISBN numbers because the paper back edition is extensively revised with footnotes and new text that only appeared as in-text notes in the e-book. The 12 months of detailed editing easily used up any subsidy, but by then the publisher knew I was committed to completing a very difficult research level book. I am doing much of my own sales PR although the book is listed in the key spots for it to be noticed, as well as being in 4 formats of e-book by the publisher. I certainly agree that the system is hard to understand and has so many in’s and out’s that for those of us publishing once every 10 – 15 years, the changes in the game are mind boggling. I certainly appreciate your views and all the comments the other responders have made. You just have to keep following that star…. provided you can figure out what star it really is.

    • Thanks for checking in Richard. The eBook should have a separate ISBN from the paperback anyway; that’s standard protocol. If you got an editing package and held the contractor to it for a year, you’re a tough customer, good for you. Nice to see the players getting played.

  15. Dear Dave, what about marketing and Ads for self-publishing and publications in general? You did not touch this critical point. If you are a new author, How do you make your first book known? Social nets and other available tools are not creative and the return is low with a high cost.

  16. thank you for the explanation. I have decided to go for self-publishing and look around for the best price on printing. The marketing is the most challenging at this point any suggestions? Ebooks seem to be the way of the future.

    Some companies that offer all services end up cheating the writers, do you have a list of unethical companies to help people not fall into a publishing nightmare like my friend did. She ended up paying 100 for each book that she could sell of30.00 their price, then to re-print they took 75% then an additional fee for their company, she was left with less than 10% per book as they promised to issue checks.She paid for all the services.

  17. A very clear analysis, and guidelines for analysis of any hybrid likely to be encountered. Having entirely self published a genre book ( Purchased ISBNs, set up imprint and logo, and all the design elements contracted) I now face the yawning abyss of anonymity and marketing. One thing nobody mentioned was that as a one or two book publisher you cannot get ‘enhanced listing’ with Nielsen’s (the UK equivalent of Bowkers, which displays the blurb, author bio, reviews and cover picture)) unless you pay a minimum ( equivalent to 15 books)! This could be an additional argument for co-publishing with an established publisher and, as an author, financing or helping to finance the possible risk. You also cannot get listed at the principal distribution wholesaler. In short the odds remain stacked against the new and genuine self publishing author. POD may make books available but never found, and more expensive than short run digital, so yes no longer books to pulp…but probably a beautifully designed book unlikely to be printed too.

    I looked at every alternative: one very ‘reputable’ publisher ‘grades’ books according to likely market and asks the author to subsidize set up costs but holds the ISBNs and the copyright anyway, and decides whether to ebook but retains the rights whether used or not! Another claims to ‘select’ but to get any ‘marketing help demands the printing and storage of 500. Yet the marketing is undefined!

    I am sure the gap must be filled by some kind of co-publishing arrangement, which will mean selective independent publishers taking less risk and matching the author’s input with their marketing input. That would seem a fair distribution of energy.

    • I don’t believe big publishing houses have any need for self-publishers other than to sponge money by selling them false prestige. If Penguin wanted my book, they’d represent me. The whole co-publishing things smacks of euphemism. The “gap” is filled by those few writers who find alternative income sources, direct exposure to niche audiences, and clever marketing strategies. Most of the rest will sell very few books, even if they can get “deluxe” Nielsen listings.

      See my recent post Reality Checklist for Self-Publishers. Don’t buy tons of extras or special marketing packages. Do what you can to get a great book out without getting fleeced. Spend time and money on marketing if it makes sense. Congratulate yourself on having joined the ranks of the extraordinary people who have written a book. Then follow through on a rock solid business plan or move on.

  18. Thanks for these valuable insights. I am working on getting my first self published book out into the world and have looked at some ‘do it all for you’ services. I will ask about any additional commission they may take.

  19. Dave, I have a question about this sentence:

    “In true self-publishing, the ISBN number may belong to the author or to the author’s imprint; it certainly does not belong to a third party.”

    Is this more than semantics? Obviously, “self” means self, so if someone else owns part of the process, it’s not “true self-publishing.” But are there tangible benefits to owning the ISBN rather than using a free ISBN from a POD service?

    • Semantics? Partially. My ISBN numbers belong to Essential Absurdities Press—which is wholly owned by me. If you deal with a 3rd party, the ISBN Number will define them as the “official” publisher. If that 3rd party is reputable and doesn’t skim profits without assuming risk, the difference will be just that—semantics. But if you contract someone to be your publisher, a number of potential traps are possible regarding copyright, ownership of files, etc.

      After posting this article, I was contacted by one subsidy publisher who claimed that her book clients publish under her imprint, but only to facilitate her management of the printing and distribution. She takes no additional royalties. So here’s an instance where paying someone to be your publisher may work out fine. I have to admit that’s a valid service—even one worth charging a small fee for. I have one book client who published under my LSI account. Separating her book sales from mine every quarter is a RFPIA (pain in the butt) and I have to send PayPal payments, etc. But that did save her from having to establish a business entity so she could open an account.

      I’m also wary of too much religious adherence to “self” in self-publishing. Let self be the primary decision maker and risk taker, but avoid self-designing and typesetting unless you have design experience. Avoid self-editing at all costs.

      Joel, thanks for your always-excellent questions and participation on this site. You’re always welcome here.

      • Clear and complete answer; thanks, Dave. Sounds like we’re on the same page. I’m looking for the decider, the bit that helps me advise my publishing clients who are trying to balance a limited budget with producing the best quality book they can. For most of them, I recommend using the free ISBNs because in their big picture, they’re losing almost nothing.

        But I’ve always been honest that, for myself, I’m a bit obsessive about the “self” part (often to an unhealthy degree) so I’ll keep buying blocks of 10 from Bowker.

        • Bowker’s money printing scheme is another topic altogether. ISBN numbers are free in many countries but Bowker has control of a product that every U.S. writer needs. It costs them zip to manufacture it, yet they sell it for a pretty piece of change.

          • But at least they’re unfriendly and slow.

            Okay, maybe just my contact there. But the tools and service are enough to signal “monopoly” just like the phone service in the small town in Texas where I lived (and, in fact, the giant town in California where I lived.)

            I haven’t checked to see if ISBNs are free in Ireland. Another good reason for me to move there.

  20. Author leave out co-publishing the up and happening approach that is helping authors and publishers, both. It has always been difficult to make a profit in publishing because the cost is high and most books don’t sell through – sell out the print run, i.e., don’t break even!!! And these days it si even harder to make a buck in books – and book selling is moving OUT of the bookstore.

    Co-publishing is good for authors because the author partners with a “real” established publisher – and participates in every step of the process – hands-on. And yes, the author turned publisher also participates in the cost – and get more of the pie from each book sales.

    What is MOST important in co-publishing is the publisher’s distribution – how will the publisher get your book to the marketplace – and where is that marketplace. Do they have a LIVE personal Sales Team that goes into the stores and pitches your book? Or do they just list it is the usual place – passively list it and tell you that that is distribution – you, the naive author, becoming naive publisher.

    There are more and more traditonal publishers offering co-publishing contracts.

    • “Co-publishing” sounds like other new terms—like “assisted self-publishing.” The assumption is that the “established partner” is “real,” and the author, alone, is not “real.” Big publishers don’t need self-publishers; they have no incentive to lend their credibility to authors of books they don’t actually represent. If Penguin books isn’t interested in publishing my work, why would they be interested in co-publishing it? The endeavor creates a legion of “second chance,” “consolation prize” books that won’t get bookstore distribution.

      Any partner who takes a piece of the sales pie will, by mathematical definition, diminish the author’s take. You suggest that because the author finances production, the “co-publisher” takes less risk and therefore less of a royalty; that may be true in some cases but it isn’t the norm. Writers get hosed by vanity presses every day. As for the marketplace, any POD publisher will get you passive distribution (as you say). Bookstores are a highly competitive arena even for big publishers—and bookstores are closing everywhere; I’d be impressed with any small publisher who could get you bookstore space without having you finance the graft up-front.

      Certainly, there are services that will assist with production and also handle the distribution and financial management chores that normally fall to a publisher. Technically, this is subsidy publishing, but then again, technically, it’s not. The article specifically does not name names—even for popular and reputable providers. Honest and dishonest publishing services exist of every stripe; authors are advised to understand the publishing ecosystem, read the small print, ask their peers, do their research, read the small print again, and make informed decisions on a case-by-case basis.

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