Vanity or Subsidy Publishers?

Vanity or Subsidy Publishers?

In a previous blog, I wrote about The Self-Publishing World.  In that blog, we took a moment to see what Self-Publishing has looked like over the years, especially in comparison with Traditional Publishers.  In this blog, however, we want to explore something that is kind of half-way between a Traditional Publisher and full Self-Publishing.

Self-Publishing (or Indie-Publishing) is, simply put, doing it all yourself.  You take care of editing or find an editor.  You take care of cover design or hire an artist.  You do all the setup for your book, arrange printing, make it available for sale and even market your book.

That’s a lot of work.

You can see the attraction of working with a Traditional Publisher on this, can’t you?  Personally, I think it’s still worth it to Self-Publish.  If nothing else, it’s worth it for the adventure alone!

There are, however, companies out there which offer to help you with various parts of the process.

These companies are called Subsidy Publishers or Vanity Publishers.

They will offer many different services.  They will even take your book from the form you have it (perhaps in a fairly rough draft) right through to the published state.  They will offer to help with everything from editing to cover design to marketing!  Sounds great, right?

Subsidy Publishers can offer great services and be a big help, but here are some things to be careful of if you decide to use a Subsidy Publisher:



When a Subsidy Publisher works with your book, you pay them a fee for the work.  This is really different from a Traditional Publisher.  A Traditional Publisher will cover most (typically all) costs associated with your book (unless you personally pay for an editor) to get your book out there.  Because of their investment, they are concerned that your book sells well (they won’t even work with you if they do not think it’ll sell).  They will also be concerned that the product they are putting out there is of high quality.  In other words, they are invested in making sure that your book sells well.

A Subsidy Publisher, on the other hand, has no real investment.  All of their services are paid for by you.  These services can be purchased individually or in packages (advertised as starting around $1000-$1200).  Since YOU are paying THEM for a service, they may not feeling the pressure of their investment (as in the case of a Traditional Publisher).  As such, you need to be careful that the quality you are receiving is up to a high standard.  Look for other authors who have used the specific Subsidy Publisher you are looking at and Google feedback to find out what other authors have to say about this specific company.  Some Subsidy Publishers will be better than others!

Check out things like, quality of printing, their editors, value for money paid, etc.



You may find that with a Subsidy Publisher, you can lose a lot of the control you were hoping to have in self-publishing your book.  They may help you design a cool cover, format your book and even get you an ISBN number!  When all is said and done, you may have all that taken care of, but you may have few, if any, actual books in your hand.  From that point on you may have to print them through the Subsidy Publisher and this will likely cost you far more than Createspace or Ingram will charge (and the quality may or may not be of the same standard).

If you decide to take the formatted book and cover and go print it elsewhere, you may find yourself unable to do so.  Your agreement and services with the Subsidy Publisher may have been set up in a way which requires you to continue to work with them (or start fresh).  Be careful to read the fine print.  You may end up spending all this money and be stuck having to work with them or walk away and start over.

You may also find that the ISBN they have provided you with is listed in their name (this is almost a guarantee if they provide the ISBN).  Soooo… if someone orders the book, who do you think gets the order?  If they are listed as the publisher, the orders will continue to go through them.  You will likely receive royalties on this, but perhaps not as large of a royalty as you had hoped.  🙁



Subsidy Publishers are expensive.  They charge a lot for their work.  This is not all bad.  If you find they provide the quality you want and the service you are after and you are willing to pay the price, that’s your call!  Just understand that there are many fees.  Get a clear quote and know what services you are being provided with.  If you don’t understand what a service is, ask.  Do not be surprised if a number of services provided in the package you are looking at are described in a way which is nearly incomprehensible to the average person.

Also… don’t expect many printed books with the services you have purchased.  You could find yourself spending thousands of dollars and walk away with five to twenty-five cool looking printed books.  All your money may have gone to setup fees and editing.  Ask to find out.


Marketing and Distribution

Look carefully into this one.  When it comes to a Traditional Publisher, they have the connections and business relationships built over decades.  They know how to advertise and push a book so it is bought and read.  This is why your book will likely sell WAY more copies with a Traditional Publisher than as a Self-Published work.

When it comes to Subsidy Publishers, just because a Marketing (getting word out there about your book) and Distribution (getting the actual book out there) service is provided, does not mean that they have the connections in order to do this.  You may simply find your book added to a list of millions of other books.  That sounds good… till you think it through.  🙂  I would recommend you look into this carefully before spending money on this one.  Some Subsidy Publishers will be better than others.


When you SHOULD go with a Subsidy Publisher

If you want someone to take care of all the editing, formatting and publishing work and just want a few copies for family members and close friends, go for it!  A Subsidy Publisher may be just what you’re after–assuming you can afford the cost.

If you are planning on offering your book for many people to buy, I would personally recommend you only hire a Subsidy Publisher for the services you cannot do yourself.  Otherwise, you will find the cost of services may eat up your profits.

If you are going to hire a subsidy publisher to produce your book, get a hold of a number of books they have already produced (yep, buy them off of Amazon or wherever you can find them) and go over them with a fine-tooth comb to ensure the editing is done well, the book print quality is just what you want, the cover art is done well, the formatting is just right, etc.

Here’s my advice.  Subsidy Publishers are not a bad way to go if you’d like someone to do a lot of the work, but if you go with them… do your research!


For more information on this, has a helpful free guide to get you started on Self-Publishing.  It’s called, “10 Things You Need to Know about Self-Publishing”.  Good read and very helpful!

Here’s a great quote from their guide: “Subsidy publishers make money from selling services to authors, not from selling books to book buyers.”

Keep this in mind.  Subsidy Publishers aren’t all bad, but you have to be careful.  Remember that they are selling a service to you.  I assume you are interested in selling books.  This means that your goals are not aligned so you simply have to be more careful.

Comment below with your thoughts and views on Subsidy Publishers!

Happy Publishing!





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