Aspiring Authors Beware: Vanity Publishers

Vanity publishers are companies that have popped up alongside traditional publishers to target – not help – rejected authors. Vanity publishers are the snake oil salesmen of the literary world. They can have fancy, well polished websites that promise everything with little to no chance of ever delivering, at times even stealing the rights to manuscripts through clauses buried in complicated contracts. “I have read the terms and conditions” indeed. These publishers will do anything to get SOMETHING sold, getting them paychecks and maybe, maybe giving the author pennies to keep them quiet. These publishers have zero quality control, despite the author paying for editing, and claim that they’re going to do everything – and they might – with the author seeing zero profit.

While the list could go on for miles of these vanity publishers, there is one I would like to name specifically: AUTHORHOUSE PUBLISHING. Sounds rather writer friendly and official, doesn’t it? The perfect thing to have on the spine of a book. From personal experience, this is probably one of the worst places you could give your information to.

So why bother with the potential of running into a vanity publisher at all?

Many aspiring authors will do anything to get their first manuscript – their precious baby – into the world, and just as many have a fear of rejection. This fear has pushed many artists away from traditional publishers as it can feel like playing the lottery to get someone to publish you. Renowned author J. K. Rowling herself seemed to be rejected at every turn with the initially failing debut of Harry Potter. This leads many authors with zero history in the publishing world to look into self-publishing – such as myself. However self-publishing can be a harrowing path, and very expensive for producing a potentially financial flop.

After innumerable hours of research over the years (and I am still learning), I turned to self-publishing caused by a do-it-yourself attitude, and an aptitude to do a fair amount of the work myself. As a soon to graduate graphic design major, I am fully capable of creating my own cover art for free, and designing the inside layout for free. Keyword being free. Self-publishing is an investment in yourself that costs a pretty penny if you want someone else to do all the work.

To be clear, I am not saying self-published authors should create their own covers and such if they lack the necessary skill. As much as it’s harked to not judge a book by it’s cover, everyone does and bad covers are the death of perfectly good stories.

For self-publishers ready to take the plunge, there are a number of places online that are willing to work with you to make your manuscript a reality. Unlike traditional publishers, many of these places require an upfront fee for authors that have nothing but a manuscript. These fees are known as “publishing packages” and generally include services such as editing, cover design, inside layout, paperback & hardcover prints (which are sold separately), e-book conversion, access to a site-specific online store, ISBN registration, copyright registration, and various forms of marketing. All of this sounds well and good but can easily cost anywhere from $1,000-$15,000. From my experience, most aspiring authors don’t have that much money simply lying around, so choosing a place to invest in your book can be fairly daunting and a financial nightmare.

As much as I wish I could share a promise land of a perfect publisher that’s worth the bill, I have instead decided to put out a warning to desperate authors that just want to see their work on a bookstore shelf.

AuthorHouse namely, is a place with a well designed website, extensive (and expensive) publishing packages, and an interesting list of testimonials of happy authors. To be frank, however, it’s hard to trust overly positive testimonials on a company’s own website where it would be bad marketing to post the negative reviews as well.

My personal experience with the company, though brief and not as tragic as some people’s (which can be read here, here, and here) I still want to point out being rather annoyed with AuthorHouse. When I was in high school I had this little dream of being published before I turned 18 – a goal that was never met and probably for the better. Even so, I was researching ways to become published and came across AuthorHouse. Wanting more information, I gave them my e-mail an phone number as that was required to download a “more information package”. That was some 6 years ago and I am still receiving phone calls from them, pestering me about publishing a book that they have no information on and there seems to be no way to remove myself from their call list. After 6 years you would think a company would give up. Even better, recent calls (one of which I received while typing this post) have been executed by people that seemed less than fluent in English. Non-native speakers are all fine and well, but I would prefer someone with a fluent grasp of the language I would be publishing in to try and gain my trust/service.

Of course this is all solely my personal opinion, and when I’m ready to officially publish I’ll be using the service of CreateSpace unless I happen to come across a better platform in the future. Just thought I’d save a new author years of pestering by persistent phone calls.

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