How do you tell the difference? Here are three ways that hybrid publishing and vanity publishing are fundamentally different.

Once upon a time, the world was divided into traditional publishers and vanity publishers. Traditional publishers bore all the financial risk for the publication of authors’ books and took care of the marketing too, expecting the books to pay for themselves through book sales. Vanity publishers, on the other hand, charged authors to publish and print their books (earning their money solely by providing these author services), and the marketing—if there was any—was entirely up to the author.

Nowadays, traditional publishers have become ever more discriminating in their choices of which authors they publish, while increasingly shifting the marketing duties onto authors. The way vanity publishers operate, however, remains largely unchanged.

At the same time, hybrid publishers have taken the modern publishing world by storm—combining the best of both publishing models and allowing a diverse range of voices to have their say in the marketplace.

Some traditionalists tend to lump vanity publishing and hybrid publishing together, since neither model is traditional publishing, and some vanity publishers unfortunately do try to disguise themselves as hybrid publishers for the greater respectability that that label bestows. However, vanity publishing and hybrid publishing have fundamentally different business and operational models.

To begin with, hybrid publishers are business partners with the authors they publish. They may charge for some services upfront in order to distribute the financial risk more evenly between the author and the publisher, but they ultimately have a vested interest in the success and the sales of your book.

Let’s take a closer look at just three of the ways that differentiate a hybrid publisher from a vanity publisher.


Readers don’t buy and read books by accident. It’s book marketing that pulls the invisible strings and gets books into readers’ hands. But who performs this essential function? With a hybrid publisher, marketing is a joint effort, while with a vanity publisher, marketing is solely the author’s responsibility.

Hybrid publishers are active agents in the marketing and distribution of your book, and they actively promote your book to target reading audiences. They analyze the market for your book and, with your input, create a holistic marketing plan. In their position as publishers, they draw on their existing audiences as well as work to attract new audiences and buyers. They also provide you with the tools and guidance to help you expand your author platform and sell more books.

If in doubt, ask a hybrid publisher about their sales. See what kind of success they have had.

Hybrid publishers may or may not offer packages or extra services to power additional marketing and promotion efforts, but this does not take away from the essential joint nature of marketing efforts when working with a hybrid publisher. Here the marketing burden needs to be a shared exercise between author and publisher.

Vanity publishers, however, leave the marketing entirely in your hands. They may offer to sell you packages or extra services for marketing and promotion, but without you agreeing to pump your money into promotion, no marketing at all would get done. For this reason, publishing with a vanity publisher could be likened to publishing into a void—the vast majority of books published with a vanity publisher will never sell more than 50 copies over the book’s lifetime.


Hybrid publishers are more selective in what books they publish, while vanity presses will pretty much publish anything that walks in the door.

Many hybrid publishers are organized around a theme or a specific audience demographic. However, all true hybrid publishers have established quality standards for the books they will publish.

If in doubt, ask any particular hybrid publisher about their selection criteria. Also, look at the reputation they have. This can provide real clues into what the publisher is all about and the experience you may have with them.

In addition, since readers are their real audience, hybrid publishers know the difference good editing can make in the quality of a finished book and always incorporate editing into their publishing process.

On the other hand, as a strictly fee-for-service operation, vanity publishers aren’t selective at all about the types or the quality of books that they publish. And for vanity publishers, editing is always optional.

Share in Your Success

Is your publisher committed to your book and ready to share in your continued success? This is one question that really differentiates hybrid publishers from vanity publishers.

Hybrid publishers are truly committed to nurturing your business partnership over time. Together you and the hybrid publisher will promote and sell your books and build your reading audiences. Your hybrid publisher will have a vested interest in you and your book’s long-term success.

The participation of vanity publishers, however, is extremely limited. The working relationship effectively ends once your book is published and the ink on your check is dry.

Today I’ve shown you just three of the ways that hybrid publishers and vanity publishers differ. However, as an author, the type of publisher you ultimately choose will depend on what you’re looking for from your publishing relationship and how you wish to define your book’s success.

Dudley Court Press

Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a full-service, hybrid publishing house, we help thoughtful people write their books and become successful published authors.

Are you interested in Self-Publishing? Let Dudley Court Press help you through our Assisted Self-Publishing Program.

For more information, including about DCP’s latest program Memoir Writing Made Easy, please get in touch at