Not to be confused with POD (Publish on Demand), vanity and subsidy publishers charge a fee for their services. Unlike traditional publishers, this group of publishers for the most part is no more than a printer, someone who will publish whatever you have to offer just to make money.

 They exploit unpublished writers, getting their names from websites and bombarding them with literature through both email and the postal service. Their ads are convincing, and they are very careful not to give you the real facts the money until the very end of the advertisement, or even after you have submitted a sample of your work.

In my opinion, one of the worst scenarios of a vanity publishers is under the guise of Poetry.com who bombards you with their literature about submitting a poem to their free contest. You then will get a letter telling you that you are one of the semi-finalists, but what they dont tell you is they send the same letter to everyone who submits something, regardless how bad it is.

Their plot is to get you to buy their anthology which is over $70, and only available through them this is the only way you will ever see your poem in print. Only in the past couple of years has something been done about it the Maryland Attorney Generals Office was finally filing charges against them for they way they presented their contest I havent heard of late if the lawsuit or charges have been finalized, but something really does need to be done about these scam artists. Fortunately, I never purchased their anthology, and thus, never lost any money, but some people were not as fortunate.

In fact, I even had comments made to me on various mailing lists about proving they were defrauding people and more or less saying it wasn't my problem if someone else fell for the scam.. Come on, now, folks! When someone will publish anything by anyone, and then only allows you to see it through an anthology THEY publish at an exorbitant price, what does that tell you? I disagree that it is not my problem as well because if it happens to a fellow writer, shouldn't we try to do something to stop it?

Another case of exploitation became known the other day in one of my groups. One of the members posted she had sent a submission to what she thought was a traditional publisher. She, of course, became quite happy initially when she was notified that her manuscript had been accepted for publication by Ithaca Press The catch? She was going to have to pay $5,300 for them to do it! WHOA! For that price she would still have to do her own promoting, purchase her own ISBN number (required if you want to put your book on the shelves in a book store), editing, and so on.

In other words all they were going to do was PRINT the book and provide the art work! Thats pretty steep for someone to do no more than print a book I can go to my local printer and get the same thing for probably much less with the only difference being I would have to provide the art work and cover design I wanted for the book. Trafford Publishing is one I came across through a search -- prices range from $699 for a classic package up to over $1,900. You receive 10 copies of your book with your package but can purchase additional at their "low" prices.

Example given is a 160 page paperback with color cover for $6.30, and they claim the recommended retail is $15.75 -- I don't know about anyone here, but I only pay $7.99 for Danielle Steel's paperbacks, and they are over 300 pages in length. Around here a paperback of around 160 pages would run roughly $4.99. So, why would you pay $6.30 for a book you can't sell for your cost? It's another technique that is used to exploit writers, and if you don't happen to know how much books of a given length are worth in your town, you can be taken in by these unscrupulous publishers.

The next group is the subsidy publisher, meaning an author pays a PORTON of the cost of the publishing. Though somewhat more ethical than your vanity publisher, the author still has a large financial outlay to provide for getting the book out there to the readers. Like the vanity publisher, it is still the writers responsibility to do the promoting, marketing, and arrange book signings. In some cases the subsidy publisher will charge you a percentage and the rest will be paid in royalties, but not traditionally. Neither a subsidy nor a vanity publisher will be of any help in promoting your writing career as many traditional publishers and agents choose not to work with authors who have been published through a vanity or subsidy house.

So, what is a writer to do? Youre new to publishing, you have tried the traditional route, but you cant get anyone to give you a chance. Another choice is self-publishing which means the author usually will purchase software that will allow for publishing on the writers home computer, or perhaps the writer will pay a fee to a company who will do the actual publishing based on the writers specifications. Unlike subsidy and vanity publishers, they do not usually charge an up front fee, but rather pay royalties only or a small advance with reduced royalties over a specified period of time.

They are usually in a position to offer editing and proofreading services as well and dont accept just every manuscript that is submitted. Sometimes the POD publisher which is usually what self-publishing is, will include the ISBN number as part of their package, but other times the writer will have to apply for this on their own (you will have to find this information out before you sign their contract). The problem with self-publishing is that many traditional publishers will not publish a book for someone who has been self-published because it is incorrectly assumed they have self published because of a lack of writing ability. This is not always the case.

At a seminar I attended this time last year I was told of a writer who had been turned down by several publishers and had faith in the book he was trying to promote. He chose to self-publish, and the book flew off the shelves! Its a decision the writer will have to make at the time and decide if they want to take the chance that a traditional publisher may not want to pick them up at a later date. Of course, if youre determined to get your manuscript out there and dont want to wait for a traditional publisher, this is your best alternative. Remember, though, that your local bookstore may not want to carry your books even with an ISBN number because most companies who do POD do not allow for the return of unsold books.

Now, you want to ,know, how do I avoid these unscrupulous vanity and subsidy publishers? I have three sources I use routinely: first is Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/Beware/) which has a list of any publishers and agents, traditional or otherwise, they have been found to engage in illegal or unethical practices. Another site I use is Preditors and Editors (http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/), similar to The Writer Beware site.

 The third source of information for publishers and agents is the newsletter, WritersWeekly.com. On the home page is a link called Warnings where you can find the latest warnings. In addition, there is a forum where you can sign up and see what others have to say about different subjects.

Often you will find information concerning unethical publishers and agents. These steps wont prevent you from being taken advantage of, but it will certainly reduce your chances.