Monday, 23 July 2012

Authors: Beware of Vanity Presses

As a new and unpublished author this week's post was an eye opener for me. It is very informative and a must read for all who are aspiring to become published. So I am pleased to introduce this week's guest on the TTC Virtual Blog Tour: Nikki Noffsinger.

Vanity Press: The Truth About Why They Are To Be Avoided

BY: Nikki Noffsinger

It was 2009 when I wrote my first novel, Renegade Night. I had labored over it and poured everything I had into writing it. Looking back, that was the easy part. Getting the courage to let someone other than my sister read it was the hard part but even harder was looking for a way to get it looked at by a publishing company or a literary agent. I sent out eighty query letters to eighty different places and some were automatic rejections and some didn’t bother ever replying. Then one afternoon I got a call from Publish America. The guy on the line told me they had accepted my manuscript and wanted me to be part of their team. I was on cloud nine. The next step was the E-Mail where the contract was sent. I read through it and I thought it was probably a typical contract. They wanted no money to publish my book but they would have book rights for seven years (which did seem a long time but hey what did I know, right), and I would get 10% of each book sold. I signed the contract not knowing what I was getting myself into.


            Weeks and months passed by and finally I got my author’s copy which was a standard soft cover but when I began reading through the horror sunk in. The perfect manuscript they had gotten from me was not what was in those pages. There were sentences cut off, grammar errors right and left, and the cover picture was as generic as a Walmart plastic bag. I cried. I tried to tell them immediately about the errors but they said it was too late but that was the least of my worries. Since my book has officially been with them the price has been between $25.99 and $35.99. I can’t get book stores to carry it, because either its price points or because of their return policy. They email me a dozen or more offers per day and some of them range from paying 7 to over 100 dollars all in the name of “promotions”. I have written to them to only get condescending messages back from them that scold me because they’ve been out all this money making my book. My book is not stock piled. They are print upon payment-meaning when someone buys my book it is printed up so I don’t understand what costs they’ve incurred.

            Publish America is a Vanity Press. They do not make money off mass market sales-they make money off the writer. A traditional publisher does not want to make money from the author-they want to put it out in mass market and perhaps that is why a lot of publishers are very picky about the manuscripts they read and authors they publish. These companies buy up web space and some even rent office space like Publish America does in Maryland; and anyone who submits a manuscript-they publish it. They will mark up a book’s price sometimes 5x what it is worth and they can determine what is; “royalty eligible”. They make all sorts of promises and paint a very colorful picture of “if you just pay this amount of money we can have your book at this event or send it to notable established authors”. Last year Publish America made a big boo-boo and tried to get people to pay money to have J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books. Her lawyers immediately went into action and Publish America had to withdraw that offer yet on their site, they made sure they cited that Ms. Rowling owed THEM an apology. Yeah, they’re lucky she didn’t sue them to high heavens. I have been sent offers to have my book reviewed by Nora Roberts, James Patterson, Stephen King, Disney, CW, and even Kathy Lee Gifford and her co-host, Hoda. I was also told that they could send my book to be made into a movie and even boasted that the likes of James Cameron would see my book. All lies. I am a gal that does my home work and found that none of those people were reviewing books let alone had given consent for them to review books.

            So what does one do?

            The first thing a new author can do is to go to a website, I wish I had gone there to start with. They have threads upon threads of publishers like Publish America to avoid. Do your homework about a publisher before you submit and sign a contract. Look on the backs of books you read at the publisher and look up what their submission guidelines are. I cannot stress enough how important it is to FOLLOW THOSE GUIDELINES TO THE LETTER! Seriously, if you don’t include all the information they are wanting they won’t look any further and you may not get a reply. Expect that you are going to get rejections. Don’t be down about it because even the most successful author will tell you that they had dozens upon dozens of rejections when they first got started. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Keep on trying. If you end up having to self publish that is still better than a vanity press. They are there to make money off you not readers. The second thing to do is read a contract thoroughly. It might cost you a little change but have a lawyer go over it. Believe me you don’t want to get stuck in a contract where you have little to no rights. Ask your publisher questions. Ask what the percentage of royalties you are to get, what bookstores they have that they can send your book to,  ask how they plan to promote you, ask what their annual sales are with their other books, and ask what could happen if your book totally bombs. Any good publisher will answer these questions and more.

            There are few joys that compare to the exhilaration and thrill of getting that call or mail that says, “We love the book and would love to contract with you for your story.” When I got my call, I thought my dream had finally started to come true. I thought I was finally an accomplished writer and that I had the door open wide and was across the threshold. When the disappointment and reality set in, I have to say if I was any less passionate about writing, I would have just tucked my tail and hid under the nearest rock and give up on my dream.

Have you ever been taken advantage of by a Vanity Press, if so which one?

Just remember your story can save someone else. I want to save you dear readers from the pit falls of these parasites of literature and the siphons of dreams. There should be some sort of legislation or law against it but until there is, we all need to keep one another informed.

There are great publishers out there; especially indie presses that are legit. My second book is strictly an E-book that was published through XoXoPublishing and the experience has been wonderful! They promote me any way and every way they can, I got a custom cover that is beautiful, and they constantly are ever seeking to find new ways to get buyers for their author’s books. I mean if you are not selling books-they are not making money. Legit publishers once they take you on, they want to make money. What are some things you think a publisher is responsible for?  What are your experiences with a legit publisher?

            Never quit writing no matter if you’re rejected a thousand times. Thomas Edison said in regards to the invention of the light bulb, “I have not failed, I’ve found 1000 ways that won’t work.” So never give up because you can only learn from each failure and build on that. Very few authors were just overnight sensations. Many authors from every genre have had to pay dues and we’re just on that road. The first thing though is; do not get caught up in the vanity press trap.

Author’s Bio and Links

Nicole Noffsinger or Nikki as she is known is a 37 year old mother of two children and has always loved writing and creating stories from a young age. She lives with her family in a mid-sized Indiana town. Aside from writing she has an eclectic taste in both music and art, loves to travel, and has a great love of all things that go “bump” in the night.


  1. Your link to Writer's Beware is the wrong address. This is the correct one:

    Thanks for the post though! Sorry you got burned by those scam artists. There's a class action lawsuit against them now, by the way.

  2. I'm so sorry about what happened to you Nikki!!!! I hope you got a real publisher eventually! :-D

  3. It has been a nightmare that is for sure and to find so many more people out there and some of them have fell for their "exclusive author offers" is just gut wrenching and overwhelming at the same time. Thankfully it has led me to meet some incredible people and I have a second book; Cursed Awakening, with XoXo Publshing. If I can keep one writer from these parasites then all my hell has been worth it. Thank you Kao for getting the accurate address.