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Publishing vs. Vanity and Self

You, assuming you are an aspirant writer, can find many ways to write and publish your work. Still, only a minimal percentage of people actually publish anything. Most of them are ejected in that review process of the publishing god, editor. You can submit anything, but only those gems with the perfect contours get selected for publication. In such a scenario, comes into play two new industry players—vanity publishers and self-publishers.

So, now the publishing types are three in number: vanity publishing, publishing, and self publishing. While in normal publishing you write a book, submit it for review, and if selected the publisher prints and distributes the book with their money, in vanity publishing the process is different. Here, the writer opens his wallet and finances everything from printing to distribution to marketing. And if the book is successful, the writer can earn some of the cash he spent, otherwise her wallet remains open letting more of his money seep.

The name vanity publishing is meant to flaunt the ego the writer. A stunt to stand side by side with famous writers, none whom publishes through vanity presses. A writer is renowned when she gets published and read due to her talent. And it is highly unlikely that any vanity writer becomes famous.

While vanity is meant for showing off, self publishing is meant for the commons. The aspirant writers who are either not talented or lucky enough to draw a deal from a normal publisher, goes for self-publishing industry. Here, all you do is write your book, and get it published through an online self-publishing system like that offered by, the biggest online self publisher.

Mostly the reason why your writing fails can be two: First, you are not of that creative writing strain; second, your language is not flawless enough to be seen in black and white. While the first reason can be important, it is the second that escorts most of the rejection slips. Although people say that communication requires no grammar or style, it is an underlined rule that written communication has to abide by all the rules of the language. And the fact that even the people from English-speaking countries have poor sense of grammar and style is appalling.

So, those who find it difficult to avoid grammar errors and awkward choice of words seem to publish what they want to through self publishing, and hence, the quality you find in self-published books is usually substandard. However, I have it italicized there for ‘usually.’ Not all self-published or vanity-published works are inferior.

Shocking Stats

Recently I found an article speak of the publishing industry statistics. Here are some of them.

1. According to a recent survey by the New York Times, more than 80 per cent of the people feel that they can write in the US alone. But not even .001 per cent of them have the caliber or language ability to pass through the review process of the editor. So, what at least two per cent of them would do is go for self or vanity publishing.

2. William Strunk’s Elements of Style, the complete style reference for writers, is an originally self-published book. And it is the highest sold writing reference book ever. So, this points that self publishing has it in it.

3. So many highly talented authors have tasted rejections many times over. Stephen King’s first work got 30 rejections, Harry Potter was turned down twelve times, E E Cummings’s first book had to be self published after fifteen rejections, and Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull was cast off a whopping 140 times.

4. Used book sales is booming and taking the market of old books over. Over $300 million is the today’s used books market.

5. Over 8000 to 11000 publishers enter the market every year. Just imagine how many books are published every year, you can get an idea of success rate.

6. Over 195,000 books are published in the US each year, and there are less than a hundred best sellers.

7. The highest sold fiction is not crime or thrillers as you might imagine. It’s romance.

8. The industry leaders, Random House, Time Warner, News Corp, Disney, and Viacom/CBS won’t extend an offer to any writer without surety that the work will sell more than 50,000 copies.

Where Vanity Comes Into Play

While vanity publishing doesn’t guarantee any sale to the writer, there is a particular time when it can be quite useful. In marketing, if you wish to get the world know of any of your technologies or products, you can purchase publishing. This can even be a very good marketing strategy. It is targeted toward getting profits and not loss.

Normal penniless writers would and should never go for vanity publishing. While self publishing can be a good enough market for them to get their works out (that is if they lack the two things mentioned above), it never counts as a good entry to their resumes. However, if they make it big in self publishing, well and good!

So the Bottom Lines Are

1. Self publishing is for those poor in language or writing talent and have thin pockets.

2. Vanity publishing is for those whose pockets are all quite large and loose, and have poor language skills or writing talent.

3. Publishing is for those blessed ones among us, who lack neither in language nor in talent. However, making it big is not only the upshot of talent, but marketing also plays a key role in it.

And one more thing: you can never find the quality you can in published works, in self-published or vanity-published ones.

Related Entries:

Guide to Getting Published: Are You There Yet?
Guide to Getting Published: Literary Agents FAQ
Guide to Getting Published: Typescript Formatting
Ten Surefire Tips to Promote Books Online
Tips to Edit Your Writing

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. I would like to say that this blog really convinced me, you give me best information! Thanks, very good post.


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