Once upon a time I published a book via what you could call a vanity publisher. I paid money for the full process including book design etc. The ISBN is in their name. I was delighted by the high standard of the finished product, but not at all happy with the price they sold it at. I was an unknown author/first book - yet readers were expected to pay more for my book than from someone with a known reputation. I have also had to beg for royalty payments - now overdue.

I have now written a sequel as part of a series and want to recover my book back. I have purchased my own ISBN's and want to revert this book into something I fully own. Despite them sending me the final PDF - I also retained the final Word doc and I have the book design. It wouldn't take much for me to write a 2nd edition & upload on Clearspace, but not sure if this breaks some rules. Has anyone done this before or been in a similar situation?

  • 1
    Did you sign away the copyright? Do they own the copyright on the design of the book? Jan 15, 2017 at 11:38
  • Mark Baker's answer is quite correct here, but I wanted to say I'm sorry this happened to you. Publishing scams are myriad, and simply awful :-/
    – Standback
    Jan 15, 2017 at 18:10

2 Answers 2


This is not a copyright question, it is a contract question. You signed a contract with them. The terms of the contract tell you what you can and can't do. No one here can tell you what your contract says. Find it and read it. If you are uncertain how to interpret it, ask a lawyer.


Vanity presses make money from authors, not from selling copies, so there's at least a decent chance you've kept or can get back your copyright. Unfortunately, if you didn't study your contract to begin with, and they've proven so very poor, they're probably optimized mostly to wring more money out of you :-/

You need to check your contract to look for:

  • Who owns copyright.
  • Who owns the book design, which is different from who owns copyright over the text.
  • Rights reversion or contract termination, which are the procedures to get back copyright from them if you've sold it.
  • (I have also found reference to an abhorrent practice where they don't claim copyright, but do stipulate that "that "Author agrees that 1st Books indefinitely will retain possession of the materials submitted by Author to 1st Books and used to format the Work." i.e., your manuscript. I am not a lawyer and don't know if such terms can be challenged or interpreted more reasonably.)

This should, at least, help you know where you stand.

The other thing that can be very helpful is to search Google for stories of others in the same situation, with the same publisher. Try googling "[publisher name] scam". You might find others who have already dealt with this successfully.

Best of luck to you.

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    Thanks for comments so far -They are a fairly nice bunch of vanity publishers in that they were always upfront about their costs. I googled them with the word "SCAM" before I even employed them, and there were no negative results that came back at all. They did a good job, aside from not wanting to correct errors which did irritate me and the high book cost. The copyright is in my name. I will check my contract
    – SA M
    Jan 21, 2017 at 10:29
  • I'm not sure what the issue with "indefinitely will retain possession of the materials submitted by Author" is if they don't claim copyright... wouldn't you keep your own copy which would work as well as theirs for whatever you had in mind?
    – Michael
    Jun 29, 2022 at 22:01

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