Then the music starts with the deep notes of the Jaws theme. Our heart rate increases as the music picks up in tempo. Something is not right here. We want to scream to the writer, "Get out of the water quick! You're in danger!" but no sound comes out of our throats. We are paralyzed, mesmerized by the tragedy about to unfold in front of our eyes. Something awful is about to snatch our writing friend out of her happy writing dream. Something that's out for blood.
It's worse than sharks.
It's worse than parahna (which wouldn't be in the ocean anyway).
It's an unscrupulous vanity publisher, gliding through the water in the guise of a traditional publisher.
So what? you think. How bad could it be? It's not like it can skeletize a cow in less than four minutes.
Well, it depends. It could be okay, but it could be bad. As a writer, it's up to you to educate yourself. Not all vanity publishers are bad. Some of them are just what they say they are: publishers who will publish your book for a fee. They're upfront and above board, and there's nothing wrong with using them if you want to pay to get published and then take on all the marketing and distribution that will be left in your lap. But some vanity houses craftily try to represent themselves as traditional publishers. These will gush over the manuscript you send with hopes of enticing you to take a dip in the water of the publishing world. They're happy to serve you—for a not-so-small fee.
So if you're planning to take the plunge into the writing world, don't say I didn't warn you. The more you educate yourself by researching publishers, the better off you'll be. If someone asks you to pay to be published, beware. Traditional publishers DON'T charge writers. EVER. The vanity press might be on the up and up, but the pitfalls there can be numerous if they aren't.
Don't lose any sleep over the sharks. Vanity publishers are more dangerous. They can get you on land, and you might never realize you've been had until it's too late.
For good info on who you can trust in the publishing industry, check out Writers Beware Blog and Editors and Preditors.