The Differences between Vanity Press and a Self-Publishing House like Notebook

With the passing of time and the development of technology, writers are now in the valuable position of having at their disposal a number of different options when it comes to publishing their book.

In times spanning back decades, book-publication was focused on one process and one process only: that of the now referenced ‘traditional route’. This commonly involves querying literary agents— requiring much perseverance—and usually goes hand-in-hand with a more-than-generous helping of heartache and rejection. If a writer is both gifted and lucky (in equal measure), and in possession of a high-quality manuscript, an agent might then be secured and a publishing contract signed.

In the modern-day technological world, however, publishing is now offered through a number of different approaches.

Self-publishing is one such approach. However, this is far from new (although the approaches used are more innovative than ever before).

Self-publishing, in times past, was referred to as ‘vanity publishing’, with this label stemming from the view that anyone paying to publish their work rather than going down the traditional, run-by-experts avenue was vain and, due to the fact they were ‘paying for the honour of being published’, they were not considered to be ‘a true author’.

Unfortunately, such a view continues to exist amongst a minority, despite the fact that Vanity Presses are now something completely different when compared with self-publishing houses (but more on that in a moment).

Nowadays, self-publishing authors are somewhat separate to this definition. Generally, a writer who chooses to take the self-publishing approach tends to handle every aspect of the publishing process themselves; this includes (but is not limited to) editing, typesetting, cover design, actual publication, distribution and marketing. It is common for writers to decide to take either the traditional route to publishing, as detailed above, or to choose to self-publish, with the latter group recognising some of the benefits as maintaining all rights and creative control, and keeping 100% of their royalties.

Meanwhile, Vanity Presses continue to exist (though their definition has changed somewhat). And, in essence, by their very nature, they are not usually recognised as experts in the field; rather, they have one focus: to complete a monetary transaction and then move on to identifying the next writer for publication.

When defining a Vanity Press—which is something writers are advised to avoid—the following may be seen to apply:

By default (note: unless paid for it), they do not provide any degree of marketing, nor do they discuss the methods and channels they will pursue in order to sell books and get them stocked in stores and available through online platforms.

They do not offer regular communication or individual author-centred solutions; in other words, they treat their authors as if they were on a conveyor belt and do not consider their individual needs.

However big or small, they take a percentage of the author’s royalties, and nearly always take the rights to their work. This can hold true even if, for example, the author has paid for cover design, with the Vanity Press then taking the rights to the cover!

All of the above are red flags and are to be avoided if your chosen publisher is guilty of any of these things.

These are the points warranting writers’ attention when the discussion of Vanity Presses ever arises.

And arise it does.

For instance, it is the belief of some that you should never pay for a company to publish your book. But if we consider this for a moment, traditional publishing routes similarly charge for their services, albeit further down the line. It is known that, on average, a publishing house gives their author only between 8% and 10% royalties on every copy sold (and this comes only after any advance has been repaid through such a percentage). Furthermore, it is common for such authors to have to invest significant amounts of their time and effort (and, in some cases, funds) in self-promotion, whether through book tours, book signings or just ensuring an ongoing presence on social media.

And moreover, when taking on-board some people’s views on not paying for publishing, consider the following:

Whenever we cannot do something ourselves (and by ‘do it’, we mean ‘do it well’), we hire the help of a professional. So, if someone’s skill is in writing but not in publication and marketing, why would we not hire a professional to complete the job, just as we would hire a professional builder to build an conservatory or house?

Why struggle with publication and marketing if the book is only going to be poorly produced and marketed inadequately (if at all)?

Would we really try to do it ourselves if our expertise thrives in another area, such as teaching or baking or business or fantasy-writing?

This is where we welcome in the self-publishing house.

Notebook Publishing, by definition, is a self-publishing house. We provide writers with paid solutions to publishing, but separate ourselves from Vanity Presses in the following ways:

We provide all of our authors with a complimentary Best Seller marketing approach, as well as consistent marketing, with a clear focus on helping them to achieve book exposure and visibility, and visibility as an author;

We direct much of our time and a wealth of resources towards not only making our writers’ books available across thousands of book retail, wholesale and distribution channels, but we also contact direct those stores local to the author in an effort to set-up book signings, write countless press releases to maximise exposure, and send copies of our writers’ books to any organisation, individual or professional we consider able to help with our authors’ success;

We do not and never will take a single penny royalties. Any exchange of fees ends with the cost to publish; all royalties go direct to our authors without Notebook ever taking a cut or any extortionate percentage; and

We will never take the rights to our authors’ works. These remain with the author in every single case, without any catch or any exception.

All of the above is exactly why Notebook Publishing sets itself apart from any Vanity Press and why we view our business as an ethical and high-value service in an industry awash with sharks and vultures. Whilst we do not claim to be a traditional publishing house in any sense, we do offer industry-standard publication in terms of quality, visibility and marketing; however, we differentiate ourselves by providing our writers with 100% royalties and complete rights to their work.

(And when you throw in our Best Seller marketing and unique and copyrighted Cover Creation Code (as devised by Notebook’s Hayley Paige), we even argue that we offer more than some traditional publishers!)

Similarly, however, we stand away from Vanity Presses because, quite simply, we care about our authors, about their goals and book-related objectives, what they want to achieve, and how we can help them get there. We do not complete a transaction and run; rather, long hours, focused effort and goal-centred actions are all a part of the process.

To sum up: Notebook Publishing is a self-publishing house. We remove the stresses, difficulties and the more technical obstacles from the writer’s path and help them get where they want to be. But we do so ethically. And we do so with passion for independent writers and in mind of making a positive change to the industry.

(If you’d like to know more, visit our Ethos page!)

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