Vanity Publishing

As you all know by now and are possibly tired of hearing (tough, I don’t charge you rent to be here), I have been trying to publish my book for around two years. If you’re unfamiliar with the process of publishing a book in the UK, you’re a lucky son of a gun who spared themselves a headache. For the sake of this post however, you will need to know the nitty gritty of it all so get your paracetamol tablets at the ready.

There are 3 main methods of publishing in England:

1. Traditional Route – You find a literary agent whom you send a sample of 3 chapters from your book. If they like the sample they ask to see the rest, if they are still impressed they start to pitch the work to publishers on your behalf and the ball starts rolling from there at no financial cost to you. Naturally if they hate the sample they find a variety of politically correct rejections to throw your way.

Why don’t you go straight to the publisher? Why the middle man? I hear you ask. Because they don’t want to hear from you. Simple. You have to go to them through an agent-1 that’s the rule with 99% of publishers. Believe me, I’ve looked.

2. Self Publishing – You choose a company or an online platform to publish the book, for example Kindle ebooks. This can be at no financial cost to you too unless of course you choose to pay money for editing, a professional looking book cover design, advertising, etc. etc.

3. Vanity Publishing – Essentially, a publishing house that pries on poor souls who are so desperate to see their books in print that they are literally willing to pay any amount to see that happen. The future of the book is uncertain because as soon as the publisher pockets your buck, they start to find reasons to either a) get more money out of you or b) get rid of you so that they can move on to the next victim paying no more attention to your book. I have researched vanity publshing extensively and have found no one to say they have found success via this method which is essentially bribery in fancy dress if we’re being honest.

When I started this painful process, I tried to publish via route one which was a MAJOR flop given how crowded the writing industry is in England, in 2014 for instance the UK published 20 new books every hour. Then, on some premature advice I decided to skip to route two which can work great for people who are well known and have a massive social media following (Rupi Kaur) but no one knows my sorry ass so this route flopped for me too. I could not market the book at all as no one knew who the hell I was.

Ah being invisible everywhere, the bane of my existance.

I took the book down from Amazon and decided to try route one again which someone told me was basically book suicide. I had exposed the book and so now no one would want it anymore. The book had apparently “lost its virginity.” I decided to go ahead anyway as route three wasn’t even an option I wanted to consider. Traditional publishing isn’t supposed to cost money in this country and I don’t have money anyway. But also, Fifty Shades of Grey started out as a fanfiction of Twilight which the author posted on her blog before eventually scoring a publishing deal. I know that filth sells quicker than fish and chips in this country which helped that particular author big time, but my point is, exposing the book 1st isn’t always a bad thing.

Anyway. This morning I recieved a publishing contract via post from one of the countless companies I sent the book to. Initially I was elated, I was holding a friggin’ contract after two long ass years of torture. It looked so legit – so legit that I was lost in the moment. Forgetting in the process that when something is too good to be true, it almost always is.

The too good to be true part being of course that they were asking me for up to £4000 to publish the book.

Also, this particular company, I noticed, was a publshing house and not a literary agency. I racked my brain and quickly remembered that when I stumbled across their website a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see that they a) accept authors with no agent representation and b) ask to see the whole book as opposed to a sample of three chapters. The fact that their requirements did not match 99% of other publishing houses should have raised alarm bells in my head there and then but naïve ole me saw this as a refreshingly different move on their part. I told myself they were a dignified establishment who gave chances to struggling authors.

Yeah, no, five hours of research later I uncovered a mountain of awful reviews for this publishing house. Here is an excerpt, just to give you a bit of flavour;

If you want to pay hefty sums to get your work published, this is the place to come. The agency doesn’t decline any submissions, however bad they may be; as long as you can come up with the money they will print books of highly questionable quality.

My thirty seconds of sheer happiness evaporated into nothing real quick and I was left completely and utterly numb. It felt like I got so close and yet I was no where near my ultimate goal. I am still staring at the contract thinking just sign the bugger and fork out some money but, with a heavy heart I shot them the following reply;

Dear Publisher,

I hope my email finds you well. I write it in reference to the publishing contract I recieved from you via post this morning which I would like to thank you for.

It is with a heavy heart that I am unable to accept your offer of a “contribution based contract.” This is because, I haven’t got a penny to my name, monthly instalments or otherwise. Naturally, this is not a line I ever envisioned writing in a professional email but I feel like I have nothing to lose in being honest at this point.

Whilst you see me as a “risk” to your publishing house for having previously published the book (on kindle ebooks for no more than 6 months and on a blog with less than 300 followers at the time) I see being £2,300 – £4000 in debt as a risk to my entire life and mental well- being.

I had hoped you could see past the “previously published” detail because there are some books on the shelves today that started out exactly like mine and have gone on to becoming extremely successful but I cannot fault you for doing what you deem best for your company.

I am forced to accept that the literary world now exclusively belongs to celebrities and YouTubers.

Thank you again for your interest.



  1. The struggles of a writer 😥

    Option 4 – which is ambitious and probably totally unrealistic – would be to make friends with a famous person and get them to use their “influence” with publishers.

    Have you tried New Age Publishers UK (Safiya Hussain, who wrote Three Thousand Miles for a Wish )?

    1. Definitely not realistic. No one wants to help anyone these days. Do they accept unsolicited manuscripts? Or do they want agent representation too? I’ve looked at various muslim authors to see who published them and most of them have shut down for business now. So frustrating.

  2. sad to hear that out about the so called vanity publisher ! and I am glad you did the right thing in rejecting their proposal . The reply to them deserves an applause. Please keep writing meanwhile Tam and keep sending out your work to different agents ,Insha Allah one day it will come, My prayers and best wishes always with you :-*

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