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What is a Vanity Publisher?

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Vanity publishers very often give us Hybrid Publishers a bad name and the two can often be confused. Here we will point out the key attributes of a vanity publisher and highlight some important things to look out for when searching for a Hybrid publisher or assisted-self-publisher.

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Ask the right questions - don't get scammed

In a nutshell, vanity publishers will publish anything, will just want your money and don’t care how well your book does. The vanity publisher, or 'vanity press', business model is to charge a ludicrous fee upfront and as soon it’s been paid, their interest is gone – there is no need for them to focus on book sales as they have already made their income.

Here are some key attributes of a vanity publisher to watch out for when looking for a publisher online:


  • They will typically have no manuscript review process

Why would they? They don’t care whether the manuscript is any good, they just want you to hand over your cash.


  • They will charge you upfront fees with a high margin attached

It is normal for a non-traditional publisher to charge fees upfront - after all, they are providing a service - but it’s important to use your common sense when it comes to being overcharged in this industry. We would personally say that any package above £5,000 is probably ripping you off.


Having said this, it's also completely dependent on what the publisher is offering.


If they are offering the standard services of: proof read, edit, book cover, publish, I would say pay no more than about £3,000. Again, this all depends on how many edits are included, what kind of editing they are doing and how good the editors are. However, if the package includes marketing and PR, the upfront cost could feasibly total more than £5,000. So always ask exactly where your money is being spent.


We have a free eBook that will walk you through the costs involved in self-publishing and why you can expect to pay between £1,000-£3,000 to publish your book without a publisher to a high quality. Click here to download.

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FREE eBook for subscribers
  • Their books rarely get any reviews, because people aren't reading them

Before you choose a publisher, check out their book catalogue. If most of their books have little to no reviews, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising.


Vanity publishers tend not to put much effort into the actual production of the book and will cut corners wherever they can in order to maximise margins. They tend to create badly produced books with bad book covers and bad product descriptions, so readers are probably not even reaching the first page of the book, let alone reviewing it. And it’s doubtful that they will make any further effort to market your book going forward.


  • But they will still take a cut of the book sales anyway

If your publisher is charging you for publishing and then taking more than 10-20% of the book sale royalties, I would ask them what they are doing to deserve this cut. Some publishers will take up to 10% of royalties as an ongoing hosting fee which is fair. Other publishers could take up to 60% royalties but they will likely have a rigorous post-launch marketing strategy in place so will earn their cut.


Ask lots of questions, it is perfectly within reason for your publisher to answer any “uncomfortable” questions that you might have.


So, when it comes to selecting a publisher to take your book to the next level, have your wits about you to avoid getting scammed. Follow the guidance above and ask lots of questions. And always remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.


Click Here to learn more about Hybrid Publishing and Click Here to learn why Raven Crest Books are definitely NOT a vanity press.

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