Self-publishing and vanity publishing. What's the difference? And does it even matter?
Long story short, the difference between self-publishing vs. vanity publishing matters if you're looking to maximize your freedom and income (which is also probably why you're reading this blog in the first place). Sure, they can both produce great results and earn you royalties, but one costs a whole lot more in the long run and requires you to give up nearly all of your creative control in the process.
It’s easy to mix them up due to the fact that both involve investing your own money into the publication process. But by the end of this blog, you'll know exactly what short and long-term costs are associated with each path and which one feels better for you.
Spoiler alert: Self-publishing unlocks unlimited earning potential, and we have the blueprint! Join our free webinar and discover how to tap into Amazon with AI!
Here's a comparison of the three most common publishing models: traditional publishing, vanity publishing, and self-publishing:
Traditional publishing houses are on their way out of the publishing industry these days as major bookstores like Barnes & Noble have begun to recognize self-publishing as a legitimate business model. You can read more about our comparison between traditional and self-publishing.
Self-publishing services and Print-on-Demand services have also made publishing more accessible so that people of all ages and walks of life can become legitimate publishers.
When it comes to finding the right publishing model, that means you have two main choices. Here's a handy table to visualize the differences:
You might also find a hybrid publisher, but they are less common and less lucrative than going the self-publishing route (a common theme here).
Let's take a look at the tasks, costs, and profits associated with self-publishing.
In the self-publishing process, you will need to take ownership and cover the costs of various publishing services in exchange for full creative control and a higher earning potential. These may include editing, proofreading, cover design, and formatting.
You have two options: do the work yourself or outsource it to other creative professionals. Taking on the work yourself might be the budget-friendly route, but it will cost you more in time. Outsourcing will cut down on time but up your costs.
Here's a simplified breakdown of potential costs:
Note: These ranges are wide because there's a spectrum of independent contractors and freelancers who will work with any budget.
But what about the profit margins? How much can you really make with self-publishing?
Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing offers a range of royalties to cater to different needs. These royalties will depend on your book format, length, and market. An eBook in Canada, for example, might not sell at the same price or earn the same royalties as a science anthology in the US or UK.
You can earn up to 70% of your book sales in royalties and will be entitled to all the profits.
The great thing about Amazon is that you can also change your pricing on demand and sell your books in multiple markets to maximize your profits. The royalties are then paid directly to your account each month, whether you're in Nebraska or on vacation in Hawaii.
Let's take a look at the tasks, costs, and profits associated with vanity publishing.
Vanity publishing involves paying a company to produce and publish your book. You’ll have to give up some of your creative freedom and profits in exchange for less work on your plate.
Here's a breakdown of potential costs:
Caution: Be careful with vanity publishers that make unrealistic promises about sales and royalties, as some may be scams.
To calculate your potential profit in a vanity publishing company, consider the costs you'll incur for their publishing services, such as cover design, formatting, and marketing. Subtract these expenses from the anticipated revenue (books sold multiplied by the price).
This is what the math looks like in action. Keep in mind that it’s an oversimplified example, so your costs incurred with the vanity press route might actually be A LOT more:
Cover Design: $500
Assuming you sell 300 books at $10 each, your revenue would be $3,000.
Profit = Revenue - Costs = $3,000 - $1,800 = $1,200
Pro Tip: Always read your publishing contract to avoid surprises, and always know your math ahead of time (even if this requires phoning a friend to help you figure things out)!!!
We're clearly #TeamSelfPublishing around here because we believe everyone should be empowered to take their income into their own hands, and we don't believe in gatekeeping. There are many reasons why self-publishing is better than traditional or vanity publishing. But you get to make that call for yourself.
Here are some things to consider before diving into vanity publishing:
By keeping these pitfalls in mind, you can make a more informed decision when choosing between self-publishing and vanity publishing as you grow your side hustle or publishing business.
There are certain situations where vanity publishing might be a suitable option for you. One scenario is when you place a higher value on having a physical copy of your book for personal satisfaction or sharing with family and friends rather than emphasizing royalties and profits. Vanity publishing offers a straightforward process, taking most of the decision-making off your plate.
Here are some key aspects to consider while exploring vanity publishing:
To work with a traditional publishing house, a vanity press, or to invest in yourself? That is the question.
You're essentially choosing between control and convenience. Vanity publishing offers ease but at a high cost and with limited control over your book’s future. Self-publishing, however, puts you in the driver’s seat, though it requires more effort upfront.
Let's look at the fundamentals of making informed decisions:
Vanity publishing often appeals to those wary of the complex publishing process. However, this route can mean sacrificing both profits and control. In contrast, self-publishing is a vote of confidence in your work, demanding more from you but offering greater rewards.
Vanity publishing may seem quicker, but it lacks long-term benefits. Self-publishing, while initially more demanding, offers more sustainable success, higher earnings, and full rights to your work.
The quick turnaround of vanity publishing can be tempting, but it often leads to limited long-term success. Self-publishing requires patience and resilience but can result in a more fulfilling and potentially profitable publishing career (which, yes, can take you to paradise).
There are numerous success stories of self-publishers and authors who have thrived in self-publishing. These achievements demonstrate the potential for self-published authors to find success in the digital age. Examples of self-published authors who have found success include:
As a bonus, here's one of our AI Publishing Academy students talking about what self-publishing has meant for their family.
Hint: They get to spend more time together, take more vacations, and have complete control over their schedules.
These success stories serve as inspiration for aspiring authors and prove that with hard work, effective marketing, and high-quality content, you can achieve your dreams with self-publishing.
We understand the challenges faced by first-time publishers when choosing between self-publishing and vanity publishing. That's why we cater to those who are looking for flexibility, control, and profitability on their publishing journey.
Working with a self-publishing company like Publishing.com means you'll retain full rights to your work. There is no need to worry about giving up control or navigating through complicated contracts. Your success is in your hands, and we're here to help you achieve it.
We show you how to earn more royalties than you would with vanity or traditional publishers elsewhere while building a sustainable business model. See what we’re all about at our publishing pro webinar!