Self publishing, is it worth it ? An illustrator´s point of view 3 – How vain is your credit card ?

Vanity press can not only ruin your publishing dream but also can leave you broke in the process. And to top that, vanity press can make you hostage to their company when it comes to you not owning your own files. So how vain are you ?
How desperate are you to put your book out there and becoming a successful children´s book author ?


So what is – “vanity press”  ?
Well it´s a pejorative name attributed to those types of “publishing” companies that arrived when the self publish desire of many people out there became an actual market for people to be prayed upon. Attracted with promises of – exposure- to say the least and – overnight success- in many cases.
Things and catch phrases are a lot more toned down nowadays but when the first companies arrived on internet if you were an author wanting to find an alternative way of publishing your book, you could really think any one of these companies could put you on the spotlight and make you a really known and established author – like the real ones . Better even they all promised to do that without you having to go through the traditional route of desperation, rejection and disappointment people like Stephen King had to go through before the internet was invented and there was no vanity press.

You can recognize a vanity press company by the fact they all tell you that you can “publish” your book for free. They will give you your own store on their site and then you upload your book and nothing happens in sales.
Usually the only sales you make are when, either you buy your own book or your friends and mum get a copy.
This is the more traditional print on demand side of these companies. You have your book “published” , a copy will only be printed when someone orders your book on your store and that´s it. The company does not promote your book at all and so if you´re one of those authors that expect to spend your days just writing instead of putting at least 90% of your daily creative time on doing your own self marketing you can forget fame and fortune and you can forget sales because nobody will visit your shop because nobody will know that you exist.


You can order yourself a copy of your book and generally the print quality is actually really good; many times awesome really and so you stare at the “published” result of your work with pride. You should be. If you actually have a good book , when it comes to print on demand technical results out of vanity press companies, if you created a really good design overall you should really end up with a great looking book which will feel as professional as any other.
But that´s it.
Nobody but you will likely see your work when you self publish through a vanity press company. It´s like if you are steering at yourself in a mirror.
Therefore, – “Vanity Press”.


But if you think that´s bad, you haven´t seen nothing yet.
In truth there is nothing wrong with – vanity press – companies within a specific context. They are really capable of delivering a good product out of your work (if you have a professional looking graphic design you will not look self published) and also it´s true they provide you with a free online store and even a few good free tools for you to promote it by yourself.
So what´s the problem then ?

The dark site of vanity press sites is revealed when you are enticed to actually pay them for their “publishing packages” and there are lots of different options out there , each one with different characteristics, objectives, scope and of course price.
I´m not going to detail everything here for that reason but let´s just say that if you really want to spend a lot of money to publish your book , they of course will charge you (a lot) for their graphic services if you need help with designing your book, they will charge you for different types of marketing packages also and some companies even use to have something like almost a non-official illustration service option where I´m sure they commissioned artists and illustrators like me for original cover artwork and even full interior book illustrations; for example for children books.

Some vanity press companies were pointed to make you believe that you just need to show up with your original text , your credit card ready and they will do the rest because – they – have the ability to put your book under the spotlight, either by charging you for additional distribution packages or charging you double and triple for publicity you could do yourself on Add Words if you knew how.

The dark side of vanity press companies is in the way they prey on the lack of knowledge of authors who just want to have their book “published”. Of course , it´s business as legit as any other but it´s the mostly over inflated prices for those “special publishing packages” that make everything sound so … sleazy, sometimes. We can even sense the slime when we look at some of the options put out there promising the world to each and every author that is willing to spend sometimes not just a couple of thousand dollars but a lot, lot, LOT more trusting that on the other side there will be “an editor” and “a publisher” that actually will care or believe in their work beyond of how much is the limit on your credit card.


I´ve worked for a couple of vanity press companies when I started to illustrate online. But not for long, once I got to understand what was happening in the shadows, of the particular places I was doing work for I just got out. I actually have to thank many of their (or “my”) clients there for the eye opening at a time when I was just trying to find my first jobs online.
The vanity press companies I did work for targeted specifically self publish children book authors. They had all the regular offers for printing and sell your book and on top of that they offered illustration services.
They of course prevented direct contact between the client and the illustrator and it was in three of these situations (in different places) that I started to understand how that whole thing worked.

Even though we could not communicate directly and freely without having the vanity press company controlling what message content would go through or not to both sides, some of “my illustration clients” managed to reach out to me through google search and they started to pose me some questions related to their doubts and concerns about the whole creative process. Among many things we soon discovered that for example one of my clients was charged around $12.500 for the illustrations alone as part of an “illustration package” for a children´s book work and was told the value was based on my professional rates vs their own fee for the “representation” service.
In reality when I was approached by the company to work on that project, they said it would be a great opportunity for me as I was just getting started on this online thing if I did this book for them. The only catch was that that children book offer was supposed to be for a really small side project of theirs at the company and the client could not afford to spend much in artwork , but even so after the company deducted their fees I would still get around $750 for my illustrations. And if I accepted to work for that book, I would end up getting some good exposure too.
And of course it was promised that if I did that, the company would then take me on for more expensive projects where I could make some real money.

As I was still doing this online illustration thing as a part-time trying to put my name out there without much knowledge of how to go about it on these early internet days, and because I still had my main illustration/design work here in my country, I accepted the project, actually believing I was really working for a small budget book. After all I was finally getting work from a real company out there and so this lack of transparency never crossed my mind in those days.
It was only when “their” client contacted me in private that we both understood someone was really spending a ton of money on “packages” and the person was beyond chocked that I actually didn´t had asked for $12.500 in illustration fee but I was just getting $750 out of the money payed to the company for that objective.
Then I learned that there was other concerns about the other “marketing or publishing packages” the client had also payed for on top of the “illustration package” and to cut this story short, the client simply gave up on the project, ( recovered about half of what had spent due to some – guarantee – clause somewhere in the contract ) but to my knowledge this person simply quit on trying to becoming an author.


This is what I mean when I say vanity press can really kill your dream if you go into this field picking a real bad one. Maybe there´s some really good ones out there that can get you good publishing results, but even in the marketing department I don´t know of anyone that has used a vanity press company , payed a ton of money to publish a book and then ended up selling books after the first couple of weeks where the vanity press really tries to pretend it cares about the client´s payed for marketing needs. After a few days when something really feels it´s happening with your book , what usually happens is that an author that ends up spending a ton of money through vanity press soon realizes that that money should have been a lot well spent if that person would have invested in online adds herself instead of relying on a vanity  press company.


Then there´s the “hostage” aspect of things too.
99% of the people when they pay for a work , expect to own it but if you go into a vanity press company beware of what you´re allowed to get.
I had a client of mine for which I did the book illustrations and then those were given to a vanity press company for publishing the final book and create a graphic design , which despite all the lack of quality in a lot of aspects still managed to put the book out there. Of course with not much results out of their “marketing package” at all. And let´s not even mention other “design issues” that came out of that insane client-company relationship after a ton of money was also spent.
Recently this person found a really good publishing alternative but needed the original files which the vanity press company kept and then the company refused to release the files…not claiming exactly they own them, but doing everything they could not to release the print ready pdfs , either by not replying to emails, presenting a ton of bureaucracy or doing everything you can think of not to allow access to what the client originally payed for.
The situation was actually very similar to what happened to this person here with the same company; so, when there´s smoke there must be fire. Read it and form your own conclusions.

So, overall, should you go into a vanity press company to have your book printed ?
Like I said, there´s no harm in using their print on demand services if you don´t mind about their overpriced printing costs and – shop fees.
You can get your nice online store and if you do your market right you can actually sell a bunch of books every month for as long as you know how to promote your book. As I mentioned keep in mind that the print on demand system will take from you most of what you can make on your cover price; for example if you´re lucky you can get about $2 out of a $15 cover priced book you publish. But this is the way POD or print on demand makes money so you either accept the rules or not.
And like I said, the good side of all this is that you can actually start to put your work out there. I would rather have one book of mine on an vanity press print on demand online shop , than ten books forgotten in a drawer forever.

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Take advantage of the positive things the vanity shop print on demand can do for you when it comes to exposure but I would never pay any of them for any of their “publishing packages” if I were you.

And like I said in another post, if you are really serious about becoming an author, there´s other ways of self publishing your book that gives you more control. They are expensive because you will have to buy copies of your book in bulk and learn to navigate the distribution and marketing stuff yourself; but if you do that with money you had putt away to get a “publishing package” from a vanity press instead, you can bet in the long run you will get a lot more better results than if you were scammed by those fake “publishers” and you´ll totally make sure you own all your files too.

Authors are becoming so aware of all this that there is even a new term for “vanity press” ; trying to escape the bad hype many publishing options out there are now presenting themselves as “hybrid publishers” which in essence in most cases are just vanity press companies in disguise, so beware of that too.
In short, if you want to be safe publish your book, do it yourself, learn how to paginate, hire a cool illustrator and/or a graphic designer with the money you would pay a vanity press and print your books anywhere in the world. Then sell them yourself.


Not easy, you´ll not become the overnight author sensation vanity press promises you´re gonna be but take your time and don´t worry. If you have a good product based on quality work chances are you will get noticed. Just don´t be in a rush.





If you are searching for how to hire a children´s book illustrator or concept artist take a look at my illustration portfolio (Fantasy or Childrens Book art ) no matter what your budget is don´t hesitate to contact me and let´s see what we can do together.








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Self publishing, is it worth it ? An illustrator´s point of view.

The most professional, best looking amateur ever ignored !

Self publishing, is it worth it ? Well, if you search the internet about this topic there´s a million different opinions out there. Most of them really negative on how self publishing ca be a waste of time or how self publishing keeps being a bad idea.
I have read a lot of things but I never read any article or opinion, from a professional illustrator point of view. This is where I think I can contribute to the discussion and bring a little beam of positive light into this so much trashed idea about self publishing your books.


One popular understanding out there is that self published authors spend more time just trying to do their own marketing and stressing about it, than actually being writers and enjoying what they do.
Self published authors end up spending 90% of their time doing marketing and sometimes even less than 10% actually creating something.
And this is when people still pursue their dream and don´t just simply quit after the first couple of months with zero sales and zero visibility. Mostly because  like me, they have zero talent for online self marketing, or many times, (also like me), have absolutely no time to do it properly…and that is where the 90% marketing argument comes in.
Very true.

Particularly true if you, as a self published author expect to get rich or instantly make a career in writing or think you´re going to become an overnight superstar sensation on the web.
For every success story you read online and some really are true, there´s about a billion self publish failures out there.
And I speak for myself too. Trust me, I´m guilty of everything I see mentioned as a negative thing about self publish you see on the web also. Like everyone I made a ton of mistakes on my first attempts.
Working full time in illustration I hardly have the time to illustrate for clients, let alone do something for me that requires hours a day. The fact this blog has been on halt for almost a year now is proof of that too.
In short, if you don´t do your marketing right, chances are you will not become a popular author.


If you think about it, that is true for everything.
And the first step to avoid that fate, if you want to have any chance of ever achieving something with your book, is to put yourself out there.

Handwriting Text Publish. Concept Meaning Make Information Avail

Don´t be afraid to put your work out in the world. Just do it as a hobby.
Do it for fun.
But do it really well !
In the specific world of children book authors , if you can invest some money in creating a really good looking , well produced book go for it as that is the way to arrive.
Rule number one, if you put yourself out there , if you´re looking to understand how to self publish your children´s book, your work needs to look as professional as possible.

Because in self publishing the risk number 1 is not investing a bunch of money on a project and then not recover your investment. Risk number 1 is arriving at the scene looking immediately like an amateur.
And don´t think because you´re self publishing,  therefore you´re not being that noticed, you won´t be immediately labeled as a stinky amateur. Sometimes by someone that matters and could really take your book to a different level.
Being labeled as an amateur should be your number 1 fear.
And why ?

Because self publish despite all the negative connotation that keeps having in many opinion circles, has a fantastic positive thing that in fact should be your number 1 goal right from the first go.
Self publishing can do for your book, with your name attached the same the initial free illustration web galleries did for illustrators like me when we started to arrive at the online illustration field many years ago, circa 1999.
Back then when I started to experiment with online job search on illustration it was the fact that sites like the classic Elfwood already existed that brought me my first commissions.
Online galleries that allowed us to post our illustration work for free ; sites like that which later evolved into stuff like the now popular Deviant art; which allowed us to spread our work around and get noticed.
That is why nowadays as an illustrator I also sell my own fantasy and science fiction illustrations on stores like Displate or as downloadable prints at my brand new Etsy store.
I´m not trying to get rich or even be a successful entrepreneur at we-commerce. I´m doing it for exposure because, many illustration commissions already came from clients that bought posters at my Displate shop.


So, keep this in your mind when it comes to self publishing and before you get too depressed with the standard negativism out there from many articles.
Without you ever noticing it , your work can be seen.
Not only by amateurs but also by “invisible eyes” connected either to illustration agencies, publishing companies or when it comes to children books , if yours is really good , get the attention of some major mainstream publisher.
We never know who´s looking at our work online.
And you don´t need 1000 visits.
You only need 1.
The right one.
The one person who´s actually connected to an established spot within the art/publishing or media industry.
The one person that notices your work and recognizes your value and potential.
The one person that contacts you based on your “simple” online presence and which can take your name and your work to the next level creating new opportunities for you.



I´m now an online full time illustrator because of this mindset.
I spent years “failing” and “self publishing” my artwork all over the place. And I failed so much and so many times that one day things started to work for me.
So it can happen to you , either if you´re an artist or an independent children´s book author you too can follow the same steps that many times contribute to establishment of indie companies like New Paige Press which is my favorite independent publisher to work with.
But that will never happen if your book looks totally amateur at first glance.
In just one second you can be totally forgotten.
So you should not go for 1000 visits or 1000 “LIKES”.
You should go for – that one second – of attention from someone , the 1 visit that really matters.

After spending 28 years in illustration, with about 10 years working full time online and in which 5 of those ten were also dedicated to create illustration work for a lot of independent and self publishing authors, at least from my point of view and personal life experience I can guarantee you that 90% of those people that really fail in self publishing , may not being failing just on the marketing side. There´s more to failure than the corporate reasons stated on my anti-self publishing articles out there.
It won´t matter if your marketing skills are awesome, if you´re the king and queen of social media in your own neighborhood or if you spend thousands of $ or € on Facebook adds or Add Words.
If you have really ugly book, which totally screams amateur up front there´s no reason to blame anything else. You can even have the greatest children book story ever told. You have an ugly amateur book, you´re gone.


The main thing that negative articles about self publish usually don´t mention, or don´t give much attention to, is the fact that probably 99% of the self published children books out there fail because they are really amateur and really , really badly produced when it comes to illustration.
I see that happening all the time in children´s book Facebook groups, Instagram and all over the place.
Many people think their book is so awesome that they are convinced they don´t even need to invest on professional artwork, professional editing or professional design.

As an illustrator, I see that all the time.
As an illustrator I see people in forums asking themselves how come their book is not selling when many times the answer is right there visually ! And don´t even try to explain to them what is happening with their book.
I´ve made that mistake once trying to help an author and let´s just say it, from now on if a person don´t ask for my opinion as an illustrator I won´t be the one to comment.

If you´re a children book author and you are serious about it, although self publish is mostly free out there, that does not mean you should not have a good initial budget when it comes to producing your book.
I´ve seen people in forums with incredible amateur books ( the ones which are only loved by mum and friends ), but because they are loved by their mum and friends ( yes, that is an actual real argument for quality in more than one project that I knew ), the author is convinced he does not need to spend money on professional artwork.
In one example that I know, the author did not wanted to spend more than $25 per spread page because he found – an artist – on a known crowdsource site that did the entire book for less than $150.

Let´s just say, that you don´t want to arrive on the children book scene with a $25 spread page book. Not even on print on demand.
No matter how your mum and friends will say it´s great ( and you got it cheap too!! )
You really end up getting what you payed for. And this is not a compliment.

If you don´t know how to hire a children´s book illustrator for your project, do not make the mistake of thinking because , oh , you´re just self publishing , it´s your first try, you don´t have any money to invest on it and so it does not matter that much who you get.
It does matter.
Wait a bit, gather some cash and create your book well.
Don´t be one of those “self published” authors that contribute for the extremely negative numbers the self publishing scene presents from the mainstream side of things. It´s those self publish “authors” that totally justify the bad reputation self publish still has.

Don´t expect to get rich, but if you do it well, trust me; you will recover your art investment money and you can expect some surprises along the way. You never know who´s looking at your work online. You only need 1 person. 😉
Present yourself well, put a real quality book out there and make sure you´re the most professional best looking amateur that was ever ignored !

But beware of Vanity Press scams
Vanity press

More on this later. 😉




If you are searching for how to hire a children´s book illustrator or concept artist take a look at my illustration portfolio (Fantasy or Childrens Book art ) no matter what your budget is don´t hesitate to contact me and let´s see what we can do togheter.










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