You're excited! You have submitted your novel to editors, and agents and publishing houses; finally, it's the nibble you've been longing for! A publisher just loves your work and wants to publish it - for $4,000. Better yet, you get to keep a small percentage of the royalties! This is every author's dream- isn't it?
Reel it in. That nibble you felt might just be a scam. Vanity publishers have grown with the self-publishing industry. Anyone that can string 30,000 words together (none the matter if it's any good) is now able to publish a book. Editors, agents and publishers be damned! While it's true you can publish your work, it's also true that vanity publishers are champing at the bit to take your money in exchange for limited marketing and publishing assistance (if any at all). You'll be all the poorer, but you'll have been published -right?
After you have submitted your work and received rejection after rejection from reputable publishers, it's hard to resist the allure of your first acceptance. Even if that "acceptance" requires a significant financial contribution to jump-start the publishing process. It's well known that established publishing companies are no longer buying books upfront and advances are a thing of the past for fledgling authors. What they haven't yet resorted to is asking for authors to pay any portion of the costs for printing, formatting and marketing those books. Yes, you will sign a contract and you will receive a small portion of the royalties. The legitimate publishing house, however, will be shouldering the expense of formatting, printing, and promoting your work - and that's not cheap. It is then in their best interest to market the living daylights out of your book so they can recoup their investment and you, fingers crossed here, can make some money.
When you have paid up-front to a Vanity Publisher, the motivation to make sure your book is a success is far less. Vanity publishers may also "lock you in" to a contract. If your book is not selling well with them you won't be able to sell on different platforms. Lastly, the vanity publisher will set the price of your book. There will, probably, be no way around that. They will also have the last say on layout, paper quality, and even cover art. A traditional publisher will also reserve those rights but they are invested in your success where with a vanity publisher it's you that's invested in them.
We understand not all writers are willing and able to run the gauntlet of writing a novel and then seeing it to press. We are also not saying that book editing, cover art design and marketing are, nor should be, free. It is important to know, however, that you as a consumer of those services will have far more control of their outcome. When you hand your novel, and your money, over to a Vanity Publisher, you wont.