Traditional publishing houses: The new vanity press?

A cheeky repost of this popular article, in honour of my new self-published release ‘Extremely England’ – coming very soon…


Times have changed for writers and readers. The internet, along with the E-book revolution, has to an extent upended the publishing industry.

Independent authors now have the chance to publish, promote and sell their work, without the painstakingly, tedious drama of finding an agent willing to roll the dice on an unknown, or chancing the even slimmer odds of dealing directly with a traditional publisher.

Historically, the publishing houses are the companies that take on projects that will sell, money will be made and backs will be patted to congratulate all on a job well done. Contrarily, opting to go it alone is seen as choosing the less prestigious route, a publication not for the mass market, but for the pride of the author only.

I quote from the “Vanity Press” page on Wikipedia, “While a commercial publisher’s intended market is the general public, a vanity publisher’s intended market is the author.”

Well, as a self-published writer of two novels, I must say I disagree with the above statement, and would argue that it is no longer correct, even if it once was.

Amazon, Goodreads, Lulu, Smashwords and the others give writers the platform they need to publish their work, presenting it to their fans in a professional manner, albeit, in electronic form in the large part, but that seems to be the format readers are choosing anyway.

Of course, the ease in which we can now self-publish means that the strict controls of going through the traditional route can be bypassed, and the quality of the writing, the editing, and the general presentation can be poor, to the extent that a weaker writer could disappoint and offend his or her first purchasers and receive the terrible reviews that in theory could end a career before it has even started.

Survival of the fittest, some might say, and they would be right. But at least this way, it is the public, the global army of readers who are deciding who stays and who goes, as opposed to the bods in the offices who, quite possibly, don’t know exactly what the mass-market wants all the time.

Self-publishing is for those writers who have been rejected by the agents for being too risky, that have been told that their manuscripts are too long or too short, that the story was too bizarre or too similar to books already out there.

To be successful going it alone, you need to be smart, you need to have a talent and you need to put in the hard work. And then you need the self-control to edit time and again before being able to honestly tell yourself it is ready to be seen, read, judged and reviewed.

If you have a budget of enough to pay for editors, great, but save some for a graphic designer, and then for your marketing, or don’t. If you’ve completed a novel, why stop there?

I have created the covers for both of my novels, and as of yet haven’t had any criticism. It will come perhaps, as you can’t please everyone. And as for the marketing, if you’ve got as far as understanding how e-publishing works, you will no doubt have understood the numerous websites, social networks and so on that can help you get the exposure you’ll need.

So, will the traditional publishing houses live on forever? Of course they will. And not just for the hard-back, Christmas present type books that will never catch on in e-format, I’m talking cook books and picture books and celebrity autobiographies, but also because writers like me, the independent publishers, will always want that seal of approval.

Regardless of how successful I become with my writing, if successful at all, if that agent called and asked for a meeting, or if a large publisher knocked on my door asking if I’d discuss a deal, of course I would.

Because I am a writer, and like all writers, those who feel the need to express their thoughts and ideas and stories in a way that allows others to access them, I like for my effort and talent and hard work to be acknowledged, and even though we can have spikes in our sales, good reviews and repeat customers, it’s still the dream to be noticed by those bods in the office, the one’s convinced that they know who’s best.

Vanity press? Aren’t they all?


13 thoughts on “Traditional publishing houses: The new vanity press?

  1. Excellent post. But self-publishing is also for the writer who has the confidence to believe a book should be published, and isn’t willing to waste months or years waiting for a single reader in a traditional publishing house to agree.


    1. Top comment, well put.
      That confidence is what a lot of new writers miss, hence the need for someone in a position of ‘power’ to give them nod of approval.


  2. Great stuff. We all want to be recognized by the traditional publishers, but banging one’s head against the wall in attempts to gain entry into those hallowed halls is utterly frustrating and time-consuming. Ebooks and print on demand are opening wonderful new doors for writers these days.


  3. Thanks for following me and a big thanks for this article. I am making big progress on my father’s story that I can start thinking about such things. I really needed to read this, thanks again


    1. No problem – The good thing is we have options, which wasn’t always the case. You’ll find there are lots of people who are willing to give you advice, so take it in, agree or disagree, and do what you feel is right when you are ready to do so. Good luck!


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