The Hidden Dangers of Self Publishing

Written by Emily Harstone | February 19, 2015

Self publishing has a lot of buzz these days. Some authors are finding success, many are not, but self publishing is becoming respectable in a way most writers could not imagine even five years ago. However, not all forms of self publishing are created equal.

Many new authors approach self publishing with the notion that they want to get their work out into the world and that they don’t have the time, energy, or patience to deal with all the hoops that traditional publishing involves.

Still every writer should be aware of the dangers of self publishing. There are “self publishing” companies that are not just expensive, they might even take away the rights to you work. There are also ways of self publishing that are much more affordable, where you retain all right.

When you self publish you have options, you can self publish your work more or less on your own or you can go with a vanity press.

Vanity publishing has been around for a long time but lately companies that offer this service have been trying to re-brand themselves as assisted publishers or simply as self publishing company’s.

For the sake of this article I will only refer to them as vanity presses/publishers/publishing.  Vanity publishers offer ‘packages’ to writers to help with the publication of their book.

For example, AuthorHouse offers 6 packages in the black and white traditional publishing category alone. The cheapest is a little less than $1,000 and that money covers publishing it in paperback, one block of 25 interior revisions, and image customization for the cover, as well as a number of other basic things.

The most expensive package is almost $12,000 and offers a lot more publicity coverage. That is a lot of money, particularly considering the fact that the competition in the publishing market is so steep these days. It is hard to imagine most authors earning anywhere close to that amount of money back in book sales.

But it is not just the cost that is an issue.  Sometimes a vanity publisher is not upfront about being a vanity publisher.

We get emails regularly from people complaining that traditional publishing is too expensive. If you have a traditional publisher you do not pay them anything. However, over the past few years many traditional and established publishing houses such Harlequin, Thomas Nelson, and Hay House have partnered with companies such as Authors Solutions Inc. to create self-publishing branches associated with these presses. Sometimes if the traditional branches of these presses have contests, the contests are even redirected to the self publishing branch. This in my opinion is unethical.

The other thing that happens is that a publisher will contact you wanting to publish your book. But instead of being a legitimate publisher, these are usually vanity presses that will charge you to publish.

There are hundreds of vanity presses out there, and many go by multiple names, making everything fairly confusing. Within the vanity publishing world  some presses are more honest than others.  Some will also take away the rights to your story from you so that you cannot self publish it on your own or with an independent press.

Now, I know a lot of this seems scary, that is why there are a lot of resources out there to protect writers. Sites like Preditor & Editors,  Absolute Writes Forum,  and Writers Beware help writers avoid the wrong companies.

If you are self publishing, it is best to do the additional work yourself. If you have the money, hire a publicist that is right for you, don’t get a publicity package. Find the best editor you can. Your money, however much or little it is, will go a lot further if you are directing where it goes.

Even if you don’t have money you can find ways to publish your book. When one self-publishes a book on the Kindle one does not pay any money, of course one is not guaranteed to make any money, but the risk is really minimal. You retain the rights to your book. Although it is important for me to point out that most traditional publishers will not consider publishing a previously self published books.

There are other low cost options. Print on Demand companies like Lulu, CreateSpace, and Lightning Source are all pretty cheap and easy to use. Of course companies like CreateSpace offers editing packages and other options, but it is easy to not get those.

Always make sure that you do your background research before signing with any company. Just because you are paying them, does not mean that they are acting in your best interest.