Blog Post: Who’s Up Wednesday? My Pal Morgan Kearns on Subsidy Publishing

I’m really psyched to have my friend and colleague Morgan Kearns share some of her publishing tips and expereinces today.  She and I belong to the same writing organization and her energy in coordinating exciting networking discussions is contagious.  She’s a guru when it comes to branding and social media… AND she’s a bestselling author of romance who survived the intense and every-changing insanity of television news before retiring to enter the jungle of raising four children. Her Deadlines & Diamonds series is a favorite among fans. The newest release, Lucky 13, quickly joined the other titles on Kindle’s bestseller list. Morgan lives in Northern Arizona with her family and her English Bulldog, Gus.  Here’s what she has to say… and she provides a link on a upcoming workshop THIS WEEKEND!

Subsidy Publishing: Friend or Foe?

Let me be clear: Subsidy Publishing, no matter its name, is not Self-Publishing.

One of the worst mistakes any author considering self-publishing can make is to Google “self-publishing.”  Such a search will bring up options that are often not helpful.

Every author should ask, “What are my writing goals?”

If the answer is to publish a few copies of the work to distribute to family and friends, then a Subsidy Publisher might be a plausible option.

However, if the answer is to start a career as a legitimate author, Run! Do not walk away from any “publisher” who charges you to publish your book!

Don’t get me wrong, publishing a book costs money. If you’re not prepared to open your wallet for professional editors and cover artists, you’re not ready to do this for a career and so the rest of this article doesn’t pertain.

*waits for the door to close*

Great. Now let’s talk down and dirty.

What is a Subsidy Publisher (aka Vanity Press or Joint Venture Publishing)?

A SP’s goal is to make money off of the fabulous package they’re going to sell you, not on the royalties they don’t anticipate you’ll make. Packages commonly include: minimal editing services, a cover, a website (for the title of the book, not the author—a topic for another time), an ISBN (with their name attached to it) and the cherry-on-top, their amazing marketing services. All of this for the bargain price of…A LOT!

Much like those Big Six publishers in New York, most SPs require the author to sign a contract. This contract gives the SP rights to exclusively publish the book for a certain amount of time. Two years seems to be standard.

Horror story: A friend of mine used a SP to publish her children’s novel. They held the rights, both print and digital, but refused to publish to Kindle/Nook/etc. She was stuck because she didn’t own the rights to her own book.

After the contract has expired, the author can then request the manuscript back. That’s all the author owns. The manuscript. Not the cover. Not the formatting. Not the ISBN.

So, now there are two choices: One, leave the book where it is and let the “publisher” continue to “market” your book. Or, two, take your rights back and completely restart the process from scratch. The book has now lost two years (or more, depending on the contract length) and all of that money is GONE.

Self-publishing (aka Indie) is quickly gaining recognition from national organizations. In July, the Romance Writers of America voted to allow Indie authors into their coveted Published Author Network. Even some traditionally published authors don’t qualify for this prestigious club because of the financial criteria. Within these same new guidelines, SP is specifically listed as a disqualification.

That’s a lot of negative, I know. Let’s talk about the positives of SP. Maybe the author has more money than know-how? With an SP, said author can sign the contract, hand over their credit card, upload their manuscript and walk away. Easy Peasy!

If this sounds like the path you prefer, then please, please, please check Editors & Predators ( for the publisher’s reputation before doing anything else.

Interested in Self-Publishing?

Here are three great opportunities for more information:

Arizona Author’s Association – 7th Annual Writers Wkshop

*Free* – No registration required

November 10th, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona

Professional Writers of Prescott – All day Self-Publishing Wkshop

*Member benefit* – Dues are $15/year – Limit 50 people

February 23rd, 2013 in Prescott, Arizona

Buildin’ the Dream – 1st Annual Author’s Helping Authors Event

*$25* – Registration required

May 31st, 2013 in Chandler, Arizona


If you like what you’ve read, please comment and share!


  1. I made the mistake of using a vanity press for my first novel back when ebooks were barely heard of. I was lucky, though, that my contract said that I still held all rights and could discontinue their services whenever I wanted to. True to their word, they allowed me to end the relationship. However, I cringed at the money I spent on their publishing package. The worst part was the price they charged for my book! $19.99 plus shipping for a fairly short paperback novel. And when I bought copies? $15…plus shipping.

    Morgan, you have given some very good advice here. It’s much needed for those just starting out since many of them have no clue where to go for help. 🙂

    • tsblogin09 Said:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Lauralynn.

    • Thanks Lauralynn. I feel very strongly about this particular pitfall. Please join us at Buildin’ the Dream in May!

      • I wish I could, Morgan. Anya wanted me to come, but I have a conflict that can’t be changed.

  2. I wish writers seriously looking at how to publish their work would read this. I am indie-published and plan to stay that way. But I have “mentored” new authors who want to go the route I have only to have them be “dazzled” by some small press and sign a contract. . .and then complain about everything because they’re locked in.
    Writers need to do their homework before they become published.

    • tsblogin09 Said:

      Hi Jamie — you hit the nail on the head — different presses work depending on writers’ goals — doing homework to see the best fit is a great reminder.

    • Yep. It’s all about the facts, Max. 🙂

  3. kristualla Said:

    Subsidy presses kill careers. And they feed on the ignorant. It’s so sad to see the horrid results knowing that THOUSANDS of the author’s dollars are gone.

  4. Denis Ledoux Said:

    The Beatles sponsored themselves, so did Virginia Woolf and Thomas Kincade doesn’t seem to have suffered from marketing his own artwork. One of my self-published books. Turning Memories Into Memoirs/ A Handbook fir Writing Lifestories, has sold 33,000 copies in the last twenty years. If I assume that I got at least $10 for every copy sold (it now retails for $24.95 and I am positive that thousands of copies brought me more than $10!) then I have earned at least a third of a million dollars on this book alone. Not a bad take for a writer in rural Maine. How many writers can say they have earned in excess of $330,000 on a book? You also have to consider that the book led to ancillary sales such as workshops, coaching, editing, ghostwriting and book production and you might agree with me that I did much better than I might have had I gone a traditional publisher route and collected 10% and had to tone down the self-promotion I embedded in the book. Is elf-publishing viable? I endorse it all the way.

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