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Vanity Publishing vs Hybrid Publishing: Are they really the same?

by Ameesha Green

When it comes to book publishing, there are many potential paths. In a recent blog, we explained what traditional publishing and self-publishing is, and the pros and cons of each. But they’re not the only publishing paths—there’s also hybrid publishing and vanity publishing. We don’t blame aspiring authors for finding this all a bit confusing, so we’ll explain these lesser-known types of publishing so you can choose the right option for your book. 

Hybrid publishing

If you know the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing, then it’s easy to understand that hybrid publishing is a hybrid of the two. Like traditional publishing, you are being published by a company, and they often (though not always) provide services such as editing, design, and proofreading. But like self-publishing, you front the cost of these services because you pay the publisher to produce the book for you. 

The way that individual hybrid publishers operate is quite broad and varied, with some offering more and better-quality services than others. Likewise, pricing can vary from cheap to expensive, and some offer a mix of up-front costs and royalty mixes.


  • You don’t need a literary agent to land a hybrid publisher.
  • You may get high-quality editing, design, and proofreading services.
  • You may have a genuine publishing partner on board to guide you.
  • The finish of your book may rival that of a traditional publisher.
  • You may be able to publish faster than with a traditional publisher.
  • You may get help with marketing.
  • The royalty rates may be much than a traditional publisher.
  • You will be eligible to win major book awards.


  • It can be difficult to spot genuine hybrid publishers from unethical vanity publishers (more on this shortly).
  • The barrier to entry for some hybrid publishers may still be relatively high, and there is no guarantee that they will publish your book.
  • The up-front costs may be thousands.
  • Depending on the company, the quality of work may not be as good as a traditional publisher or independent freelancers.
  • You don’t get to choose your editor, and you may not get a say in your cover design.
  • You may have to do a lot of the marketing yourself.
  • You probably won’t see your book in physical retailers unless the publisher has an agreement with bookstores.

Vanity publishing

As the name suggests, so-called “vanity publishing” is when a company approaches an author offering to publish their book—the idea being that they are preying on an author’s vanity or ego to be published. Such companies often strive to appear like they are traditional publishers, and can go to extreme lengths to do so, but unlike with traditional publishers, the author pays the publisher to produce the book, rather than the publisher paying the author.

In general, vanity publishers are frowned upon in the publishing industry, not least because they are deceptive in their practices. If you receive a cold email saying “We are X publisher and we’d love to publish your book”, there is a strong likelihood that it is from a vanity publisher because traditional publishers largely do not reach out directly to unknown authors with offers of a publishing deal. To land a traditional publisher, you have to contact them and pass a very high barrier to entry.

Pros (though some will argue that there are none):

  • It may appear to undiscerning readers that you have a traditional publishing deal, which can offer more kudos than self-publishing if people don’t understand what a vanity publisher is.
  • You may get some support with editing, design, proofreading, and marketing depending on the company.
  • There is a very low barrier to entry, and indeed there may be no barrier to entry at all, especially if a company reaches out to you directly.


  • You have to pay the publisher to publish your book, and this may be thousands.
  • Editing, design, and proofreading services may not be included or may be poor quality.
  • Marketing may not be included and if it is included, it may be ineffective.
  • Vanity publishers often try to appear like they are traditional publishers, so the basis of the relationship is built on deception.
  • You most likely will not see your book in physical retailers.
  • You may not be eligible to win awards depending on how the company is perceived in the industry.
  • Depending on the contract, they may have the rights to your book and even future books.

So, are they the same?

While both hybrid and vanity publishers charge up-front for publishing, how they operate is very different. Hybrid publishers are generally honest about being hybrid publishers, while vanity publishers often try to deceive aspiring authors into thinking they are getting a traditional publishing deal when they are not. 

Hybrid publishers generally care about their reputation to ensure they gain future customers, and hence they put effort into producing high-quality books and possibly supporting with marketing. Vanity publishers seemingly rely on flattering naïve authors, and presumably hoping the individual doesn’t Google their company name and discover literal horror stories from other authors about poor editing, lack of support, and being tied into contractual obligations for future books. 

Are they worth doing?

Some people—especially in the traditional publishing world—believe that authors should never have to pay to publish, and in an ideal world, this might be true. However, traditional publishing relies on publishers being able to predict which books will sell enough to make them not just a return on investment but also hefty profits, and this has led to a scenario where many manuscripts are rejected because the publisher does not see commercial worth in them. Likewise, where people with a guaranteed audience, such as celebrities and influencers, are more likely to get a publishing deal.

As such, hybrid publishers offer a modern method similar to that of traditional publishing but without the 99.9% chance of rejection because the author doesn’t have a big enough social media following or a popular enough subject matter. In that world, hybrid publishing offers a good balance to get professional services without the high barrier to entry.

But there is also another option: self-publishing service providers like us. We offer idea-to-bookshelf services for nonfiction authors including coaching, critique, editing, design, proofreading, and marketing. We’re not a traditional publisher. We’re not a hybrid or a vanity publisher. We help people like you get their books ready to self-publish professionally, with a high-quality finish that rivals that of a traditional publisher, only 10 times faster. And you keep your control and your royalties. We’re like your good friend who knows about books.

If this sounds like the right path for you, get in touch with us for a free call to discuss your manuscript and your aspirations. We’d love to work with you to bring your book to life.