Several years ago I did a blog about Archway Publications and to this day, I still get emails from authors asking me how to get out of the contracts they had signed. I can't advise you on how to do that, but I can give you some insight into Vanity presses.
The biggest difference between vanity presses and a regular publisher is that vanity presses make money by charging the author. A regular press makes money from the books it sells and promotes.
The problem is, vanity presses often present themselves as regular publishers. Some of them are even backed by legitimate publishing companies. Archway is owned by Simon and Schuster, a company that has been around for many years. If you do not research the company thoroughly you will find yourself signing a contract that will cost you a huge amount of money.
For shits and giggles I looked up the old blog I wrote from 2012, and all of the same things are still happening! If you would like to read the previous blog here's a link to it. The comments are REALLY interesting!
Let's see what a vanity press can do for you... or NOT.
This is from Archway Publications website. Prepare for sticker shock!
So, Let's look at the base author $2k package. I'll try to keep my sarcasm in check.
-I assume the 'classic support' means they'll get back to you when they have a minute.
-ISBN- If you use an ISBN that they give you THEY will be listed as the publisher, not you. ISBNs cost $125 for one or 10 for $250 at Bowker.com. If you publish through Amazon you don't even need an ISBN.
-US Copyright registration. $35 bucks if you do it yourself. No biggie.
-Library of Congress control number. This is if you are going to be heavy in libraries, ie. more non-fiction. Again, though, something you can register yourself.
-'standard' cover design. Hm. For $50-100 bucks you can get AMAZING! Look at the lists of cover designers I have.
- interior book design and layout. Again, not expensive if you know where to look. I have a list above under Author Helps.
-cover copy review- basically they look at your blurb and tell you what they think.
-Editorial 'Assessment'- This is a big one. They might look at a chapter or two, then they will tell you how much editing will COST for your book. That's right, the editing in this package is EXTRA!
-Enhanced Listing Service- I believe this means they will tweak your metadata. But their phrase makes it sound hard, lol.
-Worldwide Book Distribution- sigh. Again, once you list your book YOURSELF with Amazon, you will BE a worldwide seller. They sell in about 30 countries. If you list your book with Kobo, they sell to like 128 countries!
-Personalized Bookstore Page- again, they inflate this to sound like it's impressive, but you will get more out of creating your own website. Seriously.
-Complimentary Author Copy- oh, they give you a copy of your own book! Awesome! (Sorry, is the sarcasm too much?)
-Author Volume Discounts- meaning, the more you buy the cheaper the books will be, BUT THEY WILL STILL TAKE THEIR PERCENTAGE.
-softcover B&W publishing- when you get your book formatted, or if you do it yourself through Vellum, this is literally one little checkmark to create the additional print file. Then you list the print file on Amazon and you will have a Print On Demand book.
-5 free paperback copies- so, they will give you 5 books. Then they will make their money back when they overcharge you for the rest of the books you order.
-ebook publishing- So, if I have my formatted file, I can publish on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, B&N, and Google Play within about an hour. Then I have complete control over my product and can run sales and advertising without a middle-man company.
-Amazon 'look inside' and Google Preview- Literally, you get this automatically from those sites when your book goes live. IT DOES NOT COST ANYTHING!
-same with B&N read instantly.
-image insertion- again, something that can be done by the formatter.
I can cover, edit and format a book for under a thousand dollars generally, depending upon the size of the book and the cover artist I use. Then I have complete control over the book. There are diagrams on this site to help you through the publishing process!