My dealings with a vanity publisher

Just before Christmas, I received the email that every writer dreams of receiving…

A publishing house was interested in one of my books!! After reading the sample chapters that I sent them, they wanted to see the full manuscript and said that they would get back to me within 4-5 weeks.

As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s been a very long wait since then. And no matter how hard I’ve tried, its been at the back of my mind, like I’ve been waiting for some sort of judgement day to arrive. Every time I’ve opened up my emails, my heart has fluttered with a mixture of both optimism and fear, simultaneously anticipating either outcome of the verdict.

Yesterday, I finally received a response. Ironically, it was one of the few times that I checked my emails and I wasn’t expecting a reply… they do say that a watched pot never boils, don’t they? But anyway, their response was something of a mixed bag.

On the one hand, they said that they loved my book and wanted to give me a chance. But on the other, they told me that I would need to make a contribution towards the initial publication costs. I still don’t know how much they’re going to ask for, as they said that this would be included in the proposed contract, but you can bet that it’ll be thousands of pounds.

I’ve since done a little research into this publisher and it seems that they are quite well-known for their attempts to extort money from aspiring authors. Thanks to the internet, I was able to find a newspaper article about them and read some comments about other authors who have had similar experiences with them. All of a sudden, their praise about my book meant nothing, as they probably say the same thing to many hopeful writers.

The practice is known as vanity publishing. For a fee, the publisher will publish your work, but it will never get big. What’s so horrible about this company is that it tries to hide the fact that it’s a vanity publisher and preys upon the hopes and dreams of writers, some of who probably cough up the money. Just in case you didn’t know, most publishers and agents DON’T ask for upfront fees because they take a commission from the book sales later on.

For the last few weeks, I have put a lot of energy into visualising what it would be like to get published. I have never wanted fame or fortune, but I did revel in the idea of my books being shared and read, imagining what it might be like to do book signings or see my books in the shops. But unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to go it alone.

Out of curiosity, I asked the publisher for some specific feedback about my book, which they said was “confidential” and could not be discussed until we were in production. This just confirmed my worst fears about them – had they even read my book?

So now I’ve decided to revert back to my original plan: self-publishing. I have three books under my belt now and I would very much like to share them with people. Fortunately, we live in a time where it is technologically possible for writers to take matters into their own hands and that is what I intend to do. I am grateful for my recent letdown because it has made me more determined than ever to share my work. So watch this space, folks!

15 thoughts on “My dealings with a vanity publisher

  1. That’s a tough one. I don’t have any experience in this, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

    My gut tells me this deal sounds a bit scammy. Agents are supposed to take a writer on, represent them, get them a book deal, and then the agent’s belief in and work on behalf of the writer is rewarded through a commission of the writer’s sales.

    Meanwhile, publishers are in the business of printing and selling books. So why aren’t they the ones footing the bill for the printing?

    Writers write. Agents find the writer a publisher. The publisher publishes. The idea of handing over a bunch of money worries me.

    Definitely do your research. I have no idea if they’re on the up and up, so I don’t want to advise you one way or the other, but it doesn’t pass the initial smell test.

    • Sorry to hear that, Craig. Considering the amount of money that they ask for, you’re probably better off self-publishing! The best of luck to you 🙂

  2. Thanks for the warning. I too have just received a request for my full manuscript. After an initial lifting of the heart, common sense prevailed, and I found the reviews of Olympia Press. They will not be receiving my manuscript. We must keep trying the traditional route, and continue to check every offer for scams.

    • You can’t be too careful these days! Unfortunately, there are sharks out there, trying to prey on people’s hopes and dreams! But you are right, Dina, we cannot lose heart!

  3. I too met with the same situation. It gave me hopes n later let me down into a deep pit of desperations. I even started questioning my abilities.

  4. Hey Nick, Loved your article and sorry to hear this. I also fell prey to this company but in the back in my mind I knew something just didn’t feel right with them. That was because I was being a little more careful as I had been stung by exactly the same process with Austin Mac Cauley (mutters bad words under breath). I was outraged as to how this company could string you along. Another writer described this process perfectly “Groomed” . It’s a sickening feeling that educated, talented writers put their souls into a novel and we are played. I exchanged my feelings towards these publishers in a few emails trying my best not to sound like the angry disgruntled writer, I have no doubt others are far more abusive, they do not consider their practice to be anything more than a helpful service. I am now seriously considering how Self Publishing might be the way forward as I think the control of it will be extremely empowering. Thanks for your helpful thoughts on this issue and may many other writers come across this and be more aware of the demons. Georgina x

    • Hi Georgina, I’m really sorry that you’ve had unpleasant dealings too. Describing the process as being groomed is frightening, but it’s sickeningly true. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and may it continue to shed light on dodgy sharks, hopefully helping some people to avoid them all together! Good luck, Georgina, with whatever path you take next. Self-publishing is certainly an option =)

  5. I just got a request for my full manuscript, and as in early 2016 I missed my chance of getting published by the random house for certain personal issues even after my work was evaluated. I thought this was my second chance, and my hopes? -lifted up. But yea, just an hour full of hopes and then upon research I knew they were vanity publishers. It just feels like am never getting my second chance as a punishment for loosing the first one.! feels_right af!

    • Ah I’m sorry to hear that. At least you discovered the truth rather quickly. It’s horrible that they try to pass themselves off as a normal publishing house, isn’t it? Keep on creating, my friend.

  6. I’ve been asked to stump up for ‘partnership contract’ with both Austin McCauley and Olympia.
    My question is; Has anyone made a living from self publishing? It’s seems there a lot of bad stuff said about so called vanity publishers, and although I’ve done my research about just about every self publishing option out there, I’ve yet to find out how well authors were able to successfully market their book to make any decent cash out of it.
    If you can get the cash, then have faith in your abilities, and give it a go. At worst you’ve lost money, and it means your book wasn’t up to scratch, and at best you get a foothold into a seemingly impenetrable industry and maybe earn a few quid. Thoughts?

    • Thanks for your comment. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t seem that vanity publishers do much to help you with promotion/marketing, so you’re effectively in same position you would be if you self-published, except that you’re paying thousands of pounds. Yes, they might print off some copies for you, but it would probably be more effective to use a local printing service and do it yourself.

      Also, it seems like they literally offer this deal to anyone, but if you want to go ahead and accept their deal, then that is up to you, my friend! You can technically say you’ve been published, which I think is why they call it vanity publishing, but there’s no guarantee if you’ll have any success.

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