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Guide to choosing a self-publishing printing press.

I have seen a lot of Facebook and LinkedIn queries regarding which publishing press is the best with regard to quality and cost; whether a certain publisher is actually a vanity press; and "a vanity press? What's that?"

If these are questions that you have asked yourself recently, continue reading this post as I will try to answer all your questions!

So, what is the difference between self-publishing, publishing with a vanity press, and publishing with a traditional publishing house?

The difference between self-publishing and publishing your book with a traditional publishing house is that with self-publishing, the whole process is funded by yourself, you are in control, and you get all the profits! With traditional publishing, the process is funded and controlled by the publisher, and you will receive royalties when your books are sold, however, the publisher will keep most of the profits.

Now comes the interesting part – vanity publishers! There are two different descriptions and people have different views:

  1. A printing company where you can print your creative works. These companies do not do any editing, design, etc. You just pay them to print and bind your book or other projects.

  2. These are publishers that offer editing, cover design, publishing, and distribution of your book. You pay them often a few thousand pounds for all the services they provide.

Unfortunately, these vanity presses have a bad reputation as success is not guaranteed. Many say that because you pay money upfront, the vanity publisher is not motivated to deliver quality service. They also don't care about the quality of the book.

Don't forget, the success of a book depends on many factors, not just professional editing and a nice cover (though important) – in the end, a gripping novel or a well-researched non-fiction book is the key to achieving success.

Not all vanity presses have bad reputations though, and some self-publishing authors prefer to work with a company that takes the bulk of the work out of their hands. It opens up time for the author to do other things and is likely less stressful as you don't have to hunt down a good editorial professional or cartoonist.

These companies hire professionals that need to be paid for their services, so their publishing fees are just an accumulation of all the services you're likely to spend on your manuscript anyway, just without the hassle.

For example, "BookBaby", a vanity press with multiple service packages to choose from, has good reviews (4.5 stars on Trustpilot). Also, you can print your books with them without buying a publishing package.

Bottom line, if traditional publishing is not possible or preferable, self-publishing your book is always the best option. Before using a vanity press to publish your books, do some research and ask for reviews from fellow writers. The writing community is very supportive, so use that to your advantage.

The question arises: how do you self-publish your books when you don't want to use a vanity press?

Luckily, nowadays there are lots of printing presses available to authors where, instead of paying a large amount of money upfront, you pay a printing and service fee per book sold. The books get printed on demand when a customer places an order, and you, the author, can choose the price of your book and more.

Please note: when self-publishing, you will need to purchase an ISBN per type of book you publish. For example, a print version of your manuscript and an ebook version of that same manuscript have different ISBNs.

When you are self-publishing, you will still have to invest money in your book, however, you get to choose your editor, proofreader, and cover designer – the costs of publishing depend on who you choose to work with. Also, many self-publishing authors decide to put their publishing budget into editing and proofreading only and doing the cover design themselves, or they do their own editing and only pay for proofreading and the cover design. However you want to spend your money, it's all up to you. That's the beauty of self-publishing.

Here is a list of well-known assisting self-publishing presses with a link to their websites and what they offer:


IngramSpark is one of the more popular choices amongst self-publishing authors. They offer great quality products and worldwide distribution for print and ebooks. Your book will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. Also, bookstores and libraries can order your books directly from IngramSpark.

You pay $49 per title you want IngramSpark to print and distribute for you; this amount is for both print and ebook. Or, if you only want IngramSpark to distribute your book as an ebook, you pay $25 per title. *They sometimes waive the registration fee, so have a look at their website. Royalties:

IngramSpark has multiple cost calculators on its website. I used a standard paperback size of A5, perfect bound, black and white interior, cream pages, a glossy cover, no duplex cover, and 350 pages with a list price of £7.99.

The calculator results were £2.84 profit excl. taxes without wholesale discount and £1.24 profit excl. taxes with a 20% wholesale discount. The wholesale discount applies to bookstores and libraries. You are in full control of this percentage.

I could not find the royalty percentage of ebook sales.

Profit results: including a 20% wholesale discount

Profit results without wholesale discount

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Lulu Press

Barnes & Noble Press


Thank you for reading. I wish you all the best with your publishing journey. I hope that this post was useful and that it answered all your questions. Which publishing press do you think you'll go with?

Information correct as per 21/02/23

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