The story so far: 6 months of Not for Vanity

A word from our co-founder Alex Mingoni

Today I asked The Internet: “Is a 6-month business milestone worth celebrating?”. According to search engines, it is only if you are a man in a relationship (??), have employees working for you or a new born baby. Well, here at Not for Vanity we are always challenging the norm, so I thought I’d ignore digital wisdom and go with my instinct instead. I am absolutely sure you are familiar with the overwhelming sensation of your fingers itching to write (on good days at least), so here we are!

On January 18th, we’ll be celebrating six months since we announced we were “Open for Business”. By WE I mean Ella – a writer like many of you and teacher in training – and Alex, a former consultant who left the hustle and bustle of London corporate life behind to pursue something she could call her own. 

Back in July last year, we took a gamble: are people even going to listen to us? Will our voice be powerful enough to give a meaningful contribution to the indie publishing world (easy tiger…)? Our idea for Not for Vanity had been a work in progress for quite some time when we launched. It was born out of recklessness and careful research, as well as a great passion for reading, writing, and the creative industries in general. To put it simply, we felt self-published voices needed to be heard louder. We’ve always been against the concept of “vanity project”, reductive and fundamentally unfair, given how challenging it is to enter the conventional publishing world. Yes, there might be badly written books out there (personally, I would NEVER put pen to paper, I am terrible at creating stories) but in our experience, there are also so many great self-published writers it’s extremely hard to keep up.

While we are still very small, we’ve never embraced a project with such passion and dedication, so we really don’t want to stop. Have a look below to find out what we’ve been up to so far.

17 BOOK REVIEWS PUBLISHED | We read all the books we review from beginning to end. We’ve tackled 7 fiction sub-genres so far: crime, dystopian, fantasy, LGBTQ+, romance, thriller and young adults.

11 BLOG POSTS | We’ve covered a variety of topics we know our audience cares about, from writing tips and other “how to” guides to book recommendations and writing competitions.

5 SELF-PROMOTION FEATURES | A few months into our journey, we realised we wanted to give space to more authors but were unable to keep up with demand, so at the end of 2022 we launched our ‘Promotion’ page: weekly self-promotion events featuring a specific author in the form of a short interview (read this post if you’d like to be featured too!). All our features are created with the utmost care and are bespoke to each of our writers.

4 AUTHOR INTERVIEWS | We only interview authors whose books we’ve read, to create the most relevant questions and a personalised experience. We prioritise impact over cliché. 

1 DIGITAL PARTNERSHIP | We are delighted to be sponsoring “The Mr.Mike Podcast: Wrong Answers Only”. The podcast is now in its second season and welcomes a variety of guests, primarily from the education and publishing world. What we like the most about Mike’s podcasts is that they are extremely entertaining and a source of inspiration, no matter the topic. The two best spent hours of our week and something we always look forward to. Intrigued? All episodes are available here:

On a parting note…

Before Not for Vanity saw the light at the end of July, little did we know the life of a founder would be the most demanding we’ve lived so far (while juggling everything else) but also the most rewarding. As we celebrate the first six months in business, we would like to thank the authors who have trusted us with their work so far and hope we’ll be able to showcase many more in the future. Interested in being part of our journey? Get in touch at


#selfpromofriday Meet: Rhys Reed-Johnson

It’s Week Two of our 2023 Self-Promo Friday event and a special week indeed… As we are expanding our horizons to new genres, the focus today is on children’s literature (the subject of last week’s feature also). It’s our pleasure to introduce screenwriter Rhys Reed-Johnson, author of the delightful ‘King Arthur’s Cat‘. Have a look at what he told us about his work.

King Arthur’s Cat. Creative Writing Club, 2022.


King Arthur’s Cat is mostly about… a cat. It is also mostly about King Arthur. Now I won’t say who… but one of them holds the title ‘Worst king of Camelot’ and spends most of the day sleeping, while the other eats fish and licks himself. For those interested, the cat happens to be called Sir Softpaws and King Arthur is called many things beside King Arthur, often using naughty words. When Sir Softpaws suddenly grows fifty feet tall as if by magic and Merlin is nowhere to be found, a whole bunch of trouble breaks out in Camelot. Every dog runs away. Giant hairballs block the streets. Somebody drinks the moat dry. Random bystanders are accidentally squished by a fleeing orange stripy suspect. It’s total chaos, chaos without rules, rules without hope, hope without a clue, especially when the chances of returning Sir Softpaws to his normal size seem less than certain. What’s worse, Arthur decides he wants to help, and no matter what nonsense the King tries to fix the problem, a right royal pickle is usually the result.


I’m thrilled you asked. There are just simply more reasons than I can possibly count, but here’s a few surefire wallet-openers. The cover art is age-appropriate, the book’s weight is evenly distributed, and its pages are much softer and more enjoyable to turn than the average itchy shelf-stacker. The font is easy on the eyes as is the author. The story has that beginning, middle, and end fad people appreciate in their fiction. Some characters are likeable and the ones who aren’t are routinely punished. For the first time in any book I know of, a cat has a frank conversation with a dragon, boldly breaking new literary ground. There’s an educational bonus too: readers can learn about the devastating effects of sawdust and what can happen in a cluckawort outbreak. Finally and very importantly, the book redresses a grave historical injustice: as a society we’ve heard far too many stories about one man and his dog at the expense of unfairly marginalising the relationship between one man and his cat – love is love and cats are pets. Finally again, it is my opinion some books are too heavy, especially for children, but this book you can easily grip in one hand and so prevent tears before bedtime.


Yes, yes I can. I am a writer, in this case, of books. Having learned to spell my name sometime in childhood, my literary career has come on leaps and bounds since then. I once dressed as a horse and almost got shot by Her Majesty’s Government for my craft. It remains my proudest achievement. Over the years, I’ve sat at a lot of tables and written a lot of stuff for a lot of things; the only medium I have yet to apply my trade to is sock puppetry (something I might do if the money’s right). I have won many awards and lost even more awards. So long as there’s a roof over my head and a roast chicken in my fridge, I am the happiest soul alive.


I think adults have read too much. As such, it’s much harder to trick them into believing dragons and/or magic exists, that going on adventures is a worthwhile hobby, or working hard and trying your best is what’s really important in life. Children are easier to entertain. I’d rather create obvious fun than something needing an intersectional postmodernist lens to be deconstructed for absolutely nobody’s enjoyment. As for where my inspiration comes from, I give everybody the same answer: the need to pay rent. It is so easy to be creative when there are bills to pay.


Readers can find me @rhysreedjohnson on Twitter and Instagram

King Arthur’s Cat’ is available here:


Love is the best Revenge 

The second full length novel by contemporary fiction author AH Bracken 

Love is the best Revenge. AH Bracken, 2022.

Set in the fictional town of Somerzoy, ‘Love is the Best Revenge’ tells the (love – hate – and everything in between) story of best-selling romance novelist Lady Marianne Clemenceaux and journalist Tom Underwood. What’s the catch? Lady Marianne, daughter of an Earl, is loved and respected by the local community and a well-established name in publishing. Life’s good until Tom Underwood takes a job at the local gazette and writes an unforgiving article about her, questioning her authenticity and ability to create relatable stories – given her privilege, does she really know how ordinary people live? It’s not really that simple though, as Lady Marianne has a secret: what is she hiding behind her pink aura of perfection and literary glory? Tom Underwood has a secret too: he’s in Somerzoy to rebuild his career and reputation following a journalistic reporting flop in his previous job. Tom’s article bewilders Somerzoy citizens, and they join forces to help Lady Marianne. One of them in particular, Maria – the enigmatic raven-haired town mechanic – seems really keen to seek revenge on Lady Marianne’s behalf. Instantly fascinated by her, Tom Underwood falls in love with her, failing to see her hidden agenda. Unfortunately, revenge is hardly straightforward, and all plans will come crushing down, as Tom and Lady Marianne’s paths finally cross. 

While as a reader I am not naturally drawn to contemporary romance novels, I am making it my mission today to explain the 5 reasons why ‘Love is the Best Revenge’ is THE quintessential romantic novel and one to read NOW. 

1 | A sympathetic heroine. Maria is a complex character with lots of different nuances to her personality. She is a strong-willed young woman who’s also vulnerable (but not weak), extremely intelligent and capable. Maria’s humanity makes her very relatable, especially when it comes to her constant struggle with her wealthy parents, who refuse to understand why she wants to distance herself from her family heritage and privilege by challenging stereotypes through her tattoos, raven-black hair and by working as a mechanic.

    2 | A strong, irresistible (anti) hero. Tom Underwood is perhaps the polar opposite of the irresistible, fascinating male main character you would expect in a romantic novel. However, Tom is also a well-rounded character with very interesting layers to his personality: career-focused and trying hard to restore his reputation as a journalist after believing the wrong person; confident enough to put himself out there and chase what seems to be an impossible romance but sensitive and brave enough to question his own decisions and challenge himself to be a better man. Thanks to these two very strong main characters, Bracken makes you buy into the story immediately.

    3 | Emotional tension. At the heart of every romance, emotional conflict keeps the heroine and the hero from being together throughout the story even though they want to be. Again, Bracken did a great job here, creating a tension that’s complex, never dull, believable, and grows from the interaction between the two characters. I must confess that while reading I almost found myself shouting at them to finally stop resisting their feelings and recognise they are made for each other.

    4 | A believable plot. The context in which the emotional journey of our characters develops is perfectly believable. In terms of the social aspect, Maria comes from a noble family so that’s probably hard to relate to as it’s further away from our daily lives, but her rebellious, freedom-seeking spirit is by all mean something we can all understand. Tom comes from a middle class, caring family and has therefore a very specific outlook on life, considering privilege by lineage old-fashioned and anachronistic; if you think about how different they are to begin with, what an amazing journey for Maria and Tom (credit to AH Bracken for her narrative skills)! The backdrop to their journey, the small town of Somerzoy, is no different from any small town anywhere in the country, where everybody knows each other and has its own allegiances and conflicts but a perfectly pleasant place to live. I loved all the secondary characters, especially Maria’s best friend Kitty, always ready to stand by her friend and Maria’s relationship with her sister Annabel, who is acutely aware of how much Maria is suffering because she is “so lost and unable to be the person she badly wanted to be”. While some elements of the plot may be a bit far-fetched, this story is aspirational, fundamentally optimistic and provides some much needed escapism. 

    5 | A happy-ever-after ending. Of course. Maria and Tom do commit to coming together as a couple in the end, as you would expect from this particular genre: happiness is part of the promise of a romance after all!

    If to all of the above you add seamless writing, Bracken’s great ability to create an organic flow of actions, revelations and unexpected twists… you are in for a real treat. 

    About AH Bracken 

    Happily married and living in Buckinghamshire, UK, AH Bracken is an avid reader of contemporary and historical fiction. Her favourite authors include Marian Keyes, Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde, Lindsey Kelk, CJ Sansom and Philipa Gregory.

    The desire to write finally became a reality in early 2021 when she began work on her first novel, and this enthusiasm also led to the release of ‘In December and Always’, ‘Someone to Cherish You’, and a new novel, ‘Love is the Best Revenge’.

    You can expect smart, strong female characters with a story to tell, narratives that highlight difference, adversity and survival; and charming, gentle love stories based on romance and connection (source:

    All books by AH Bracken are available for purchase at:


    #selfpromofriday Meet: Paolo Mazzucato

    Author of ‘The absolutely true story of La Befana’- a creative, playful spin on a traditional 6th January Italian tale

    Welcome back to self-promo Friday! This is a very special week for us. Not only this is our first post of the year, but we have the absolute pleasure to introduce Paolo Mazzucato, American author, playwright and screenwriter. Paolo is also author/illustrator of the most amazing children’s books, and that’s what we’d like to focus on today.

    We recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his latest creation, ‘The absolutely true story of La Befana’. Here’s what he told us:


    The story of La Befana is a traditional Italian tale. But unlike the version that casts her as a “Christmas witch”, in this tale she is a kindly, old grandmother who, like all good Italian nonnas, wants to see 
    everyone well fed and taken care of. So, on the eve of the Christmas Epiphany, this old woman invites three, weary travellers into her home for a warm bowl of minestrone, because everyone likes a good bowl of soup, right? Well, it so happens that they’re some sort of “wise men” searching for a newborn savior-type baby. They want her to come along, but she’s busy, you know, so they go on their way. Later, the old woman regrets her decision, so she heads out into the night with her trusty donkey, but, she never finds them or the baby. On her way home though, she leaves little gifts of dried fruits and nuts in the shoes outside of every home where a child may be.

    “And like a knock on the door, her example invites each of us to open our hearts and share in the joy of the season, when every, little gesture of kindness becomes a gift as precious as gold.”


    ‘The absolutely true story of La Befana’ is a playful reimagining of a traditional, Italian story. It takes a light-hearted tone with a distinctly Italian flavour to set out the origins of a Christmas classic.


    My Website:


    Paolo Mazzucato is an American fiction author and screenwriter. He began his writing career as a Chicago playwright and award-winning student filmmaker before moving to Los Angeles where he won awards for screenwriting and scripted various projects for film and television in addition to writing several children’s, middle grade and young adult books.

    Mazzucato is the author/illustrator of the children’s books, Dream of the Rainbow Unicorn, No One Mocks a Panda (an Amazon #1 Best Seller, Feb. 2019), A Most Curious Winter’s Night and The absolutely true story of La Befana. He is also the author of the fantasy adventure novel, The Gondoliers: The Secret Journals of Fanticulous Glim, a “recommended” read by the US Review of Books.

    Books by Paolo Mazzucato are available at as well as on Amazon