From Publishing Perspectives:
The Society of Authors and Writers’ Guild of Great Britain–the United Kingdom’s two authors’ unions–have announced today (March 3) an investigation into “the financial and contractual impact on authors of publishers that charge for publication.”
With the support of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the effort is intended, according to the groups’ media messaging, “to research the allegedly exploitative practices of some publishers that charge authors to publish their work.”
The establishment of an investigation, the unions write, “follows a sharp rise in complaints from authors about these companies received by both unions.”
This is something to be watched not only by authors but also by trade publishers, whose industry can be colored by perceptions of bad actors and author mistreatment: the public has never been adept at discerning the distinctions in how a writer’s work might get to market. Writers not represented by literary agents nor on contract to trade houses can be particularly vulnerable to scams, operating as amateur entrants in a crowded field of vendors’ pitches.
At issue here are offers called by many names and operating in markets beyond the UK. ‘Partner publishing,’ ‘hybrid publishing,’ ‘contribution publishing,’ and ‘subsidy publishing’ are all cases in which an author is published only by paying into the process. As the unions are pointing out, these companies “have much in common with what used to be called ‘vanity’ publishers.”
Standing somewhere between full self-publishing and full trade publishing, these publishers normally assume some of the cost in exchange for some of the rights and/or revenues from a book’s life on the market.
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives
“There’s a sucker born every minute,” a saying attributed to P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, con man Joseph (“Paper Collar Joe”) Bessimer and a variety of others, certainly applies to vanity publishing, whatever it may call itself at this or any other time.
The OP describes in general what vanity publishing is. If you need more information, see ALLI, Writer Beware, Writers & Artists, the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, and many other authors organizations.
PG expects most regular visitors to TPV don’t need this sort of advice, but urges them to pass their knowledge on to whomever they think may need it.
Regardless of whatever other shortcomings they may have, legitimate traditional publisher do not ask an author to pay them any money to publish the author’s book.
Vanity publishers often have fancy-sounding names – “Author House”, “Dorrance Publishing”, etc., etc.
One quick way to help identify a vanity publisher is to go to Amazon’s books section and search for the publisher’s name. PG just searched for “Dorrance Publishing” and the first book that appeared in his search results had a Best Sellers Rank of #4,213,968 in the Kindle Store.
This sales rank means that the author’s mother bought a copy and maybe one or two of the author’s drinking buddies bought copies before they sobered up.
Another way to help identify a vanity publisher is to visit a local bookstore (wear your mask) and ask the owner or manager about the publisher.
If the response is, “Who?” then it’s a vanity publisher. After receiving this response, ask the manager to recommend a good book and buy it to show your gratitude for her/his assistance in helping you avoid a stupid and expensive mistake.