If you’re hoping to have mainstream bookstore distribution, using a Vanity Press may present some obstacles. Book buyers will likely tell you, “your book may be excellent, but you’re using a Vanity Publisher and the vast majority of their books are poorly edited. We’d have to read hundreds of their titles before locating a gem. We have neither the manpower nor the time to spend on that endeavor.” While this isn’t true of all Vanity Publishers, it’s true of many.
There is a difference between engaging a Vanity Publisher and being a Self-Publisher with your own imprint. A Vanity Publisher charges others to publish their works and then uses a service like LSI to do their Print on Demand printing. A Self-Publisher with their own imprint and their own ISBNs can use either a traditional offset printer, an offshore printer or a POD printer depending on their needs and circumstances. Apparently, many book buyers won’t consider POD-printed books citing the same concerns they have about Vanity Publishers.
Having your own publishing entity won’t guarantee bookstores will be willing to carry your book for many of the same reasons they won’t carry a vanity published book, but it can protect your work from “guilt by association.” What’s clear is serious self-publishers must maintain the highest standards of design and production or risk being sucked under by the tide of mediocre books retreating into the ocean of well-meaning do-it-yourselfers. Continue reading →
There is a tendency to refer to “POD Publishers” with disdain, but POD is just a printing technology. I use Lightning Source for printing, own my own ISBN numbers and retain all of my rights. I do my own design and layout. “Vanity Press” is the term most often associated with companies who offer book production packages, take a share of royalties or rights and bundle your work into their “publisher’s catalog”—and I think the more reputable vanity presses can be a good fit for many writers.
Lightning Source is a printer. iUniverse is a vanity press. Both use POD technology. I suggest a distinction between “POD Printers” and “Vanity Presses” with the term “publishing” reserved for those who own their own ISBNs, rights and royalties. If you publish through Xlibris or iUniverse, technically, you’re not self-publishing, but whether that distinction is important varies according to individual circumstances and points of view.
Irrespective of intellectual property considerations and who facilitates production, without POD, we’d all be sitting on stacks of books, handling fulfillment ourselves, and praying for the day when we get our closet space back.
The following is something I posted on a discussion forum in response to someone who asked for a critique on about a dozen of their self-designed book covers.
Since you asked for a critique, I’ll pick on you, but with the caveat that you make many of the same errors everyone else does. I’m using you as a catalyst to educate rather than to make an example of.
The sore spot for me (and with many of my university design students, by the way—you’re in good company) is the typography. Continue reading →