NEVER PAY ANY PUBLISHER TO PUBLISH YOUR BOOK. This is has been said by successful authors with best selling books. If your manuscript is good and marketable, a literary agent or mainstream publisher will pay you to publish it! Below is the link to the Association of Author Representatives. These are the literary agents who submit manuscripts to mainstream publishers such as Harper Collins, Random House, Penguin, St. Martin’s Press, Dutton and so on.

If you think your manuscript is good, different, and marketable you should visit a mainstream or traditional publisher’s submissions page. There you will find guidelines on how to submit your manuscript.

So with that said, you should avoid paying money out to the…

Vanity & Subsidiary Presses (VSP)

Vanity & Subsidiary Presses (VSP) are companies in the business of making money for the company and that is why they charge varying fees for publishing your book. As far as marketing and selling your book—the VSP uses many of the same resources that you can do for less and sometime even free. Most VSP get your email address by offering a free PDF book on ‘getting your book published.’ Then even if you chose not to go the VSP route, they will keep on sending you email offering to get your book published. Here is a Huffington Post article on why you should avoid the VSP.

For those ‘insiders’ who are already working in the publishing world have the contacts and resources to get their book published, marketed, and sold. But for the newbie authors who do not—when they complete a manuscript they tend to start with an internet search for a publisher by typing in the key words—book publishing companies. This brings up the first search page with the VSP book publishers such as:

  • Authorhouse The black and white package cost ranges from $799.99 to $11,799.00. They also offer an interview with a Stu Taylor for $2699.00. I went to the Stu Taylor promote your book on national radio page and saw that you can contact his office yourself for information.
  • Christian Manuscript submissions
  • Dog Ear Costs range from $1099.00 to $3699.00. Woof woof.
  •  Dorrance Publishing Interestingly this company has the same address as RoseDog Books. I looked all over the Dorrance site and found no pricing or packages. Of course they have the email fill in form to get their free publishing guide.
  • iUniverse publishing They have five different packages starting at $899.00 up to $4299.00.
  • Out Skirts Press Their publishing pricing is more of an ala carte type with fees as high as $5957.00 for publishing a children book. I called Out Skirts and asked if INGRAM is the printer they use and the lady said yes. INGRAM is the parent company of Lightening Source where an author can create a free account and self-publish their book themselves.
  • Tate This is another site that lists no pricing. It does have the Better Business Bureau symbol on its landing page—which I find in sharp contrast to the complaints I have read on Consumer Affairs. Then again when I had my photography business I called my local BBB office and the representative quoted me a $350.00 annual fee. She also stated that as long as I paid my membership dues—complaints would not show up on the local BBB site ensuring I would retain an A+ rating. I did not join.
  • Trafford Their publishing packages run from $549.00 to $10,999.00. And since Author Solutions is the parent company—they offer the same products as the other VSP’s they operate.
  •  Xlibris This dog and pony show is getting repetitive—black and white publishing fees start at $499.00 up to $15,249.00 Excuse me but I would rather spend that much money on obtaining a bachelors degree in journalism or communications—not giving it away to some VSP.
  • Publish America (PA) is now called American Star Books. In their contracts they have a clause that PA would have an exclusive seven year right to publishing and receive 92% of all book sales. Seriously? That means if PA sells the book for $20.00, you get about $1.20. You would have to sell a lot of books to make a decent profit.

Maybe that is why there is a multitude of VSP consumer complaints at Rip off Reports . You can type in the name of the VSP in the company name/report number search box to read the complaints for yourself.When a naïve newbie author visits a VSP landing page—in addition to the free publishing guide—they are given the opportunity to submit their manuscript via email for review by the editorial staff. It should come as no surprise that the manuscript is accepted for publication and the author is instructed to call the VSP to get the publishing process started.

When the author returns the call, the VSP representative pitches their slick pie in the sky promises of book publishing fame and riches that the author cannot pass up. The call ends with the VSP representative telling the author they can use their credit card to purchase one of the publishing packages. By this time the author is sold and buys a package. The VSP rep tells the author they will be kept updated by email of his/her book progress so they can approve every step of the process.

Now if during the publishing process the author feels buyer’s remorse and wants to cancel the contract—the VSP may impose a “kill fee.” A kill fee is where the author has to pay money—usually a steep fee—in addition to the money they have already paid to end the contract. VSP’s know that naïve authors are so excited to get published that they don’t read the part about kill fees before signing. Hence, the author does not want to pay more money and will stay the course and sign off on the book. Then when the author receives a competed book of poor quality—they call the publisher to have it redone correctly. It is then the VSP representative states that since the author signed off on the book to be published—that there will be a charge for any further post production changes. This upsets the author who ends the call to go read their contract more thoroughly and realizes the VSP is right. Then the author has to decide if they want to pay for the re-editing.

Another thing to consider is that many of the services VSP’s offer—you can do yourself. Here is a list of the services I saw on most if not all VSP sites I visited:

  • Author support or author learning center or discounts to the magazine if the site is associated with a major publishing house.
  • ISBN assignment: You can order one or a pack of ten numbers of your own ISBN numbers from Bowker Identification Services. If you are planning to write many books then the pack of ten numbers is the better deal. You can also purchase the bar codes, which are a necessity if your book is going to be sold in book stores and on line.
  • Library of Congress Control number registration: You can also do your own copyright registration through the Library of Congress Control number registration. They have a publishing manual to help you through the process. “There is no charge for a Preassigned Control Number (PCN). However, participating publishers are obligated to send a complimentary copy of all books for which a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) was provided immediately upon publication. Publishers failing to meet this obligation may be suspended from the program. Please note that all books submitted to the Library of Congress in compliance with the PCN Program are property of the Library of Congress and therefore are not returnable” (LOC PCN FAQ pg 2014).
  •  Cover. If you know how to use Photoshop—you can create a cover. Or if you don’t—you can go through a site like Amazon’s Create Space for self publishing.
  •  Interior layout design. Manuscripts are usually written using Microsoft word and most people know how to format margins, indentation, chapter headlines, and the table of contents, and inserting images. If you need help using these features—you can click on the question mark on any open word document or press F1 on your keyboard.
  • Image insertion. The way it works is that a VSP has to sign up with a stock photography agency to purchase non-exclusive images which are sold to other buyers. That is why you sometimes see the same images in various books, magazines, and advertisements. The VSP does not buy exclusive rights to images as the price can run up to $1200.00 or more an image.When it is time for the author to choose their ‘included or free’ images—the VSP may have the images on their site or will have the author click on a link to the stock agency to choose the photos they want. Then the VSP goes and buys the right to use the photo for the author’s book. If the author wants more than the free images included—the VSP then states they have an additional charge for each image. I called some well known stock photography agencies and found out that reselling an image to someone else is violation of the stock agencies licensing rights. And by the way—anyone can sign up and buy images from any stock photograph agency.
  •  E-book formatting: If you self publish through sites like Create Space—they will convert your files to an e-book format when you opt for that feature. Bowker—who has partnered with Smith Publicity offers an ebook conversion service that does have a cost.
  •  Amazon search inside and Barnes & Noble see inside is a feature that Amazon and Barnes & Noble does for free when a book is place on their sites. However, VSP’s add a charge for this service. Sounds like a scam to me.
  •  Worldwide book distribution: This feature was free when I self-published with Create Space. I know that Lighting Source, and Google book partners has this free option also.
  •  Keyword optimization: Are you aware that Google has free webmaster tools that anyone can use? You can go to the Google Webmaster page and sign up to have access to the same information and tools that the VSP web designers use. Because according to Google —
  • No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of claims that guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever” (Google 2014).
  • Press releases—VSP charge for this, but you can write your own and send it out.
  • 1-25 copies depending upon the plan price: You pay out $7,999.00 for a publishing package and you only get 25 copies of a paperback book—something is not kosher here. Heck, well known authors who are paid advances for their books, get at least that many. I will stay with Create Space’s POD method, thank you very much.
  • Author volume discounts. This is what I discussed earlier regarding how Publish America offers the author an opportunity to purchase more books at half off the retail price of $19.99 retail or higher.
  • Promotional materials—I buy my business cards and postcards for a fraction of the price a VSP charges at Vista Print. I like that I have the option of uploading my profile photo onto the predesigned templates. And when you get your cards—don’t be shy—pass them out to everyone you meet. I leave mind with a nice tip at restaurants. I give them to the sales clerk at the store. I place them up free community boards. After all, the goal is to self promote by letting people know about your book.
  • Bookstubs: These are plastic cards that shows the book cover on one side and a scanable code on the other side. This enables the user to access a book’s detail page in a VSP’s online bookstore. The bookstub may or may not include a promotional code for a one time discount.
  •  Website set up page on the VSP site. For the package prices that the VSP is charging you—they should be giving you more than just one page. As I mentioned before, there is Word Press and 10 free websites where you can go to build your own website and have it hosted for much less than what a VSP charges.
  •  Personalized VSP book site store page with author video: Let me ask you, how many VSP site bookstores have you visited? Chances are you probably never even heard of any of them until you either began your search for a book publisher or found out the first time reading this guide. That is because Amazon or Barnes and Noble are the better known sites readers browse for books. And as far a video, you can make your own book video. You need a video camera, a script, and a neat clean area behind you whether you’re are sitting or standing. The room should be lighted by ambient sunlight coming in from a window instead of using incandescent light bulbs. Incandescent light will give the video a yellowish hue. I discovered when I use ambient sunlight; the lines are not as noticeable on my face.A well defined promotion video should not be run more than 1.5 minutes in length including the title and end frames. There are many different movie editing software programs out on the market. Some cost money others are free. Myself, I like and use the Pinnacle Studios movie editing program software. But again, chose what you feel is right for your editing needs.Type the script using large type and have someone hold it behind the video camera. Practice reading it until the delivery is smooth. Make sure the person does not rustle the pages or drop them after each sheet. When speaking lift the eyebrows up and put a smile on your face. This is because when people speak the eyes and corners of the mouth tend to droop. And you should also wear professional looking dress as first impressions count. Here is a link to the video I made by myself for my Photography Talk page.The other downside of using a VSP is that the author really ends up doing most of their own promoting. I once met and talked with a woman who had published with a VSP who was selling 100 of her author discounted hard copy books at a holistic fair. She had paid for the space and during the three hours I was at the fair—no one bought any of the $29.00 priced book. She said that VSP had given her a list of bookstores that would sponsor new authors book signings and she had only gotten three signings. She also wrote and sent her press releases to all the newspapers in the state, but got no responses. I felt bad for her—and wonder if she ever sold those 100 books.Now you may find through an internet search—the well known major publishing companies with their self-publishing divisions. Here a few of those sites whose parent company is Author Solutions. Interestingly, the Author Solutions US Imprints lists VSP’s such as Authorhouse, iUniverse, Trafford, and Xlibris. Here is the Author Solutions other publishers:
Publisher Prices
Balboa Press is a division of Hay House $999.00 to $7900.00
Archway Publishing is a division of Simon and Schuster. $1,999.00 to $13,999.00
Life Rich Publishing is a division of Readers Digest. $999.00 to $7900.00

Bottom line—if your book is good and has mass market appeal—a literary agent or publisher will pay you to have it published.

Therefore remember that there have been countless numbers of hopeful authors just like you—who have already paid out thousands to VSP’s to get their next great American novel or best seller published. That is why the VSP’s are still in business—they know how to stroke naive people’s egos into purchasing exorbitant priced publishing services.

So if you are short on cash… are living paycheck to paycheck… or have to dip into your retirement or kid’s college fund… or take out a loan… or go into debt on your credit card to pay hundreds or even thousands to a VSP—please step back and reassess your decision. Because just like all those before you who have been financially and emotionally devastated when their book did not sell—doesn’t mean you have to let it happen to you.



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