As a new author with a newly finished and ready to be published manuscript, you’re probably overjoyed that a book publisher has sent you a response and tells you that they’d love to publish your book. But not so fast. Are they a vanity press?

You Put in the Hard Work, and Here’s Your Reward

When your goal is to be traditionally published, you’re most likely to seek out literary agents and traditional book publishers. The bad news is that when sending to book publishers, you may have missed some red flags when looking at their submission guidelines. In fact, those red flags probably weren’t in the submission guidelines. They were probably under a different menu header that said services or some variation, like author services. On that webpage, you would have seen fees listed for publishing your book. If the book publisher charges fees, there’s a good chance it’s a vanity press.


How to Tell It’s a Vanity Press When You Get the Email

If you missed the costs on the webpage, don’t feel bad. Some vanity presses are extremely good at making their websites look like traditional publishing houses. Early in my author career, I was fooled too. Luckily, after talking to a representative of the publisher, I realized it was a vanity press, and yes, I was extremely disappointed. You think you’re right there ready to take off as this fantastic new author, and you get slapped in the face by this unscrupulous POS publishing house. It happens to the best of us. In my case, it was something like Wild Rose Press or Black Rose Press that tried to screw me. As a result and because I can only remember that ROSE in the name, I avoid all publishers with ROSE in their name.

Did they ask you to purchase hundreds or thousands of your own books?

If the publisher asks you to purchase a certain number of your own print books after publication, run. This is for sure a vanity press. The other question to ask yourself is what are you going to do with a room full of your own books? But you’re just buying your author copies, right? No. This isn’t how author copies work in the traditional publishing world. During the publishing process, you will get proofs of your book so that you can make changes or OK it so that it can get put on the printing schedule. Once the book is printed, you may get a few author copies for free. This can range from 1 to 10, typically, and you do not pay for these copies. They are yours to keep or give out to friends and family.

Do they have an amazingly high percentage of best-selling books?

If their advertising looks too good to be true, look again. If the company is asking authors to buy thousands of their books, of course, every book is a bestseller, according to them. The advertising probably looked something like: X author sold 10,000 copies in the first month! No, X author bought 10,000 copies of their own book, and their spare bedroom is now a book warehouse.

Are you being asked to pay money to have your book published?

If you’re being asked to choose a book publishing package and pay for the publication of your book, it’s a vanity press. Traditional publishers pay you. You do not pay them. The publishing house receives their publication expenses and profits as your books sell. It’s part of their fees and why you only get a small percentage of your book’s profits as your royalties. Traditional publishing houses may also offer an advance. It’s typically small, usually in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, and in order to see more royalties, your books have to earn back the money the publishing house paid you. That’s why it’s called an advance. They are advancing your royalty money to you and hoping the books earn more money than the amount they paid you.


If you are starting the process of working with a publisher and any of the above appears in the contracts or during the discussion, back out of the talks and tell them thanks but no thanks. You always have the option of continuing your search for a traditional publisher or self-publishing your book.