One way for an author to see their book in print is to self-publish, but since that became more acceptable some vanity publishers try to pass themselves off as self-publishers.
For a book to be genuinely self-published, a name designated by the author as his publishing house must appear on the copyright page of the book as ‘Publisher’ and the book’s ISBN number must be registered by the ISBN Agency to that author as publisher.
All the copies of a self-published book are the property of the author to dispose of as he wishes. If an author does not wish to be involved with the sale and distribution of his book that can very easily be accounted for - when details of a book are sent to the ISBN Agency before publication there is a section on the form for “Distributor (if different from Publisher)”.
On the title page of every book there is a paragraph which, in essence, states “All rights are reserved. No part of this book can be stored on a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by whatever means without the prior permission in writing from the publisher.” I repeat, without the prior permission of The Publisher. Not ‘the author’ who is supposed to have ‘self-published’.
Any company which publishes books under its own name or imprint cannot, by definition, claim to help authors to self-publish.
If the name of the company, not the author, appears in the book as that of the publisher, not only can the author not claim to have self-published his book, but he has lost all control over it. If after the initial publication, someone should wish to produce large type copies (for the poorly-sighted), or take up film or television rights, or reprint it under their own imprint, or wishes to publish a copy in translation, there are (in some cases very lucrative) fees to be discussed and paid. But it is legally 'to The Publisher' that such application must be made and it is legally 'The Publisher' not the author - although he has been led to believe that he has self-published his work - who will benefit.
True self-publishing gives authors much greater control over the production and dissemination of their books.
“But what does it matter?” I hear some of you ask. Where the honest publisher is concerned, not a great deal perhaps. But there have always been so many ‘out there’ whose intention is to relieve the unwary of their money, aided in their intent by being able to refer to themselves in terms that are misleading.
I have been asked time after time “How can you tell the honest from the dishonest?”
Most vanity publishers make very similar claims and of the 100+ files on such companies that I have, only a small proportion have complaints presently laid against them. In the past I was receiving anything up to 30 complaints a day relating to some dozen companies and when in 1996 Telegraph Newspapers ran details of my campaign to clean up vanity publishing in several articles I received over 700 complaints in under a week - most of them relating to just one company. Fortunately, without exception, those companies no longer exist.
If over a period of time a publisher has been found to be honest in his claims and a man of his word who carries out what he claims he will, there is no problem. However he chooses to refer to himself his reputation is in his work not in any label.
It is those whose claim to be self-publishers is simply a ruse to attract the unwary author and to mask their dishonest intentions who make it necessary to police the way all vanity publishers refer to themselves. In all walks of life, the suspect have always spoilt things for the genuine.
In a climate where there are those determinedly intent on fleecing the unwary author it is impossible to tell simply from their promotional material whether a publisher is genuine or not, other than through a long-term monitoring of each company’s performance.
It is only after at least one full publishing cycle has been completed by the company will it become apparent whether the services claimed to be offered, are genuine or a misrepresentation.
(For details of how to go about self-publishing see a copy of my Advice Pack)