As I looked online for information and definitions regarding publishing options, I found that there is a lot of erroneous and/or confusing information floating around out there. Often, the author of the article has an obvious bias. Most people offer information to steer you in a specific direction. Here’s a brief recap of some of my findings thus far.books-584


An article by Ginnie Weihardt that appeared on stated the following:

“Definition: A vanity press is one option for writers who have not found a home for their work at a major press and do not have the means to entirely self-publish their book. A good vanity press will proofread and copyedit your manuscript, design a cover, print the book, and even provide some basic marketing services.

However, it is expensive to publish your book through a vanity press, and most authors do not recoup the expense. Nor will major publishing houses take your book more seriously as a result.”


Another blog post ( stated the following:

“Some people think so-called ‘traditional publishing’ is the only true publishing, and that any author who pays to publish their book is getting ripped off. Those folks will tell you that subsidy publishing is just a new name for the ol’ vanity press scam.

I disagree.

Subsidy publishing involves you hiring a company to print your book for you. Subsidy presses are generally very up front about this arrangement. They may provide the ISBN, which makes them your publisher as far as the record-keepers at Bowker are concerned. This may also be the case if you self-publish through Amazon or Smashwords. But the important thing is that you retain all rights to the book.

Her post goes on to state:

So this is an important distinction for authors to understand:

  • Royalty press [traditional publishing]: pays the author for publication rights.
  • Subsidy press: paid by the author for book production; author retains rights.
  • Vanity press: paid by the author for book production and press retains rights.”

Although she makes a very definite distinction between a subsidy press and vanity press, I found other sites that stated a subsidy press is the same as a vanity press. According to one blog,, a subsidy publisher is synonymous with a vanity press. And this man’s take on either a subsidy publisher or vanity press was essentially “buyer beware.”

In the research I’ve done thus far, the bottom line seems to be not so much in the classification of the type of publisher, or how we label them, but what the breakdown is in what they offer, how much they do, and who pays for what. In other words, how invested is your publisher in your book?


Traditional publishers assume the risk of an author’s book by paying for all costs associated with its production and promotion, paying the author for their book as well. Traditional publishers therefore own the rights to the book as well as the book’s ISBN.

With vanity presses and subsidy presses, the author assumes most, if not all, of the financial risk for their book. Depending on the structure of such presses, the author may also give up a large percentage of their royalties (usually more than 50%) as well as ownership of certain elements of the book, such as the ISBN.

That leaves me wondering how to define Merry Dissonance Press. The Press is most definitely not a traditional publisher—we don’t pay the author for the publication of their book nor do we take over complete control of how the book will look and what it will say. If we look at the definitions of vanity and subsidy presses, the press doesn’t fall cleanly in either. The author pays for all costs of production and promotion; however, the press is involved every step of the way, including the initial marketing strategy and plan.

The Press does NOT collect royalties—in my opinion, taking at least 50% of an author’s profits is ABSURD! The author has already paid to create their book. The Press does own the ISBN; however, the author owns the copyright and is entitled to all net profits of each and every book sale. In this “hybrid” model, we share the risk of the book’s success. Of course, the author assumes more risk, but The Press is interested in bringing books into the marketplace that make us move beyond and challenge our current thinking, books that inspire us. Books that make noise.

Merry Dissonance Press’s reputation is at stake to bring to market quality books with a unique message that have been well-edited and well-designed. That takes time, dedication, and lots of HEART! And MDP wants its authors to be successful–personally, professionally and financially–when it comes to publishing their books. After two years in this industry, working in this way is what feels right to me—it’s the only way to do it and the reason Merry Dissonance Press is here!

Have you written and published a book? Which route did you choose? Are you happy with your choice? Why or why not? Let’s keep the conversation going…