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What is a vanity publisher?

With a vanity publisher you will sign a contract, then you will pay for everything up front to publish your book. Plus, they won't let you use your own ISBN (the 13 digit number bookstores use to order your book for customers). Then they will try to sell you a boatload of unneccesary services you don't need. Don't buy into their hype. Their promotional materials won't help you sell more books.
I have a friend who paid a bottom-feeding vanity publisher over $8000 for 200 books (including $900 for editing—and there are multiple typos on every page). His original "discount price" package was $749. I am not making this up.
• A vanity publisher will publish your book at your expense, then you will keep on over-paying that publisher for every book you print from now to the end of time (because you didn't buy and use your own ISBN). Whoever owns the ISBN also owns the publishing rights. Owning the publishing rights means you can print your book for about half of what vanity publishers charge (at the same printer).
• Vanity publishers make up the overwhelming majority of online publishers and willfully overcharge for inferior services. 
• They will print your book without editing because they know the typical self-published book sells, on average, two hundred copies or less, most of which are bought by the author to sell or give away.
• Knowing this, vanity publishers target and make their money on unsuspecting authors, with little or no consideration for book sales to the public.
How do you avoid getting sucked in by a vanity publisher?
Buy your own ISBN and don't believe anything vanity reps tell you about ISBNs.They have repeated the big lie until they seem to believe it themselves.
If you go with a vanity publisher, they will win and you will lose. You will get your book published, but you will pay more than you should (every time). And you will buy services you don't need, like marketing tips, press releases and book review ads (all and more available in John Kremer's book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, for $27.95, including shipping). Or you can download the PDF version to your computer for only $9.99.
*Email me and I will tell you whether the publisher you are considering is a vanity publisher that will take advantage of you. And don't say, "But Ted, they are so nice!" I'll be nice too if you pay me up front for a Cadillac and don't mind when I deliver a go-cart. 
Ron Pramschufer at provides a good comparison of vanity publishing versus self-publishing. Vanity publishing just doesn't add up.
For more details about vanity publishers, visit Writer Beware.
For a comical and pointed overview of the ridiculous claims made by
vanity publishers, check out this article at Writer's Weekly.
For a bare-bones, raw truth look at how low-down these bottom-feeding vanity publishers are, read this candid article. It has to do with major publishers who are buying vanity publishers so they can get in on the self-publishing gravy train.
♦ Find a short list of true self-publishing companies at Author Resource Links.
Page updated February 28, 2016