It is daunting for an inexperienced writer to approach a commercial publisher direct. It’s difficult to find out who to submit to, and what those editors want to see. And once all that’s done, those editors aren’t often keen to chat. While commercial presses value their writers they don’t cosy up to them: they prefer business relationships with their writers, not instant friendships.
Vanity publishers, on the other hand, go out of their way to seem friendly and approachable to all the writers they can find. They indulge in cheerful chatter and use all sorts of techniques to encourage new writers to feel that they share a friendship, rather than a business relationship: they make their writers feel safe, special and valued right from that very first contact.
Vanity presses insist that the big publishers consider themselves too important to consider work from new, apparently insignificant writers. They foster the belief that commercial presses treat their writers badly, and that vanity publishing is the only way to proceed if a writer wants to be treated with any sort of respect. It’s difficult to face rejection, and the criticism that that implies. It’s not surprising that many writers don’t feel up to exposing themselves to it over and over again, and that when they find a press which seems to understand what they’re going through, and it is willing to take a chance on their writing, they decide that it must be a good one.
When they are eventually slapped with a demand for money they justify it in all sorts of ways. This publisher must be a good guy, they reason: it understands how difficult it is to get published, it’s prepared to give a chance to an unknown, and no one else will even consider them—which is what the publisher has told them, one way or another, right from that very first contact. The vanity publisher has made them feel safe, among friends, and appreciated, whereas the commercial publisher simply rejected their work.
Commercial presses aim to seduce their readers, not their writers, because that’s who they sell to, and that’s where they make their money: vanity presses focus their attentions on the writer, because that’s where their particular pot of gold lies.