There’s been quite a bit of talk about this on forums I belong to. Is “subsidy publishing” another word for vanity publishing?
I would argue it actually depends on exactly what your publisher does. Willow Bank, an imprint of which, Butterfly, has published one of my novels and is working on three others, actually does both.
I would say, that if the publisher just takes the money and does nothing, publishes everything offered to them, then they are vanity. If they edit and select, do much of the publicity and distribution work which the self-publishing author does not have time to do, then they really are doing something different from the old vanity publishers. It has to be at a reasonable cost to the author.
It is certainly true that writing well and in a way to appeal to your target audience is no longer enough. You do have to get yourself noticed one way or another.There are temptations about self-publishing. It is becoming respectable. You do have all of the control. The big draw back is that you do not sell the vast numbers of books that a mainstream publisher can. You do not have the same access to the market. The outlay, if you use a company such as Lightning source is minimal, but not free. Typically, title set up is £35 - £47. You need a cover designing – that could be £250 and you need to create your own PDF file. The actual cost of each copy of the book is about 70p plus 1p per page. It’s always good to have a proof copy made and that’s about £25.00. Then you have to think about discounts to bookshops. It becomes quite difficult to keep the cost down to what the normal book publishers charge. But if you have something rather special it can be worth it.