Friday, September 26, 2008

Choosing a publisher

There's some minor buzz about a new publisher planning to open it's doors this spring and I figured this might be a good time to post a couple of my tips on choosing a publisher.

For some scoop on what's being said, visit Dear Author.

For some rules of thumb that might be helpful, read on....


I’m no expert, but I have to say I’ve been fairly lucky with the publishers I work with. I know there are lists like this out there, but here’s my own take on what to look for and what to avoid when choosing an e-publisher.

1.How long have they been around? Not to say that brand new publishers should always be avoided. There are some fabulous pubs out there who are relatively new but doing a magnificent job for their authors. That being said, use great caution when getting in on the ground floor with a brand new publisher. It may be a wonderful opportunity, but only if you’re careful about who you get involved with.

2. Do they have a web presence? And I don’t just mean a nice website. Today, so many people have web design experience that having a professional looking website isn’t necessarily a sign of an upstanding company. Obviously a shoddy website is a red flag, but a nice one isn’t a guarantee of anything.

3. Beyond a website, what does the publisher do to promote their products? You will hear a lot of talk about how promotion falls largely on authors in the e-pub community, but remember, your book is the publisher’s product as well. They need to advertise their site, be willing to take out print ads to promo their company, have good relationships with review sites and plan to have a presence at conferences and conventions. If they don’t have the time or the budget for these things, steer clear.

4. Staff. No one can do it alone. Plenty of people think they can start up a business and run it out of their homes in any industry, but who picks up the slack if the CEO gets sick? No one works 24/7, so what’s customer service like when the President is sleeping, ill or worse, working at their day job? A publisher needs to be committed to the job, which means they have to have a staff of more than one or two people to handle all the aspects of the business.

5. Authors. The best way to learn about a publisher is to talk to its authors. Are they happy? Some authors will put on a good front for chats, or public appearances, but you want the nitty gritty. A private e-mail to an author asking sincere and respectful questions about their experience with a particular company should get you some honest answers.

6. Cover art. This is a big one for me. There are a number of fabulous digital artists out there and the first thing an e-pub should do is hire a good one to create covers. Crappy, poser covers will not sell books and the aim of a publisher should be to sell books. If you don’t like the cover art a publisher has to offer, they may not be the one for you.

7. Books. Read a few of the books your target publisher has to offer. If they don’t have anything available yet, it might be prudent to wait until they do. Look for good stories, solid editing, professional formatting, competitive prices, ease of ordering etc.

8. Who’s talking? If the publisher offers a reader chat group, it may be a good idea to join and see what’s going on. Are there actually other readers present or does it seem to be just a hang out for the authors who are promoting their books to each other? A lot of readers prefer to lurk, so you may not see many even on a busy, popular list, but if the publisher has ten authors and their chat loop has ten members that could be a sign that no one is listening.

9. Contract. Does the publisher offer a sample contract on line? Not all of them do and that’s fine, but it’s great to be able to get an idea of what you’re getting into if you sign with them.
Do they blog? Some publishers maintain their own blog site where authors post on a daily or near daily basis. This isn’t a necessity of course, but it’s nice to be able to drop in and see what’s going on. It’s another way to connect with authors and get a feel for their enthusiasm for the publisher.

10. Reviews. Check out reviews of some of the publisher’s books. Now, even NY pubbed novels get panned by critics from time to time, so a bad review doesn’t necessarily speak ill of the publisher, but if their books seem to garner only mediocre praise as a rule, it might be a warning sign.

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