Good Vanity Publishing: How it should be done

Eoin Purcell

First decide what it is you want:
I have written before on the importance of knowing what you want from a book before deciding what route is the best option for you to take. I wanted to restate the case by pointing people in the direction of a service that I have stumbled across over the last few days. The company is called Granville Island Publishing and what I like about them is that they make no bones about what it is that they do:

When you have a manuscript and you want it published, you have three options: you can send it around to traditional publishers; you can publish it yourself; or you can publish it with us.
Sending your manuscript around to traditional publishers may well be the best option for you, especially if you would like someone else to finance the publication of your book, but it is generally very time consuming and often both frustrating and discouraging. And even if your book is accepted, you can expect an additional wait of up to two years before it is actually published.
Publishing your book yourself has the great advantage of allowing you to follow your own schedule and avoid these lengthy delays. True, it requires a financial investment on your part, but in return it enables you to control every stage of the publication process and to retain 100% of the profits from the sale of your book. And while the financial investment involved is significant, it is certainly less expensive than hiring someone to oversee the process for you.

You can read their explanations and FAQs and see more of this refreshing perspective.

And there are bad sites too
The main reason I was prompted to write about this topic again was stumbling across Original Writing’s site. Just read the differing descriptions of their service:

Our affordable package makes publishing your work simple. You’re guaranteed a finished product you can be truly proud of and the support and tools needed to promote and sell your book to a global audience.

Your work deserves to be beautifully showcased. Our expert designers will work closely with you on all aspects of your book’s design and layout. You retain full control at all times and can avail of:

* Professional inside page layout and typography.
* Full colour cover design.
* Access to our full range of book formats.
* Up to 5 full electronic proofs in PDF format for review.
* 1 hardcopy proof for final author approval prior to printing. See your work exactly as it will be printed.


Once you are fully satisfied with the design and layout of your book we will print and ship direct to your door:

* 75 free copies of your book to distribute locally or give to family and friends.
* 75 custom designed bookmarks to accompany your work.

We will also ensure that all appropriate legal and administrative requirements are fulfilled. These include:

* Assigning ISBN number and author’s copyright notice.
* EAN bar coding for retails sale.
* Deposit of copies in the National Libraries.(SIC)

Right out the door they are miscasting their service to authors and overcharging for the pleasure of it. They charge €1250.00 for the service (which in dollar terms works out at about $1650.00).

Other options
You can get these services at considerably cheaper prices too. For instance you can get free consultation from Integrative Ink who also offer some nicely priced design & formatting offerings. They start at $100 (for a short book of 40 pages and under) and the custom offer is $450.

When you consider that an extensive edit is $500 or so, and the design is $450 Of course you might need to have someone design a professional cover, which if you post the project to Elance or some other freelance site should cost under $250. At worst you can have the service offered above except for the 75 free books at $1200. Assuming a trim size of 6″x9″ and a page count of 160 and that you have chosen a black and white internal layout you can buy as little as a single unit from for about $8.00. If you want 75 books then it’ll cost you $473.25 before dispatch. All in all the cost will be in the same region as Original Writing but here is the rub. It does not have to be. You don’t need to have an extensive edit if the book is for your own purposes, you do not need to have a professional cover if you are aiming the book at only your family. You sure do not need 75 copies if there are only 20 people who want to read a copy.

Do it yourself
What is even more important is that you need not have your book professionally designed. You can if you choose use a guide like Perfect Pages and do the whole thing on your personal computer using Microsoft Word and PDF creator technology. Then print with Lulu or some other POD printer and you have a book that cost time and effort and perhaps $8.00 a book.

If you want full colour and images then Blurb offers you a free design program that works. Though to my mind their books are expensive for anything other than very short runs, the execution is excellent and they are a very good company and one that is opening up the market to consumers.

Honesty is everything
Be honest with yourself about your purpose in publishing. Are you aiming for huge acclaim or bestseller status? Then traditional publishing is still your best route (not everyone has the built in market of the 37signals folks, see here). If you expect modest sales through retail outlets and know how to reach those outlets and get them to order your book (a harder task than it appears) you may well be a good candidate for self publishing of the type I have described or for a Vanity Press. On the other hand if you want six books, or thirty, for your family and friends perhaps of the online POD services will be easier, quicker and most importantly less expensive.

Its blue Monday today, apparently the most depressing day of the year, ever!

If anyone is interested in discussing these ideas my privately feel free to drop me an e-mail:
eoinpurcellsblog AT

8 thoughts on “Good Vanity Publishing: How it should be done

  1. Sarah,

    Good to have you comment here! Make it more regular!

    As to Trafford I really dislike them. They do their best to come across as author friendly doing them a real favour but they are pretty steeply priced for very little return!

    Speaking of book costs, I have just had a look at the variation in’s pricing when it comes to Euro/Dollar/Sterling prices. It’s huge and the discount for large orders in Dollars is 18% and on my example was 2% f0r sterling!


  2. Thank you, again, Eoin for some really good information. Your research is superb. I like it how you pointed out the pro’s and con’s about what to look for in regards to vanity press companies, without being subjective.

    I’m almost finished my draft of my first manuscript and already getting shaky legs in regards to the next step. I’m honest enough to say that I want to sell heaps of copies, but I’m realistic enough to know that the chances of that happening are 100 to 1.



  3. KS,

    That sounds like the in-between land (neither an obvious traditional trade route nor a clear case for vanity) which is a tough place to be.

    I suggest that you check out the following site:
    Skint has pursued a path to POD publishing to some success and has published not just his own work but that of others. His experience aside form being interesting is also very informative. He has been very straight up about the costs and all the details!

  4. I agree with much of what you said, especially about knowing your goals (and resources). I hammer on that point hard in the listservs to which I belong.

    Knowing what you pay for the service is grand, but most authors don’t know about the other end: the required discounts for sales through bookstores.

    If you want your books to be stocked by a bookstore (instead of special order only), you need:
    –a competitive list price
    –discounts of 40% to the store and 55% to wholesalers
    –full returnability for a refund, not a credit

    You also, of course, need a strong marketing plan, dynamic design, and solid content.

    Most subsidy press books like at least 1, and usually 2, of the 3 financial requirements. And getting dynamic design at a few hundred dollars per title is unlikely as well.

    That doesn’t mean that subsidy presses aren’t good options for some authors. They are, but not, as a rule, if you have plans for volume sales through bookstores.

    And beware of such phrases as “listed at all major bookstores” or “available for purchase through all major stores.” They emphatically don’t mean what many authors have interpreted them to mean.

    Again, thanks for helping to spread the word: know what you want, think about what you can get, and do your research before committing your ms to any option.

    Marion Gropen

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