The boss owes me about $10 000, and is going to pay me in the coming months. I can live without this money for now, but I'm wondering if it is worth spending $5000 or $8000 with a subsidy publisher to get my book out to a wider audience?

Despite my main purpose is not to make money, I'm interested how much could I expect to make in return if I'll submit to a subsidy publisher?

My purpose with regards to my book is to spread knowledge, not to earn money (of which I already have enough).

At the moment, my book is available for free as a download on my Web site. I'm not sure if that's a good way to spread knowledge to a wider audience.

I've already tried to submit my book to many literary agents, but have not received a positive response.

Should I go to vanity publishing as a last resort?

  • 1
    What is a "subsidy publisher"? does that mean the same thing as "vanity publishing" or "self-publishing"? Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 19:06
  • 1
    AFAIK, subsidy publisher is the same as vanity publisher. I have Dorrance Publishing Company in mind.
    – porton
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 19:14
  • 7
    Can we really answer this? I can't. How can anyone tell the OP how much he may expect in return on an investment? This feels much too subjective to even attempt answering. We have no sense of the interest level in his book. He says he wants to spread knowledge, not make money, and yet his second stated question asks how much he'll make in return. There's no clarity here, I'm voting to close this. Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 1:21
  • @porton - Maybe edit your question to make it clear, if you are more interested in making money, or spreading knowledge. As the answer will be different in each case. Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 7:37
  • Just done an edit on this question to try and improve it. I think I got the gist of it, but if it's incorrect, go ahead and revert it/change it. Only thing I couldn't work out is the connection between the boss owing money, and going to a vanity publisher. Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 8:18

6 Answers 6


Paying a lot to get books printed won't help you spread knowledge, it will just give you a bunch of books to clutter up your space. The reason 'real' publishers are useful isn't their printing services, it's their publicity and distribution systems. You may have a small local bookshop that will take a chance on stocking a couple copies of your book, if you beg, but that won't make people pick up and read a book they've never heard of.

If you're determined to get your message out, and have that much money to spend, I would:

  • go with Joel's suggestion and get the book well edited, and maybe have it converted to PDF or another easily-usable e-book format;

  • get a professional-looking cover, including a well-written blurb;

  • post the book on any/all of the free e-book distribution sites (I've never done it, but this seems to include Amazon, which obviously has huge coverage), or even post it at a nominal fee;

  • spend the rest of the money on targeted advertising. Who do you want reading your book? Where do these people spend time? Find them, and advertise to them. Make sure you have a professional-looking website with lots of information about the book, including an excerpt.

In this day and age, anyone can have an e-book or even a POD print book. So the market's flooded with crap, and it's hard to sort through it all. So make sure your book isn't crap, and then help people find it.


This is my own opinion, but no.

If you just want to get published, self publish. Why do you want to pay money to someone to publish your work, when you have websites like Lulu.com ? If you have money to spare, use it for marketing - pay for ads in your target market(newspapers, magazines, online). Give free seminars, give free copies to people to review.

In short, there are many things you can do to sell your book, other than pay that money to a vanity publisher. Keep in mind that you will have to do all this with vanity publishers anyway, as all they will do is publish your book, and nothing more.

  • 1
    This. Vanity publishing is a scam. Print-on-demand like Lulu does everything a vanity publisher could do, with zero up-front costs. Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 3:14

If you want to spread knowledge to a wider audience then write better and find the right agent.

If your book contains knowledge that is as valuable as you say it is and you aren't getting a positive response from agents, the issue is either in your writing or in the agents. If the agents you have contacted have provided you with any feedback at all, have you incorporated it? If you haven't even gotten feedback, that's a strong sign that you really need to work to improve your writing.

Even if your book were to be published by a traditional publishing house it still has to be good enough for people to want to read it.

Rather than vanity or even self-publishing, keep polishing.

My advice especially stands if this is the online published work from your earlier, closed question. That work needs significant format editing as well as to interact with existing scholarship which it currently seems totally ignore.


If you want to use a subsidy publisher, I would just use common sense. How much are you paying per book? Will they give you examples of books they have published in the past and/or a contact list of authors that have used their services? If they want $60 a book and won't give references, you know something shady is going on. But also remember that the cost per book is just that: bound paper. All the other expenses that a traditional publisher would pick up are on you.

Expanding on Shan's answer, if you have money to spend on your book, printing (and storing) extra copies may not be the best way to spend it. If you've submitted to agents with no avail, perhaps your book just isn't ready. I would recommend hiring a good editor. This will cost you far less then what you're willing to spend on a vanity press. After an editor has helped you identify weak points in your manuscript, then you will be ready to resubmit to agents or self-publish.

When looking for a editor, make sure to find someone with verifiable references. You can check with some of those same agents, they may be able to recommend someone they trust.


Rather than using a subsidy publisher, I agree with the suggestion to go with self-publishing. You can use Kindle Direct Publishing to get your book published as an e-book, and it won't cost you a penny. However, it would definitley behoove you to make sure you have a good cover, that the book is well edited, and that your content is well presented.

In addition to e-book publishing, you can use CreateSpace from Amazon to get your book published in a print format, again at no cost. However, the same caveats regarding a good cover, good editing, and good content still apply.

There are a lot of people who are using self-publishing options from Amazon or Smashwords to get their books out there, and you can make it happen a whole lot faster and end up with a much more professional product.

I don't mean to come off as someone trying to promote Amazon, but I have successfully published ten books and have made money off of every single one of them. I spent a couple hundred dollars getting professionally designed covers for my fantasy novels and I paid to have them edited, but in just three months I have reached break even and now every book I sell is straight profit.


There is nothing a subsidy publisher does that a local printer can't do at much lower cost. They won't edit your book (even real publishers barely do that these days). They won't check your facts. Unless you are a top-tier author, they won't even do any marketing for you!

I know one guy who was once a successful columnist for a men's magazine and whose previous book had been a New York Times bestseller. I met him at an author event, and he was looking for someone to do a Web site and some Internet marketing for his latest book. I got the gig because I had done a Web site for a friend of mine who was also an author at this event, and she sang my praises to the skies. He paid me for this out of his own pocket because his own publisher (one of the big ones, not some cash-strapped small press) was doing nothing at all to promote the book.

A publisher will, however, change your book's title, design a cover that has nothing to do with what's inside, try to tie it in to the latest publishing fad, and press you to turn it into a series.

It is easy to lay out a book (just look at a book, and make it like that). You can get a graphic design student from a local college to do your cover for you and help you with the insides. You can hire someone to edit your book and to fact-check it. And given that you've already done all that, local printer will make copies for you at a far lower cost than a vanity publisher.

  • Pardon my curmudgeonly nature, but after the first paragraph, you're no longer talking about subsidy publishers - you're talking about commercial publishers. Of course, subsidy publishers will provide you even less support (presumably, even if you are a top-tier author...)
    – Standback
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 21:01
  • Yes, my point was exactly that: if this is the level of support you get from a big commercial publisher, you're going to get even less from a subsidy publisher. Since you should be prepared to do it all yourself, why not just hire a commercial printer at a much lower cost?
    – kindall
    Commented Jun 21, 2011 at 23:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.