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!
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