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Publishing Today

You’ve written a book. Perhaps it took years, perhaps it was the 6-month product of a blast of inspiration. You rise from your desk and ask – now what?

If this were the old days, it would be time to craft a brilliant query letter that would open the doors to finding an agent in the hopes of landing a deal with a trade publisher. Or, if you could afford it and wanted to see your work in print at your own expense, it would be time to take your manuscript to a traditional vanity press.

Ah, but here we are in the twenty-first century and the brave new world of digital printing. Desktop publishing programs have wrested the power of the printed word from publishing houses and placed in the hands of the rest of us.

A true VANITY PRESS produces a book at the author’s expense, using the same web press technology available to standard publishing houses. Upon completion, the author takes delivery of the books produced. The vanity publisher may or may not provide marketing and/or distribution for the book. The author sets the price at which the book will be sold, retains ownership of the copyright and of the books themselves, and retains all profits from the sale of the book. A typical vanity publishing project can easily cost the author $7,500 to $10,000. Profits rarely cover the cost of production.

A SUBSIDY PRESS (also know as today’s vanity press) produces a book at the author’s expense but, taking advantage of lower-cost digital printing technology, charges the author far less for the production of his book. However, the subsidy/vanity publisher often retains copyrights on the material, and often sets the price at which the book will be sold. The author receives anywhere from a few to a few dozen copies of the book; beyond that point, the author purchases any further copies from the publisher. The publisher may make all sorts of promises to promote the book; again, royalties received rarely pay for the cost of production. The cost of subsidy publishing is considerably less than true vanity publishing – but do read the contract very carefully.

SELF PUBLISHING, on the other hand, is the last word in taking total control of your book’s destiny. You write the book, you prepare the manuscript for digital publication, you purchase an ISBN number, you deal with the Library of Congress and copyrights, you shop for competitive printing bids, you manage the promotion and marketing, you find a distributor. You do it all – an understandably daunting prospect for most writers. That’s why many authors, once they’ve finished their manuscript, come for help in some or all phases of the process.

Nancy W. Grossman © 2012