Does Self-Publishing=Vanity Publishing?

Two posts on the Writers Supporting Writers site address this question.

First, a guest post from Chuck Litka with the provocative title Vanity Publishing 2.0?

And then A Response to Chuck by Mark Paxson.

Read the posts and offer your opinions!

Image by Nadi Lindsay from Pexels


  1. I am underwhelmed with the either/or nature of Indie vs vanity or both vs. traditional. I have read excellent (personal opinion) works by any of the three (as long as we are picking nits) and I’ve also read crap by all three. I was really hoping we had outgrown this dated pigeonholing. I took a children’s writing class at UCSD extension. She was an amazing teacher and a fine author. She got her first YA book published by a traditional publisher. A few years later I saw dozens of that book for sale at a discount bookstore in the Shenandoah Valley. I did not feel the need to tell her. Dozens of paperbacks are discarded by traditional bookstores if they have not sold to make room for the next months titles. So I do not think that one is superior to the other.

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  2. Hi, Audrey, I think these are both valid and interesting points of view. I suppose you could also make an argument that, in the broadest sense, all publishing is vanity publishing, whether the writer is paid for it or not.

    I noticed early on how the vanity houses moved online and began offering paid services to writers exploring what was then a new medium, but have avoided them, personally. I enjoy doing the cover art. Yes, a good editor would be a blessing, but not at any price. If they had faith in a work, they’d offer a cut of sales instead of an up-front fee – just like normal publishing. If we think back to the old days, we can say the measure is the same now as it was then, this being the degree to which a writer’s enthusiasm or passion for their work is exploited by the unscrupulous element in society. The writer must always look which way the balance of money is flowing – out or in – and ask just what they’re getting out of the deal themselves and are they happy with that.

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    1. Those are good points, Michael. You’re right–publishing can be seen as motivated by vanity to some extent. We create our works and are thrilled when others read (and buy) them.
      I too have noticed that we “indie” or self-publishing authors are seen as a lucrative market by many–editors, cover designers, “book doctors,” etc. Most are entirely legitimate, but some are questionable. As you say, we have to decide what we get in any transaction, and what risks (financial and otherwise) we are willing to take. My own approach is to do as many of the book production tasks as possible myself.

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  3. Interesting discussion, Audrey. I tend to agree with Equipsblog that there’s good and bad work coming through every route: big house, vanity, small press, and self-publishing. Traditional publishing has become so narrow in its preferences that many excellent writers have no choice but to go their own way. I think the marketplace is capable of separating the wheat from the chaff and readers will decide what’s worth reading.
    Then there’s the author’s marketing skill and efforts thrown into the mix.
    The publishing world has forever changed, and indies are here to stay. That’s probably a good thing.

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  4. Great share Audrey.
    I had fun replying to both posts.
    And like to think my example serves a purpose for Indie Writers…
    No, don’t do things exactly his way😄.
    But don’t we just love writing for its own sake?

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