Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

How and Why to Vanity Publish Your Book

For this edition of my “publishing crash course,” I lay out the different approaches “vanity publishing” and discuss when it may actually be a good publishing option for someone. If you missed the other days, I strongly encourage you to check out my posts on traditional publishing and independent publishing so you have all of the information you need to make your publishing decisions.

Lay-Person Definition

Vanity publishing refers to a type of publishing that lies somewhere in between the traditional model and the independent publishing model. With vanity publishing, an author can pay a publishing company, usually referred to as a “vanity publisher” or “vanity press” to publish her work. Or, she can do all of the work herself, in a less collaborative model than independent publishing.

vanity publishing
“Talent Optional. The Customer is always write.” via Tendence Coatesy

Vanity publishing gets its somewhat negative name from the idea that many authors who choose this route are “vain:” they only care about seeing their work printed and either do not care about quality or do not realize that the quality of their novel is lacking. Also, it may be derived from the fact that these books are not verified as worthy of publication by the authority figures of the publishing world. Of course, this is simply the stigma attached to this form of publishing, and it is important to note that there are fantastic and horrible books produced in every form of publishing.

The Steps to Vanity Publication

Traditional-esque Model

1. Write your manuscript. 

2. Revise your manuscript. As always, this is an optional step, but one that is highly encouraged.

3. Find a publishing company to publish your book. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of vanity presses out there that will be willing to publish your book. Unlike in the traditional model, where the publishing company pays the author to publish his book and then shares the profits, a vanity press (usually) takes its entire cut up-front and does not share in the majority of a book’s profits. However, each company is different. Some will want the author to give over his rights entirely, while some will simply want a publishing fee and allow the author to retain the rights. It is important to be careful when selecting a publisher, as some of them may be scam artists who take your money and do not produce a quality product — or any at all.

4. Production of your novel. Depending on the contract you sign, the vanity press will most likely handle the production of your book. Likely, there will be no editing process or the editing will be far less intense than that of a traditional publishing deal. Again, as with a traditional publisher, the press will probably handle the cover design and formatting of your book, leaving you little to no say in the process, but also little work to do. These services will vary based on which packages the press offers and how much you are willing to spend for your book’s production.

5. Distribution of your novel. If you go with a vanity press, it will distribute electronic and physical copies of your book for you. The extent of this distribution depends on the particular package that you have purchased.

6. Marketing your book. Again, the vanity press is more a mechanism to produce a book, and once it is produced, the author receives the responsibility of marketing the product. In other words, just because the vanity press has distributed your book, this does not mean your book will sell or that the press will help you sell it. There are some vanity presses that may assist with marketing, for a fee (in the same way that they charge for production), but this is not likely.

Independent-esque Model

1. Write your manuscript. Noticing a pattern yet?

2. Revise your manuscript. Again, optional, but encouraged.

3. Determine how much production help you want. By this, I mean, do you want a professional editor, cover designer, format designer, etc.? Typically, authors going the vanity route do all of this work themselves, even if they lack education or skills in the area.

books in boxes4. Find a printer. There are dozens of printing companies to which you can submit your manuscript purely to be printed. In vanity-independent publishing, the author will likely pay a company to print copies of the book in bulk to be sold later. Alternatively, the author can choose the “print-on-demand” option. In these programs, the author will list her book on an online retailer, and copies will be printed only as they are purchased. However, this model is more typical to independent publishers.

5. Distribute and market your book. If you have chosen to have a large batch of books printed, then you are responsible for marketing and distributing them to retailers and individuals. In contrast, if you have chosen the print-on-demand option, the online retailer will cover distribution for you, you simply have to market your book well enough for individuals to find and buy it.

Pros of Vanity Publishing

  • Instant gratification – there are no hoops to jump through; you can publish almost immediately after your book is written.
  • You can keep most (if not all) of  the rights to your creative product.
  • You retain more control over the production, distribution, and marketing of your product.
  • If you use a vanity press, your book’s ISBN will be associated with a publishing company, which may protect you from some of the stigma associated with purely “self-publishing.”

Cons of Vanity Publishing

  • The stigma associated with vanity publishing will cause others to take you less seriously and pre-judge the quality of your book.
  • You have little-to-no help in publishing your book, and the help you do receive may be low quality.
  • Vanity publishing can be a big financial risk: you pay a lot up-front to a publisher, have little control over quality, and may receive little profit from sales.
  • Because of the lack of professionalism involved, authors who vanity publish have a very little chance of making a full-time income from their writing.

Who Should Vanity Publish?

Vanity publishing is the best option for authors who simply want to see their artwork in book form and are not looking to make a living from writing.

What are your thoughts on “vanity” publishing? What process steps, pros, and cons would you add? Tell me in the comments section!

On an unrelated note, my follower count surpassed 200 yesterday! Thank you all so much for your continued support. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to answer your questions, entertain you, and generally enrich your experience here. Much love, Kate.


Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

How and Why to Traditionally Publish Your Book

Hello, everyone! In this three part blog series, I want to give you all a “publishing crash course” and go over the three main publishing options available to modern writers: traditional, vanity, and independent. For each one, I will give a basic overview of how the publishing process works as well as the pros and cons of each. In this edition, I discuss the most common form: traditional publishing.

printing pressLay-Person Definition

Traditional publishing is the most widely known form of publication, and it tends to have the “best” reputation in the publishing word. In traditional publishing, an author writes a novel (or story, poetry anthology, etc.) and sells her rights to the book to a publishing house, usually with the help of an agent to act as a middle(wo)man. The publishing house takes care of the product’s production and distribution for the author, but the author still shares most of the marketing burden (unless he is a huge name author).

The Steps to Traditional Publication

1. Write your manuscript. Need I say more?

1A. Revise your manuscript. This may or may not involve the help of a professional freelance editor. However, whether you seek professional help or not, you need to edit your manuscript to the best of your ability and make it as attractive as possible to the people to whom you are trying to sell it.

2. Figure out your target market. If you are planning to traditionally publish, your goal is to sell your product to a higher power, so to speak. Therefore, you need to source out publishing companies and/or agents that sell books in similar genres to yours. A horror publisher will not want your young adult romance book. Likewise, you need to have a clear idea of your target audience so that you can convince potential agents and/or publishers that your book will sell, and therefore, make you both money.

3. Find an agent. An agent is a person who will represent you and your book and help you sell yourself and it to a publisher. In order to get an agent, you will need to write a query letter. This is basically a “sales pitch” detailing what your novel is about, why and to whom your novel will sell, and what credentials you have as a writer. An agent is not 100% necessary in traditional publishing. However, many publishers (especially “The Big Five”) will not take manuscript submissions unless they come from an agent. Small and micro-presses are more likely to take unsolicited manuscripts.

4. Find a publisher. If you have an agent, he will take care of this process for you. However, if you do not, you will undergo the same basic process as searching for an agent. You will send query letters to try and attract a publisher to publish your novel. Again, this is much more difficult without an agent, but it is still achievable, especially at smaller publishing houses.

publishing deal5. Sign a contract. Once you are accepted by a publisher, you will be given your publishing “deal.” This will be different for each publisher and each author. In short, the author will give away some (or all) of the rights to her book, and in return, the publisher will give the author an advance and a portion of the royalties from the book’s sales. It is important to note two things here:

“Rights” constitute many aspects of a book; the “right” to publish it in e-book format, print format, audiobook format, and in foreign countries.

Also, the “advance” is not a signing bonus. It is merely an advance on your royalties, and it will likely be paid out in several payments. You may get a $10,000 dollar advance given in two payments (for example, $5,000 upon signing and $5,000 upon completion), but you will not see a cent more from your book until it sells enough copies for your percentage of the royalties to surpass $10,000. Your percentage will likely be 10-20% (depending on format). Note that if you hire an agent, she will get a percentage of your advance as well as a percentage of the royalties.

In other words, if your royalty rate were 10%, your book would have to gross $100,000 in sales before your $10,000 advance would be “paid out” and you could start receiving royalty payments.

6. Edit your novel. Once you have agreed upon a deal, your publisher will likely assign you to an editor to help you refine your novel. Once editing is complete, your book will move into the production stage.

7. Cover design. The deal you sign with your publisher will determine your control over the cover design and book formatting. Most publishers either have in-house designers or strong relationships with design firms or freelancers. And, most of the time, your publisher will determine the design of your book, based on what other books in the genre are like and what will be most marketable to your target audience.

bookstore8. Distribution. Again, your publisher will handle this process for you. Your book will be sold to bookstores and placed on online retailers like Amazon. It is important to note that bookstores have the right to send back copies of your book. If this happens, it means two things for you:

A) If your royalty payment was figured before the return, it may decrease once the books are returned and not actually sold.

B) If bookstores return copies of your book, it will make your publisher less enthusiastic about publishing you in the future and the bookseller less likely to buy your next book.

However, risks aside, if you have the dream of walking into a bookstore and seeing your book on the shelf, traditional publishing is virtually the only way to have this vision realized.

9. Market your book. Unless you are J.K. Rowling, your publisher will not spend much time marketing your book. At the very least, they will do a press release, maybe set up a few in-person promotions for you, and possibly do a bit of social media coverage. Therefore, you must help your book sell by doing your own social media marketing, maintaining your author website, and connecting with your readers. Additionally, while traditional publisher’s marketing efforts may be fewer, they are substantial, and they can give you better chances at opportunities you would not have on your own, such as foreign publication and movie deals.

Pros of Traditional Publishing

  • Most “respected” form of publishing / Comes with prestige
  • Once you get an agent, you have a teammate to help you get published.
  • Your publisher will connect you to a professional editor.
  • Your publisher will handle cover design and formatting.
  • Your publisher will handle production and distribution (allowing you to see your book IN a bookstore).
  • Your publisher will do at least some marketing for you.
  • Traditional publishing gives you the best chance of seeing your books in bookstores and on the big screen.

Cons of Traditional Publishing

  • You lose the rights to your creative product.
  • You have a lot of hoops to jump through, which can take years.
  • You lose control over much of the editing, design, production, and distribution of your book.
  • You still have to do some of the marketing yourself.
  • The royalty rate is extremely low, and you have to share the profits with your agent, publisher, and book retailers.
  • Related to royalties, you have no control over the pricing strategy of your book.
  • If your first (and second, third, etc.) book does not sell well, the chances of you getting subsequent deals decrease exponentially.

Who Should Seek Traditional Publication?

Traditional publication is best for authors who want to have a career in writing, but want to focus more on producing art and have someone else help them handle the “business” side of being a full-time writer. Additionally, traditional publishing is the only avenue for those who want the prestige of being tested and approved by publishing authority figures and want to avoid common publication stigmas.

What are your feelings about traditional publishing? What process steps, pros, and/or cons would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

NaNoWriMo 2014: Lessons Learned and Post-NaNo Plans

This will be my last NaNoWriMo post until next year’s event. However, before I put NaNoWriMo 2014 to bed, I think it deserves a bit of reflection.

When I consider where I started in October, I am amazed by the progress I made in my writing career – in only 30 days at that! If you want to read my pre-NaNo post, you can do so here. But, long story short, I began NaNoWriMo as someone who called herself a writer without a steady writing routine or finished manuscript, but with a lot of hope, determination, and a Bachelors of Arts in English. For me, NaNoWriMo was a chance to prove to myself that I studied the right subject in university, to justify my decision to postpone graduate school, and to show myself that I have the discipline and the guts to turn writing into a full-time career.

In case you have not been following my NaNoWriMo journey (and have a lot of free time on your hands), you can catch up here or simply read my final day recap here. Again, long story short, I won NaNoWriMo on Day 19 and finished my manuscript on Day 30.

Here are my totals:

Total Word Count: 80,060

Average Daily Word Count: 2,668

Total Hours Spent Writing: 56 hours

Average Daily Writing Time: 1.87 hours

Average Words per Hour: 1,430

While all these numbers are nice for reference, I know: we writers aren’t normally numbers people. So, here are my qualitative NaNoWriMo results, aka, my lessons learned.

  1. The only way to write a novel is to actually sit down and write it. Yes, this is entirely self-evident, but a lot of writers tend to do a lot more talking about writing than actual writing (myself included until November).
  1. When you stop worrying about every word being perfect, writing is easy. Okay, this may not be true for everyone, but I found that the moment I shut off my mental editor, the words flowed through my fingertips, and I produced a huge volume of work very quickly.
  1. Speaking of this, I learned that I am a prolific writer. I have never thought of myself as a fast writer, but given my averages, I feel like I can call myself one now.
  1. Writing is so much more fun with a community. Having that NaNoWriMo community on Twitter and WordPress was awesome! I loved cheering on my fellow writers and receiving support in return. While I know the enthusiasm will die down as writers crawl back into the woodwork, I hope that some writers stay out and social and keep the spirit alive!
  1. Writing a first draft is only the beginning. This is not something I learned during NaNoWriMo, but it is something I feel now that it is over. The first draft is step one. Then comes editing, revising, marketing, branding, publishing, etc. The fears of draft writing may be gone, but now they are replaced with a whole new box of nerves and excitement!

So now what? In a previous post, I offered suggestions for what do post-NaNoWriMo. You can probably already guess, but I fall into the final category: “I won NaNoWriMo, my manuscript is complete, and I want to seek publication.”

Currently, I am working on my plans to transition into writing as a career and start my own author business. Of course, this will be a slow project, and I will probably be working a day job for several more years.

I won’t go into much detail in this post, because there is simply too much to discuss! However, I will say that this is going to be the main focus of my blog from here on out. I will be sharing everything I learn about business, independent publishing, marketing, and of course writing. I will also still offer “Feedback Fridays,” but I will focus on reviewing books for writers related to craft and business. And, of course, I will share tidbits from my personal life as well.

If this sounds useful, entertaining, or interesting to you, I hope you keep coming back and reading my blog. I don’t want this to be a place just for me, but also for you all to learn, be entertained, and engage in discussions of all things writing. Thanks for reading and staying with me through the next steps of my writing career!

What are your post-NaNoWriMo plans? What do you want to know or need to learn about writing, publishing, and creating an author business? Share it all below!



Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 30 Recap

I DID IT! I can finally say that I have written a novel. It is a very rough draft. I already have a laundry list of things to edit, add, and subtract, but I’ve done it! This is a dream come true for me. This was the Number One item on my bucket list, and I can finally cross it off tonight.

Thank you so much to my family, friends, fellow writers, and random strangers who have supported me throughout this journey. Most of all, I have to thank my husband, Daniel, who has shown me that I can be the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love you.

Even though NaNoWriMo is now over, I hope that you all will stay with me on this ride. I have truly enjoyed hearing from you all and sharing in your writing journeys. And I promise you, mine has only just begun, and there are big changes coming in the near future! Stick with me, and let’s launch into the next steps of our writing lives.

Today’s Word Count8,195

Final Word Count: 80,060

Estimated Writing Time: 4.5-5 hours

Feeling: Elated, amazed, triumphant!

Motivation: Being able to truly say that I wrote a novel in 30 days.

Inspiration: Reminding myself of who I want to be and where I want my writing journey to take me.

Biggest Triumph: Finishing my novel!

Biggest Setback: I sat thinking about my last paragraph, especially the last line, for at least ten minutes. It took me forever to write it, but finally, I talked myself into settling on something with the promise that I can fix it later. I’m not sure that I’ll need to do much to it, though.

Helpful Insights: If you did not win NaNoWriMo or you did not finish your manuscript this month, that’s okay! Take it from me: sometimes it takes years, nearly 23 years even, to finally get that novel out. However, when you do, even in that rough, dirty first draft form, it is the most blissful, triumphant feeling. You will feel exhausted and happy and in disbelief. It will be a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it.

Do you want to know the secret to writing a novel? Here it is: make up your mind to do it. That is all it takes. If you decide that you will do it, sit down to write it, and visualize it as an inevitable addition to your life, it WILL happen. But if you do not take those three steps, you won’t get there.

Share your NaNoWriMo experiences — good or bad — in the comments section and come back later for my National Now What Month guide and future writing plans!


Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 29 Recap

This is it, Wrimos. As Day 29 ends and Day 30 begins, we are left with only one writing day left in NaNoWriMo 2014! It’s been a crazy ride, and I appreciate you all taking it with me. Now, excuse me while I maintain radio silence in an effort to finish this manuscript. I am so close I can taste it!

Today’s Word Count3,612

Total Word Count: 71,865

Estimated Writing Time: 2 hours

Feeling: Everything — excited, petrified, determined, prepared.

Motivation: Getting through “the big scene” so I can write the fallout and finish my manuscript tomorrow.

Inspiration: Watching the NaNoWriMo winner announcements pour in over WordPress and Twitter, sending me positive energy and reminding me I’m not alone in this crazy journey!

Biggest Triumph: Writing “the big scene,” the one that changes everything and puts my protagonist in incredible peril. I’ve pictured it in my mind as I have written the rest of the novel, and now that it has happened, it feels incredibly surreal. I love it.

Biggest Setback: Because what I wrote today was the most important material of my novel so far, I got very nervous and took a while to start. However, I gave myself a pep talk, promised myself I could edit later, and wrote with abandon. For a first draft, I think it’s good.

Helpful Insights: If you’re like me, as you reach the end of your manuscript, you may begin to feel nervous and/or freeze up a little. If this happens, do whatever it takes to snap yourself out of it. Look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself a pep talk. Browse through the rest of your novel and remind yourself that you can do this. Write yourself a note allowing your writing to suck and promising yourself you can edit later.

Whatever you need to do, do it quickly and then get to writing! The best thing you can do for yourself is write and remind yourself that you can do this! Besides, the faster you write, the faster you will reach the end, leaving your doubts with nothing else to say!

Join me on my NaNoWriMo journey on my NaNoWriMo page or follow me on Twitter @KateMColby for more frequent updates!