Vanity Presses: Authors Beware

If you decide to bypass the traditional publishing route to publish your book—finding an agent or a publisher that doesn’t require an agent—you might be tempted to consider a “vanity” or “subsidy” publisher. The article, “The Difference Between Self-Publishing and Vanity Publishing,” posted on the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors website, Jan. 21, 2019, writes that with this type of publisher, “the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher” to publish her book. A major catch is that the book becomes the property of the publisher; the author forfeits all rights to the book once it appears in the publisher’s catalog.”

Not so in my case. I found a publisher that offered a much better deal than that. I would pay the publisher a fee for a “package” they offered and when it came time to publish, apart from the cost to publish my book, the royalties would be mine. That is, if the publisher pays the royalties.

Buyer Beware
About two years ago, I chose a publisher that I’d been following, sold on the way the company presented itself on their website and in phone conversations I had with the company rep. I loved the packages they offered. My husband and I lived in a small town at the time. I didn’t have the advantage of a critique group or contact with a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s chapter as I do now, living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I joked that my package—the Ultimate, mind you, promising the moon—was my “Harley,” a gift from my husband a few years after he bought his dream Harley. I would buy my dream: a way to publish my book with the help I believed I needed at the time. Now, after learning how much help my fellow SCBWI chapter authors are and the SCBWI organization itself, I see how wrong I was. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As luck would have it, just days before my book—my first, a ghost story for 7-to-10-year-olds—was to be published, I read a book that changed everything: 10 Publishing Myths, by W. Terry Whalin. I had barely turned the first few pages before a feeling of dread crept into my soul, in Chapter One: “Myth One: I Will Make a Lot of Money Writing My Book.” Of course, I understood that. But in this chapter, Whalin makes the case that “to be a best seller, the book needs broad distribution to online plus brick and mortar bookstores who report their sales to a bestseller list. Balboa Press [a press that he uses as an example] is online and their books are not sold in brick and mortar bookstores.” This was not the case with my company, I assured myself. Whalin goes on to say that the overall production of these books is not good quality. Not mine. I'd already seen the cover and had worked closely with the artist. My book was beautiful! Whalin hoped this author didn’t spend a lot of money to produce her book.

Well, I did spend a lot of money. Harley's are expensive! As my alarm grew, I turned to the next page, where Whalin suggests doing a Google search to check out potential publishers, by typing "Publisher’s name + complaints." I did that and was in for the shock of my life. Not only were there a substantial number of complaints against my publisher, but these complaints were made by twenty-nine authors who had published with my company and created a revolt in a private Facebook page! Why? Not one of the twenty-nine had received one royalty check. Not one.

I spent two taxing days and sleepless nights reading the authors’ experiences, sent an email to one of them, and he invited me to join the group and tell them about my experience. The group welcomed me, and in their posts, I found the help I needed to obtain my files from the company and proceed to self-publishing my book. Most of them have published with IngramSpark and KDP at Amazon.

An attorney from the town where the company is located has gotten involved. He has agreed to help us for a nominal administrative fee. I enlisted his help. He is trying to get some of my money back. With his help, the company lost its Better Business Bureau rating as the company’s owner is not responding to repeated requests for authors' royalty checks. The goal for all of us is that we would like to see this company shut down. However, at this writing, the company’s website is still up, possibly snagging unassuming authors like I once was.

A Dynamite Editorial Staff
The sad part, and the part that boggles my mind, is that my experience with the editorial side of the company was a very positive one. Granted, I bought the top package, which might be why I was treated so well (other authors have written in their posts that they didn’t receive the service that they had expected). But the editors, illustrator, and support staff that I worked with did an excellent job. Lucky for me, I didn't lose any royalty checks because I found out about the authors' complaints in the nick of time. At the thought of seeing my book in print and not receiving any future royalty checks stopped me cold. I decided on the third day of my eye-opening odyssey, that I couldn’t live with that, and I cancelled my account. Thanks to help from the authors on our Facebook page, I was able to obtain the files I needed—the illustrations, the cover art, and the manuscript—to publish my book elsewhere.

Bottom Line
We—the twenty-nine authors and me—have agreed that we won’t stop until this company is taken down.

Sources:, International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, “The Difference Between Self-Publishing and Vanity Publishing, Jan. 21, 2019.
Visit to learn about his terrific book, 10 Publishing Myths.
Introductory image courtesy of 

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Descriptive Writing for Fiction and Non-Fiction

Make it Personable and Tangible

All of our writing, whether it be short stories, blog posts, essays, articles, or books are strengthened by using description details to engage our readers.

Descriptive sense words for sight, smell, sound, feel/texture, and taste, paint a picture for readers to enter the story. As long as the sensory detail fits the piece, the reader will form a viable mental image. The purpose of descriptive writing is to provide a written impression from which readers can easily form a mental picture.

Today we’ll talk about essays.
An essay is a non-fiction piece with categories that include expository, descriptive, persuasive or narrative. A descriptive essay is a genre of essay writing that describes an object, person, place, experience, emotion or situation. It can be a particular account of an event. We use sensory details, metaphors, analogy and simile to enliven the piece and help support the thesis.

•  Make it personable, tangible.
  Create the picture first in your own mind and your prose will follow with the details.
•  Details build the scene.
  We make the topic tangible by placing it in a setting.

Essay structure includes a thesis statement, core paragraphs regarding the topic, and a concluding paragraph to wrap the discussion and reaffirm the thesis. An essay can be as long as needed to express your message.

Advice we often hear is “Show, Don’t Tell”.
But a telling narrative also has its place. Telling could be the better choice when describing an unimportant detail, to summarize events that happen repeatedly, or to give context to a scene. Still, whenever it works, we want a detailed description to engage the reader and to move the essay or story forward.

Cultivate Writing Descriptively
Move It Forward

It’s time to gather lists of sensory adjectives to prime our reserves.
These links will help.


Magazine submissions for personal essays:

Contests for essay submissions:

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. 
Visit her writer’s website at:   
See her caregiver’s website and her book for caregivers at:
Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer

Active vs. Passive Writing: Energize Your Prose!

 by Suzanne Lieurance Ever feel like your stories and articles are a bit slow-paced and wordy?   If so, that’s probably because you’re using...