As easy as this seems to be and is for some authors and writers to figure out the difference between them, it's not as clear cut as it should be. I found this out the long and hard way.
When I started I got my publisher who told me they are a "traditional publishing house" and that's what I wanted - no vanity press. After a year with them and hours and hours of on-line studying documents to market my 2 books and myself I was told by several writers groups, including the Boston Writer's Group that no matter what they say, if you pay for services in advance they are a vanity press. They told me to steer clear but, of course, I was already involved and had a Facebook page set up by them and 2 paperbacks on the WWW, and eBooks on their website.
So, no matter what anyone says, if you're paying for services to publish your books in advance, your with a vanity press and not a regular publisher.
Another way to know that difference; if you secure an agent, they use a publisher for sure. A publisher will pay an advance in many cases for your work before they publish it because they've read your work thoroughly and have made a conscious decision that it's worth their time and effort and will make them and you money! The publishers profit success depends on sales and that means they're in it to make money. While a vanity press already got paid by you and can be less worried about the end result. Even though their reputation is out there, there are many writers who get insulted or disappointed by the constant query letter turn downs and jump on the next person who is willing to put their work on-line.
Research, ask questions, watch videos and do it over and over again to be as prepared as you can be before you invest because even then there's more to learn as this industry is vast and always changing!
Good luck with your endeavors. Don't forget to join the email list to be updated on news and other interesting stories, tips and tricks for writers, authors and business people alike!
There are hundreds of companies world wide offering a myriad of services to the writer/author to help them get their work to the masses. The problem, unfortunately is there are also many of them who don't have the contacts to do the job as you may see fit or aren't astute enough to make correction or changes to your books.
So, what to do? Well, in my case it's weeks of sifting through internet pages for every thing I needed done to cherry pick who had the smarts, educational training, contact or whatever that would get me the most bang for the buck I was spending.
I implore you new and established authors (and this is a good reference point for the business entrepreneur also), to ask these on-line agencies and specialty places of business for some of their customer recommendations, and if possible, a contact name or something to ask them yourself what they thought of the services they were provided.
In cases of choosing book covers images there are illustrators who design original art for your covers and those who provide many choices and swap out parts of those cover images between others to form new cover art that they cane sell. Those non-specialized cover images are cheaper but, as I got from my publisher, will appear in someone else's book cover art in part on the web.
When choosing a editor or proofreader, well, in case you didn't already know, they're not the same thing. Although they people often seem to use the words interchangeably, one service is provided with more precise correction of punctuation, sentence structure, repetitiveness of your words/adjectives/nouns and etc. while the other is more of a check of the tone of your chapters and how readable and exciting they are to the reader.
Proofreading is the minimal and cost less while editing is more expensive and more in-depth. Be sure you question the person or company you are about to hire to make sure they do what you are expecting before you dish out any cash! Do you want them to move parts of a sentence around, say, from the end to the beginning to word it better, Do you need real help with semicolons vs. colon placement and other punctuation? What about reusing the same word over and over in a chapter. There is software available for that like Autocrit so check it out or send me a question and I'll try to help out as best as I can.
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