The book publishing industry is beset by an absurd debate about the integrity of certain business models: vanity publishing, subsidy publishing, collaborative publishing, partnership publishing, and so on.
Certainly there are some businesses that are clearly out to take an author’s cash. Such examples can be found in any industry. It’s very much a case of buyer beware.
Where I have a problem is that the debate (often argument) is focused on who pays to produce a book. I don’t see how that is even vaguely meaningful in any business terms whatsoever. What matters most is how a business model allows an author to make a full-time living from writing.
Will a ‘traditional’ publishing deal where an author receives an advance against royalties on a 10% base lead to a full-time writing career? Usually not!
Is it possible for an author to recoup their $20,000 investment in production costs when a deal only includes 100 printed books? Absolutely not.
The debate ought to focus not on the money ‘in’, but the money ‘out’.