Self-Publishing a book IS NOT Vanity Publishing

The snooty folks inside the imploding walls of Grey Poupon publishing houses still insist that self-publishing a book is the same as vanity publishing.  However, those same people have determined that authors paying for marketing costs associated with a traditionally published book are not considered to be vanity publishing. So, according to the folks in New York City, if you’re self-publishing a book and paying all the expenses associated with the book, that is vanity publishing.  But, if these arbiters of the printed word make their authors pay for book marketing costs, that somehow is different.

Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear a variety of answers as to what the difference is between self-publishing a book and vanity publishing. If you are talked into purchasing ten thousand copies of your book even though you have no real marketing plan or dollars to spend, then, in addition to being a sucker, you’ve engaged in vanity publishing. If you are planning to publish a book just to tell people that you’ve published a book, you’re vanity publishing. If you go into debt to publish a book because you “just know it will sell,” you’re crazy and engaged in vanity publishing. If you don’t plan on spending any significant time or money to properly edit and design your book, you’re engaged in vanity publishing. If you don’t plan to spend any time or money to market your book but instead are waiting for sales to magically come pouring in once the book is released, you’re definitely vanity publishing (and somewhat delusional to boot). Basically, the “vanity” part comes in if you believe that your book is so amazing that you can put out whatever you want and readers will flock to buy it, even though you’ve done little to promote it.

What makes self-publishing a book different from vanity publishing is that, in self-publishing, the author is publishing a book in a strategic, well-thought-out, and well-informed way. Strategic means that the author has the book professionally edited by a real book editor who is familiar with the appropriate style manuals (friends who teach high school English don’t count), has the cover and interior professionally designed, has a realistic approach to the process, plans to spend hundreds of hours of his time spreading the word about his book, has a marketing plan and some kind of marketing budget (regardless of size), and intends to work hard to make sales. Those who sit around all day admiring themselves for having published a book are the vanity publishing crowd. Those who spend quality time marketing their book, and understand that sales opportunities down the road may be hatched by marketing ideas today, are what the spirit of self-publishing is all about.

Next time you hear someone from the publishing elite pontificate about how self-publishing a book equates to vanity publishing, channel Forrest Gump and mutter to yourself, “Stupid is, as stupid does.”

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