If you’ve spent as many days, weeks, and months as I have writing your very important and extremely special book, it is vital that you know the difference between publishing your book independently or relying on vanity presses or pay-to-publish companies. They are worlds apart. The latter wants you to pay them to perform a variety of services that you will be doing yourself no matter how you publish your book. They will also be making promises and claims that no publisher can make with regard to sales, marketing, and book exposure.
When you independently publish your book, you are essentially creating your own imprint. You are essentially creating your own small press. You will be in charge of all creative aspects of the process. Yes, you may want to contract with a professional book designer to facilitate the process, but that book designer will answer to you. You may want an artist to create your book cover, but you will be sharing your ideas and having the final say on the cover that graces your book. At Graham Publishing Group, we understand that the relationship we create with you is one of publisher (you) and publishing advisor (us). As all effective independent publishers do, you will be asking questions and heeding advice, but, in the end, you are in charge.
Vanity presses expect you to be afraid of the process. They expect to prey upon your inexperience and convince you to pay to alleviate both the fear and the uncertainty. That is not a partnership. That is not an effective and productive working relationship.
Vanity presses want your money. They require payment for every step in the process and they generally expect you to purchase a certain number of copies of your own book to enhance their profits, not yours.
As an independent publisher, you make your money just like any company selling a product. Your product is the book you’ve spent so much time writing and that you’ve now published, and your consumer is the reader seeking something special to have on their nightstand or downloaded on their Kindle or smartphone.
Here is another point that must be addressed: marketing. Whether you’ve sold your book to a mainstream publisher like Viking Penguin, contracted with a vanity press, or have created your own independent publishing house, you will be required to market your book. Mainstream publishers always ask new writers to share a marketing plan with them; they want to know how you’re going to help them sell your book. Vanity presses make marketing claims that are very often untenable and ineffective; they want you to pay them for marketing, not create your own marketing plan. As an independent publisher, marketing will be a big part of your enterprise. Yes, you might contract with someone like Graham Publishing Group to help with digital marketing, but you’re still in charge of where your marketing dollars are spent and how.
Bottom line: get to know the publishing business. Take small steps to get your book on the market. Get good advice. Talk to people who have published independently or self-published and know the difference. Avoid people and presses who want to charge you an arm and a leg for services you don’t need or can manage yourself.