There are vanity publishers out there which insist that they are not vanity publishers because they don't charge their writers anything for publication. PublishAmerica, a notorious reverse vanity publisher, even pays its authors a token advance of one dollar in an attempt to signify its good intent.
As is so often the case, all is not necessarily what it appears.
A vanity publisher is one which makes the majority of its money from its authors, rather than from selling its books on to new readers. Ordinary vanity publishers do this by charging their writers fees upfront for publication, and often making further charges of extras that they consider optional, like editing, design, press release writing and distribution and so on—all of which are done as standard and for free by reputable mainstream publishers.
So how can a publisher which charges no upfront fees be considered a vanity press? Especially when, like PublishAmerica, it pays its authors an advance? Simple.
Instead of charging of those upfront fees, our reverse-end vanity publisher gets its authors to pay after the event, usually by persuading them to buy copies of their own books for resale, often at inflated prices. PublishAmerica does very well out of this business model: at the last count it claimed it had signed up over 35,000 happy writers. No wonder PublishAmerica’s CEO Willem Meiners can afford to fly a helicopter.