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A VanityPress is a publisher that will publish anything. The author pays for the services of the vanity press which will print "Anything for a price."

But this is different

self-publishing. When an author goes to a VanityPress to publish, this is erroneously called self-publishing. True self-publishing occurs when an author is the actual publisher.

PrintOnDemand. POD. Offers low volume production of books at a reasonable price. Often used for academic publications, self-publishing or from VanityPress.


A publisher is the person who owns the ISBN (international standard book number) for a book. A self publisher is a publisher who publishes their own writing. Vanity authors use vanity presses who publish using the block of ISBNs issued to the vanity operation.

Anyone who thinks they are self-publishing by using a vanity press are being scammed by the vanity publisher. Most PODs (print on demand) are the modern version of the traditional vanity press. They charge a lot and offer little. Quality is low. Contract terms are one-sided. They often try to sell worthless "services" such as alleged "marketing". PODs have grown fast due to the gross oversupply of digital copy machines bought by print shops. To keep these machines busy and justify their cost they have turned to selling vanity publishing services.

Reviewers categorically refuse to review POD or other vanity publications. The average POD book sells ten copies. Between the author, their mother, and other family that does not result in many real sales.

(Note: No book sells without marketing. Again, the orginal writer here is mixing POD vanity presses with the process. Reviewers have no problem reviewing POD books (including publisher's weekly) and depending on the production values, they can't even tell the difference.)

Some other sites with good info

NOTE: The terminology following is NOT standard in the industry.

Conversely, if the press (e.g. the publisher) pays the author, it is a venal [actually it is a Traditional press. The publishing industries fall into this category, but a venal press may not operate for profit. Copyright supports the publishers ability to make a profit in order to increase the number of functioning presses and the number of functioning authors.

If the author panders to third interests in order to publish, or if she writes and publishes at the behest of third interests, for the express intent of some selfish personal gain, this is a mercenary [or universisty press or co-op press - which are legitimate publishing businesss models]. Marketing firms falls into this category. Also, venal presses that publish political content at a loss.

"My pen is venal that it may not be mercenary." --Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville

"Our republic and its press will rise or fall together. A cynical mercenary press will produce in time a people as base as itself." --Joseph Pulitzer (1904)

"The bourgeoisie in old parliamentary countries has excellently mastered the art of hypocrisy and of fooling the people in a thousand ways, passing off bourgeois parliamentarism as 'democracy in general' or as 'pure democracy' and so on, cunningly concealing the million threads which bind Parliament to the stock exchange and the capitalists, utilising a venal mercenary press and exercising the power of money, the power of capital in every way." --Lenin in a letter to Sylvia Pankhurst (emph. added)

In contrast to a mercenary press, modern times bring the free press which is afforded the freedom of speech. Traditionally these presses are "free" of the church (first estate), the government (second estate), the people (third estate), but now also of moneyed interests. Free presses were meant to form much of the FourthEstate?--the journalists.

"Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all." -- Edmund Burke, looking at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." --Thomas Jefferson Jefferson to Edward Carrington (1787)

Some post-modern thinking has that the journalists are no longer free.

"I deplore... the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them... These ordures are rapidly depraving the public taste and lessening its relish for sound food. As vehicles of information and a curb on our funtionaries, they have rendered themselves useless by forfeiting all title to belief... This has, in a great degree, been produced by the violence and malignity of party spirit." -- Thomas Jefferson to Walter Jones (1814)

Collectively, all presses from the ThirdEstate? form the popular press, but generally most people might exclude extremist publications that aren't even read by the mainstream. One could actually call the FourthEstate? the popular press.

The popular press doesn't necessarily support the vox populi (the voice of the people) as the popular press may be venal or mercenary. For example, the moneyed coup that deposed President Chavez of Venezuela was one of the most egregious abuses of private media in recent times, where the privately owned media outright lied to the public, not to mention physically attacked the public media infrastructure, to manufacture public unrest. Conversely, you will find that many online communities support the vox populi by not charging for publishing. To separate this mode from a the typical for-profit VanityPress, perhaps the term demotic press could be used.

Some radicals suggest the replacement of the FourthEstate? establishment with demotic presses.

"I am persuaded that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington (1787)


Ultimately, I think the public role of publishers will be to separate good work from the pile of content, most of which is terrible. Their traditional role as distributors will disappear with the DeathOfCopyright?. -- SunirShah

I didn't say that, did I? How embarassing. --ss

Copyright supports the publishers ability to make a profit in order to increase the number of functioning presses and the number of functioning authors.

Well, no. Without getting into a Clintonian dissection of the word "functioning", copyright reduces the number of presses. Fewer presses, more profit per press. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on whether you are a publisher or a reader.

The selection of good content is surely the job of an editor, or reviewer, not a publisher.

I don't think the "vanity" part means they will publish anything. It's more that they will publish even without a good prospect of return from sales. The risks of production (and distribution) are usually paid for by the author, which means the author can be the editor. Normally the editor is employed by the publisher to reduce the risks of publication. Technology has encouraged vanity publishing because it makes those costs so low, so the publisher no longer needs an editor for that reason.

(I'm not really comfortable with all this but I can't find a better formulation just now.) -- DaveHarris

I'm not sure I understand the role of editor you line out. Not having worked with a VanityPress for several years, I have forgotten most of their inner workings, but I believe the VanityPress has very few roles:

NOTE: Distribution never occurs. No one will stock vanity pubs, and no wholesaler or distributor would try to distribute them. Sales are rare to non-existent. Worthless services such as marketing and editing are big sources of revenue for vanity presses.

(Note: The biggest POD printer in the world is Lightning Source, who is used by many of the vanity presses, in addition to thousands of other publishers. All Lightning Source books are available through Ingram, Barnes&Noble and Amazon.)

Most of the other roles are the author's responsibility. I suppose it is possible to hire editorial services from the VanityPress at additional cost, but I don't think that's economical for the press to offer. They just do whatever they are paid to do. -- SunirShah NOTE: they make a lot of money on worthless services such as editing and marketing. This is all high markup pure profit that often exceeds the printing cost by several times.

So how does that list different from a normal publisher? It seemed to me that the main difference is in selecting which books to publish, and rejecting others, which is essentially an editing job. -- DaveHarris

Xlibris (http://www.xlibris.com/) provides a kind of "publishing on demand" service for authors. One can actually publish real books at no cost to the author. Extra services are available relatively cheaply, like $250 for professional copy editing. See more on OnDemandPublishing... -- CliffordAdams

The Web is a giant VanityPress.

Don't think so. It gave you reputation to be an author. It doesn't (anymore) to have a website.


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