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.


Terry Whalin said...
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Terry Whalin said...


I feel the pain and I'm sorry for your hard earned lesson and expense with this publisher. Thankfully you didn't pull the trigger and publish with them. I'm amazed and grateful my book was able to help you in this challenging process.

Get a FREE copy of the 11th Publishing Myth

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you, Terry. Yes, if it weren't for your book, I, too, could have a published book and no royalties from sales. The company's website is troubling because it's recently been revamped, so I don't understand how they can keep the editorial staff and keep going if they never pay royalties. I'm just hoping the attorney we have hired can find a way to put them out of business. A damaging article has already been written about the company in their local paper and even that didn't stop them from continuing. We'll keep trying, though. It's just not fair to unassuming authors.

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