Saturday, October 24, 2020

Thoughts on Vanity Publishing

by Cathy Fyock @CathyFyock

It wasn’t that long ago that self-publishing was called vanity publishing. Authors who couldn’t find a publisher willing to put their books in print were thought of as vain if they stooped to paying for a publisher.

But times have changed, and today it is nearly impossible for a new author to find a publisher unless he has thousands of social media followers, a huge tribe in her data base, or a calendar full of speaking engagements with audiences of targeted readers ready to buy books.

So today, many first-time authors decide to go the route of self- or hybrid-publishing using a fee-for-service model. Instead of receiving an advance against royalties, authors pay for editing and publishing services such as cover design, interior layout, copy editing and proofreading, legal registrations, and printing and distribution. 

Many authors are finding that self-publishing may actually put more money in their pockets in the long-term, especially if they are speaking, consulting, or coaching on the subject of their books. When self-published authors sell their books to clients or at speaking engagements, they receive the retail price of the book less printing costs. So, for a self-published author selling a book that retails for $20 and the printing costs $4, the author is realizing a $16 in profit (80%), while the traditionally published author only realizes a maximum of 50% profit.

Also, authors who want to use their book as a calling card will find that traditionally published books have a more expensive price tag. For example, self-published authors can generally buy their books at cost (say, $3 - 5), while traditionally published authors will pay 50% to buy their books, bringing that cost to $10 – 20, depending upon the selling price determined by the publisher.

Why do authors want to work with traditional publishers? Some authors believe that traditional publishers will actively market their books; however, most authors today will tell you that traditionally published books sell because authors do the work. The authors are paying for public relations out of their own pockets, are getting the speaking engagements through their own marketing efforts, and are working social media for the sales they generate.

Some think that the traditional publishing house has more prestige, more cache. So doesn’t that make traditional publishing the vanity publishing in today’s market?


Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write a book as a business development strategy. Since starting her business as a book coach in 2014, she has helped more than 160 professionals become published authors. Her most recent book is The Speaker Author: Sell More Books and Book More Speeches. She can be reached at or 502-445-6539.


  1. Cathy, this was my dilemma to traditional pub and do all the marketing, or self-publish and do all the marketing. Another thing that pushed me toward self publishing is did I wanted to jump through traditional hoops and have them rewrite my book for themselves and not recognize my own book? It wasn't that I believed 'God gave me this book', but after rewriting and editing and polishing there were certain lines I didn't want to cross. I thought we did well with the project. The novel is If I Should Die (by Donevy Westphal)- I used professional edits and a professional cover artist (Diane Turpin). I have fallen down on the marketing badly so that's on me, but...well I have stories about that too. At one time I wanted the stamp of approval from a traditionally published book, but decided I'd try it this other way. Donevy

  2. This is such good information from you, Cathy. I have gone the traditional publishing on my first novel, "Two Sisters' Secret." But I've completed another story - a memoir - and I'm thinking seriously about self-publishing. Your post this morning is helpful information for me. Thanks for writing it.

  3. Hmm, you've given me something to think about. I was under the impression, also, that self-publishing was for those whose work couldn't get accepted by major publishing houses. Now it seems as though it may be better than the usual route at times.

  4. My novel is nearing the completed stage and I have been going back and forth about which publishing route to take. Thanks for the insight. It's a lot to think about.