You’re all excited and you tell your best friend that your book (that you’ve taken eighteen months to write) will be published in two weeks. ‘Wow,’ she says getting caught up in the moment. ‘Why didn’t you tell me that you’d been signed. That is wonderful. Who are you with?’

‘What do you mean with?’ you reply. ‘I’m not “with” anyone. I went to this small publisher and they agreed to publish my book for me.’ To be honest, you’re a bit irritated that you had to explain this. Then you look at your friend’s face. The pride she had has now faded and her expression is one of disappointment. She wants to say, ‘So no one was interested?’ but instead she mutters. ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t understand. Well, well done anyway.’ And your pride fades as well.

Have any of you ever experienced this? That is often the way that the public perceive anyone that hasn’t been published by a mainstream publisher. It is mostly from a perspective of ignorance as well, as many indie publishers sell more books than their traditional cousins. However, there is a difference between ‘self-publishing’ and ‘vanity publishing’.

On the face of it they appear to be the same thing. Either way the author ends up paying for the book to be published, however, with true self-publishing the idea should be that it is an investment and not just a pet project to see yourself in print. Self-publishing is about getting your book to a wide audience, to produce a product that readers will pay for and tell their friends about. Self-publishing is about sales and positioning. Vanity publishing is about having your book in print to tell your friends that you have a book.

Depending on your ambitions there’s nothing wrong with that either and it can lead to bigger and better things. When I published my first book in November 2013 it was a vanity publishing project. I wrote it in three weeks, went to a printer who printed it the following week and I had 100 copies of my book. What was important about this was that it proved I could finish writing a book. It had a beginning, middle and end and when I got those first two boxes I had a book to sell. I was speaking at an event the following week and I sold sixty copies that day and the rest quickly after. In my own way it was a success. Except it wasn’t. I hadn’t approached it professionally. It needed editing and proof-reading, there was no ISBN, no ebook version, the cover was terrible and the quality of the book poor. My next book was going to be better.

It was. I spent eighteen months writing and researching it. It did have an ISBN, it was in ebook format, it was edited and proof-read, the cover was good, I researched marketing (I still made many mistakes there mind you) and I had a proper book launch. It has helped me in every aspect of writing and publishing ever since. It was also featured in national (and international) media.

The approach in the two books could not have been more different. If you want to produce a book that your family and friends can be proud of then vanity publishing is a viable route for you. If you want to make an impact on the world and reach a far wider audience then self-publishing (done well) is the way forward.

As always if this has inspired more questions contact us at 3P Publishing on 01536 560410 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

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