By in Writing

Vanity Publishing for Academics

Vanity Publishing

Vanity publishing is for those who want to get their book published (or poem) and who are prepared to pay for it, rather than wait for a publisher to pick it up. Poetry, for instance, is notoriously difficult to get published. And many fiction writers have also found it hard to gain a publisher.


With the advent of computers, the internet and printers, the trade of Vanity Publisher has taken off. These publishers may run competitions, especially for poetry, where you enter a poem and are then told that your poem is so good, they would like to include it in their next anthology. You are then given the opportunity to buy copies of the anthology containing your work. Of course, the publishers make good money this way, otherwise they would not do it. Some people have even deliberately written rubbish poetry and had it published. A friend proudly presented me with a copy of an anthology containing her poem and a work colleague shyly confided that his poem had been accepted for publication.


Of course, the latest self publishing outlet is Kindle and similar on line publisher options. You can write your book then upload it for sale there. It doesn't matter how good or bad your book is, it can be made available for people to read. Now there are some VERY good books on Kindle, I have downloaded and read them, there are also some that should not be there.

Academic Vanity Publishing

The latest twist on this came through on a Twitter feed. referencing an article in the Guardian newspaper

An academic was writing about a call she got from a publisher, asking her to write a book on her subject. That sounds really exciting, getting asked to write a book for publication, especially in your own field. BUT, with some digging, she found that (a) the books are bought almost exclusively by University Libraries, with about 300 sales (b) they are very expensive from about £80 to £200. ($120 to $300) and no cheaper paperback version is produced. (c) More copies are produced and sold ONLY if the author makes it a recommended book for their own course, which some academics do, quite reasonably if they find that no available book covers the subject matter they teach. (d) the caller expected to get about 75 writers producing books for him each year. (e) There were more commissioning editors seeking academics than just this caller. The writer calculated that each commissioning editor was probably worth about £1.8m in sales each year, about $2.7m.

As the author pointed out, the research on which these books are written is paid for by public funds, as are the researcher's salaries and yet the books probably sit unread in a university library until they are chucked out and the public in general do not have access to these libraries unless they have a University library card. In Northern Ireland, you have to be a graduate of the university and pay an annual fee to access the university library.

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CoralLevang wrote on September 5, 2015, 5:46 PM

I appreciate the idea that if we want our work published, we can pay for it ourselves. I have also wondered recently about a pay-to-belong co-op writing site, just like food co-ops to which I have belonged.

MegL wrote on September 5, 2015, 5:51 PM

Oh, haven't heard of those. I have heard of writing groups, some of which are taken by a professional author that produce an anthology of their work each year. Those can be very interesting reading.

Feisty56 wrote on September 5, 2015, 6:15 PM

It just goes to show that if there is a profit to be made, someone will figure out how to do it and rake in the money. Kudos to the academic for examining the facts behind vanity publishing for academics. If she proceeded with the request, at least she knew exactly what outcome to expect. I doubt that that's true for many of the people who enter contests with their poetry or short stories that end up in an anthology as described.

WordChazer wrote on September 5, 2015, 6:23 PM

Vanity publishing will soon go the way of the dodo. People can publish dross as an ebook for nothing these days. I became very cheesed off with idiot vanity publishers back in my brief fiction writing days. Maybe that's why I now stick to writing reviews and blog posts?

WordChazer wrote on September 5, 2015, 6:27 PM

I submitted short stories for the Ian St James Awards here in the UK for years. I bought every single one of the anthologies of the winning stories and one or two of the authors therein went on to make a good living out of writing. But even then I was struggling to find my niche. I was never able to write long fiction and short stories were better. Once I discovered article writing websites and reviews, I had really found my niche.

DWDavisRSL wrote on September 5, 2015, 8:55 PM

From the research I did, most Vanity Publishers for fiction work basically take your document and use a self-publishing service that the writer could have used and then take a rather sizable chunk of the sales in commission after charging the writer for the publishing service. I looked into what was involved in self-publishing via Kindle, Smashwords, and Nook for eBooks and CreateSpace for paperbacks. I have now self-published 4 out of 5 of my own novels in eBook form and 3 of them as paperbacks, with good results.

markgraham wrote on September 6, 2015, 2:14 PM

Almost sounds like a legitimate way to write, but in a way sounds like a scam.

chrisandmark wrote on September 6, 2015, 2:32 PM

I've read some AMAZING 'Kindle only' books but like you say, some shouldn't have been published on any format!

valmnz wrote on September 6, 2015, 3:51 PM

I self-published my first book on school life in New Zealand in the 1950s. It had a small market focus which would have excluded a commercial publisher. I printed only 150 copies, marketed and sold it myself and have only six copies left. And yes, the book was well received and I did make a little money from it. My next book will also be self published, but with a wider audience it will have a wider print run. It is easy to say above that some academic books will sit on shelves gathering dust, but believe me, as a researcher I now know one day someone will be grateful, that material was preserved.

MegL wrote on September 6, 2015, 4:00 PM

Oh, yes, there are many reasons a person might go this route, for instance publishing a family history.