Self-Publishing vs. Vanity Publishers vs. Trade Publishers


Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I came across this question on Quora: “ Why do publishing companies charge authors for publishing their books when the publishing companies make their money from a percentage of book sales?

Here is the answer:

They don’t. What you’re referring to are “vanity publishers,” which are companies that help authors SELF-PUBLISH their books. They charge for editing, formatting, cover design, and often marketing and promotions to help your book get exposure.

They are typically far more expensive than simply self-publishing your own book. They also typically require an upfront payment and do NOT take royalties from book sales.

Traditional publishers do NOT charge the authors any money and take care of editing, formatting, cover, publishing, distribution, and promotions and DO share royalties with the author for all book sales.

If you are a big enough author, they may offer an advance payment on future royalties, however, most trade publishers these days do not pay first-time authors an advance and instead start paying royalties from the first book sale.

Why Do People Use Vanity Publishers?

There are a few reasons why someone would use these online vanity publishers.

  1. They don’t know how to or are intimidated by self-publishing. (Or do not know how to find professional editors, designers, and formatters and want help.)
  2. They don’t know how to market or promote their self-published book.
  3. They do not know the difference between vanity and traditional publishing.

These are the main reasons I have seen. I’ve worked with several vanity publishers as an editor and have had a good experience with most of them.

While I, personally, believe that most vanity publishers overcharge for their services, I also know that many authors are happy with these services and get to realize their dreams of being published authors without having to find, interview, and retain professionals for editing, formatting, and their cover, and can hand over that responsibility to people who know what they are doing.

The marketing and promotions aspect is something many vanity publishers do well. They know how to use social media, ads, and blogs and podcasts to get their authors exposure the authors may not know how to get themselves.

These promotions often lead to book sales, which is what the author wants.

Upfront Payments

The payments are the main difference between vanity publishers and traditional publishers. While most vanity publishers are NOT promoting themselves as trade publishers, many people not familiar with the publishing industry simply don’t know the difference and may feel duped.

As an author, it is really your responsibility to do your research and identify if the company you’re working with is really what you want.

A simple breakdown is this:

  • Vanity publishers require upfront payments for their services, do not usually distribute your physical books to bookstores and libraries, and the publishing is done under the author’s Amazon account. There are generally NO SHARED ROYALTIES on book sales. [Note: If you’re talking to a vanity publisher and they want to split royalties, run away. It’s YOUR Amazon account. How will they know the book sales or how much you owe them? How long will they want royalties? You are already pre-paying for their services.]
  • Trade publishers do not cost the author any money. They take on the risk of paying for everything with the assumption your book will sell enough copies to make a profit for both them and the author. The publishing is done under the company name and not your personal Amazon account. They distribute to many physical and electronic locations.
  • Self-publishing is truly doing it yourself without the help of marketing or people who know editing and formatting vendors. You find those people yourself, pay them for their services, and upload your own book to Amazon.

Self-Publishing vs. Vanity Publishers

The end result is the same. Whether you do it yourself or a vanity press does it for you, your book will be self-published under your personal Amazon account and royalties will be sent directly to you, and you’ll be able to track book sales on KDP.

It’s the process of getting your book ready for publishing and then promoting it which the vanity press addresses. Some people simply don’t have the time or inclination to do it themselves and prefer someone who knows what they are doing to just take care of it. This is where vanity publishers shine. They understand the process, have the vendors, and know what books need to be ready for publishing.

It is up to the author to decide what is right for them and how they prefer to publish.

Just remember — being self-published does not preclude you from being picked up by a traditional publisher later. I know, it happened to me. Some people think it does and blame self-publishing, but that is truly not the case. Self-publishing is a great way to get your work out there, get book sales and exposure, and be a published author while retaining full creative control.

What are your thoughts on the different ways to publish?

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Self-employed vs. Employed: Pros & Cons


Which is better??

Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash

This is not going to be some deeply controversial rant about why one way of making a salary is better or worse than the other.

This is not a verbose way to toot my own horn and make you spend your time and energy reading about how great I am.

This is not an article filled with cat pictures (sorry).

Because the question of “Which is better?” is an unfair question. The “right” answer is completely subjective.

I am currently self-employed and I love it, though of course there are drawbacks.

I previously worked for 10 years in corporate America and it was also both good and bad.

There are “dream jobs,” of course, but the reality is that even your dream job has drawbacks and days that suck sometimes.

Both self-employment and traditional employment have advantages and disadvantages, it is truly about what is best FOR YOU as an individual and for your family.

As Quora user Kelven Swords points out:


  • YOU make the decisions, no one else… and you thus reap the rewards.
  • YOU control the finances, no one else… and you thus reap the profits.
  • YOU determine who is on staff, no one else… and you thus control the social structure.


  • You make the decisions… thus have no one else to blame for your errors.
  • You control the finances… thus have no one else to blame for any wasted money.
  • You determine who is on staff… thus you have no one else to blame for any parasitic staff members who poison the well.

Let’s take it a step further than what Kelven has described above.

There are obvious advantages to working for yourself.

  • You can set your own working hours.
  • You choose who to work with…and who NOT to work with.
  • You have significantly more control over processes, contracts, clients, work, time, and everything else.
  • You can work in your pajamas — and even sleep in!
  • You get to build great relationships with your clients because you’re steering the ship and choosing how to cultivate those relationships.

There are some obvious disadvantages, as well.

  • You have no one else to rely on.
  • You do not have a manager setting tasks or deadlines, so all deadlines are self-imposed, which can be difficult for some to manage and stick to.
  • Time management becomes extremely important, which is hard for many.
  • No company insurance or other benefits.
  • No sick time, paid vacation time, or maternity leave.
  • Less stability in terms of income.
  • You will find yourself working far more than 40 hours most weeks.
  • You do not have coworkers and it can be sometimes lonely and isolating.
  • You are probably not an expert in every single thing a business needs: processes, sales, closing sales, marketing, website building and maintenance, creative stuff, contracts, organization, admin work, etc.
  • Higher potential for burnout/overworking.
  • Doing your taxes is harder.

When it comes to working for a company, you are getting some very specific advantages, in terms of a stable, dependable income, medical and other benefits, having people to ask when you need help, and being told what you should be doing.

Something people rarely think about when dreaming of being self-employed is the lack of structure and organization.

You have to create your own schedule, keep yourself on task, make sure work gets done, track deadlines, invoices, payments, all business expenses, and create a structure to your day.

It is incredibly easy to lose track of time or lose focus and end up spending half your day on social media when no one is watching!

There are many tools out there to help you get organized and create a structure for your day. Some are free and some cost money — which you need to keep track of so that you can make sure to deduct it on your taxes as a business expense.

Taxes are different and a bit more difficult when you work for yourself, and you have to save some of your income to pay it, and it WILL be a difficult check to write.

If you have personal assets, you’ll need to consider if it makes more sense for you to be a sole proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, or several other options, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. There is much research involved in starting your own business!

For Me

Being my own boss has been fun, challenging, interesting, and lonely. I love being a writer and being able to choose what I write and who I work with, and I created a business model which works well for me.

I also continuously refine and evolve my business offerings, update my own website, look for clients, maintain my social media accounts, and blog regularly. All of which is part of running my business, but is ultimately unpaid work.

I love my business and what I do, but I also enjoyed my work as a Business Development Director in the recruitment industry. I had a great boss, cool coworkers, a stable and dependable paycheck, and a set end time to my workday, none of which I now have.

However, I have the freedom to do the work I want, charge the rates I want, and am much more flexible with my schedule. I can go to the gym in the middle of the day, run errands whenever I want, work in the middle of the night if I am so inclined, and pet my cat all day.

For You

It’s about what works best for you. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be one way or the other or let people tell you one is “better” or more “right” for you than the other.

Make plans, do research, interview people, and figure out what is best for youand make sure you have a clear idea of both the advantages and disadvantages so you are well informed!

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Top 3 Myths of Freelancing Debunked

Top 3 Myths of Freelancing Debunked

Entrepreneur, JS, writing

There are a few overriding myths when it comes to freelancing as a writer. I see these all the time and want to address the top 3.

  1. 1. You have to work for free or at a very low price to get “experience.”

2. You have to specialize in one niche to make decent money.

3. You should do stuff for free or little money to build a “portfolio.”

You have to work for free or at a very low price to get “experience.”

I have been very clear that you should never ever work for free. Never. There is NO REASON anyone would ever need you to work for free to “prove yourself” or as a “trial.” That is what writing samples are for, and your time is worth money. Your skills are valuable. Any potential client who asks you to work for free — even on just one piece — is scamming and taking advantage of you.

Pricing yourself appropriately is understanding that you and your skills have value and not compromising that. It took me some time to learn that just because writing comes easier to me does not mean it is WORTH LESS than writing from someone who struggles.

In fact, it is worth more and is more valuable because writing does not come easily to all people. Which is why they hire you. If they could do it themselves, they wouldn’t need to hire someone.

Also, as a side note, all freelancers will tell you that the clients who negotiate and dicker and force you down to the lowest possible price are the most demanding and negative “bad” clients and always looking for something for free.

You have to specialize in one niche to make decent money.

When it comes to this second myth, it could not be more wrong. It is also not the only or necessarily “best” way to do it. Specializing is just ONE way to be a writer, and it drives me up a wall that writers preach like this is gospel. Yes, specializing could make searching for clients slightly easier, but I have gone in-depth explaining how choosing to be open and work in many different topics has allowed me to have more clients, more diversity in my work, make more money, and market myself to ANYONE instead of just those within a small niche.

Sometimes people say that because they are bad at (or don’t like) selling themselves or marketing their business. They find it easier to market themselves when they are only going after one type of business, so they can say “See? I only work on your topic, hire me!” They may even claim you can get paid more for specializing.

I like to market myself and see everyone as a potential client, so I have a lot of clients. While you may be able to charge more for super-technical or specialized topics (“I only write about drones and understand all technical aspects!”), most general topics like business, law, beauty, fashion, medical marijuana, entrepreneurship, etc., are fairly general and require little research to create a great article.

It has been my observation that deciding not to go into a specific niche has made for more successful and well-rounded writers.

In addition, being a generalist has given me a lot of knowledge on many different topics and I find my clients like that I am a jack-of-all-trades because it means I can help them with more types of things.

You should do stuff for free or little money to build a “portfolio.”

You don’t need a freaking portfolio. You don’t even actually need a website to get started. Not many people really go to my website, but I knew I “should” have one eventually.

You need writing samples.

That’s it. I have been completely profitable and sustainable as a freelance writer for almost a year and when potential clients ask for writing samples, I send them here to my Medium so they see various posts and styles and topics. Before I had a Medium blog, I sent prospects a couple of PDFs of articles I have written.

That’s it.

Just examples of your writing. If you are just starting out, do what I did. Go to your blog and grab a couple of pieces you like, re-edit them and then throw them into a PDF. You can also write up 2–3 new articles if you want some new pieces or more diversity. In total, you should have about 3 well-written writing samples of 500–700 words.

Potential clients don’t care about a beautiful website or a perfect portfolio. They just need to know you can write well.

When you are first starting as a freelancer, don’t waste your time trying to make the perfect website or write ads or any other of the million excuses there are to NOT reach out and find a paying client. And there are so many ways to find clients!

I’ve written before about finding clients and how they are everywhere! And about how being open to new opportunities is what allowed me to have such diversity in my clientele. I’ve spoken about how important it is to be confident in yourself and your writing.

Build a business you are excited about and interested in. Work with people you like, writing things you enjoy and learn from.

Be interested, confident, excited, and happy!

But Christ on a cracker, you do not need a freaking portfolio.

Check out my new YouTube channel!

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