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Author, Speaker & Mentor


Being a member of ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) I often come across pieces of advice that are relevant to all authors. This is one of them.

Whenever we hear stories about authors being defrauded by unscrupulous vanity presses, sometimes for thousands of pounds, the reaction can often be unsympathetic:

     “It’s their own fault for being so gullible.”
     “They should have done their homework.”
     “That was a stupid mistake. Don’t they read about these things?”

Whilst it is true that authors have more information at their fingertips than ever before we still question why some keep falling for these scams and schemes from the same exploitative companies?

1. High-pressure sales target author psychology

Vanity presses are quite notorious for being aggressive in their pursuit of authors. Once they have your contact information, vanity presses often flood you with inquiries and “reminders” to join them. One “manuscript referral service” tested resulted in over 120 emails from some of the worst vanity presses in the industry.

Throughout, these solicitations the push is to initiate a phone conversation with the author. A sales rep can apply more manipulative sales tactics when having a direct conversation with you. Remember, once a vanity press gets its hooks into you, the pressure can be relentless.

2. Vanity presses provide emotional validation

Flattering a prospective author is one way that Vanity presses can ensnare you. Usually by assuring you that only the best manuscripts are selected for publication by their “editorial board.” Having submitted a manuscript so epically atrocious it must have reduced more than one editor to tears of laughter, maybe just to tears,

A forty-page “autobiographical, metaphysical, self-help book for adults” was also submitted to eight of the most prominent vanity presses. Unsurprisingly, every single one replied to let me know they were interested in publishing my masterpiece? To a novice author who is uncertain of the marketability of their work and perhaps eager for validation, such a positive response from a perceived ‘authority’ can be powerfully seductive.

What you must remember is, it’s honesty and practical advice you need as an author, not ego stroking and half-truths.

3. Vanity presses prey on an author’s insecurities

Flattery is always seductive, but that’s not the only way a vanity press can work their way into an author’s psyche. Many vanity presses will try to persuade you that you are incapable of producing a professional book without forking out for an expensive, full-service, publishing package. This is especially effective if you are not comfortable with new technology. After all the idea of handing over the details of publishing to someone who can take care of it all for you must be enticing.

Vanity presses tend to bombard the author with the message that they cannot succeed alone, and that the fees are really only a “manageable investment.”

What most authors don’t realise is that the “manageable investment” could exceed £15,000.

ALLi authors can attest, professional quality is within reach of any author willing to put in the time and effort, and it doesn’t require a £15,000 publishing package to achieve.

4. Prejudices about self-publishing

Despite a decade of rapid evolution, the self-publishing industry still faces prejudices and unfair assumptions, such as:

 Self-published books are amateurish

 Self-publishing is prohibitively expensive

 Self-publishing requires the author to do everything themselves

 Self-publishing is a last resort for authors who couldn’t secure traditional publishing contracts

Vanity presses routinely exploit these prejudices, often trying to persuade the novice author that they can’t succeed without their company’s help. And, that their only other options are years of fruitless queries to traditional publishers, or a difficult and lonely self-publishing process that’s doomed to failure.

To the author, this sales pitch may strengthen their lack of belief in them self. Having encountered amateurish self-published books they often assume that is the state of all such published books, never having seen any evidence to the contrary.

Remember, a professional self-published book is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. It’s only the amateurish books that are bad in the reader’s eye.

5. Reliable information is lost in the noise

Trustworthy sources of information about self-publishing companies are few and far between. ALLi’s Watchdog Desk has evaluated and rated hundreds of services, and other industry watchdogs like Writer Beware are an invaluable resource, but they are both limited by time and staff constraints. Authors may not know of these resources, or may lack the technical skills to find them on the search engines. The problem is further compounded by the volume and prominence of misinformation on the Internet.

Vanity presses purchase highly-visible ads for top searches, thus ensnaring unsuspecting authors looking for information. Supposedly respectable publications take ads for substandard vanity presses, legitimising those companies. Consumer watchdog charities like the Better Business Bureau sell out, whitewashing negative ratings for companies that purchase “accreditation.” (For example, notorious vanity press Author Solutions carries an A+ rating with the BBB, despite hundreds of complaints and a majority of negative reviews.)

Some Vanity Presses flood the Internet with glowing testimonials from authors they have deceived. Others wage despicable smear campaigns against self-publishing watchdogs in an attempt to discredit them.

When searching for reliable information on how to self-publish, the deck is stacked against us authors.

However, you can help arm unwary authors against schemes and scams by sharing watchdog service ratings and alerts. In the end, it’s not the author who should be blamed for falling victim to a rip-off; it’s the deceptive vanity presses that have made an industry of defrauding authors.

Courtesy of John Doppler at ALLi (

If you are self-published and think you need some advice then joining an organisation like ALLi can be of benefit.  As always you should check out that they are able to offer you the support necessary to suit your needs.

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