The “vanity” nickname for publishing services companies is more or less appropriate, depending. But all of them charge you for various services they provide to help you get your book out the door to an audience. Most of them still have you find your own editor or designer or proofreader, and then help you with legal and distribution. But there are different packages, so shop carefully, since you will be paying for all of this, just like the total do-it-yourself authors.
Shop around very, very carefully with these services that charge you up to thousands of dollars to provide all the services of a publisher rather than judging your book’s merit and taking the risk to publish it themselves. You’re basically paying a premium for what amounts to publishing yourself so that these guys can provide some or all of the production services for you. Also keep in mind that some of the large traditional publishers have started vanity service divisions themselves, often using the same services that have been doing vanity publishing for a long time. You will need to vet these services separately and decide if they are right for you. Some will gouge you unmercifully with extra charges after you’ve started working with them.
There are two publishing services companies that have received mostly positive reviews in my networks:
- Kindle Direct Publishing/CreateSpace: These two entities comprise the self-publishing services arm of Amazon.com. Amazon started with CreateSpace and it still operates for print books, but I understand they are planning to move all the operations into KDP, which is currently processing books self-published only to ebook format. Amazon seems to be providing good customer service and is quite popular with new authors. Their printing is not the absolute best, though.
I have published one poetry collection with them and was happy with the results. I did not use any of their in-house publishing services, though, since I can do my own (editing and design/layout).
- Lulu: Lulu has been around for a number of years and has a good reputation for not ripping off authors, but any time a company offers “free” anything, including publishing, I am a bit skeptical. I’m seeing mixed reviews for them, but I get the impression that they are about equivalent to Amazon’s services. I do not have any personal experience using their system.