Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of confusion and heard a lot of questions about how to know what publisher is best for you. Now, I don’t want this to seem biased because you’re on a publisher’s website, but I do want you to know what you should be looking for. So I’m going to tell you what I would look for, in a publisher. These are a few things you’ll want to look at, and maybe things you’ll want to start a dialogue with the company over.
What to Look For in a Publisher
1. Whether their goals line up with yours
You probably know a little bit about what you want, so make sure your publisher fits that bill. Make sure they publish books that you like to read, that they work with authors that you enjoy. If you hate the books they’ve released, don’t work with them. They probably wouldn’t know what to do with your work.
Look at their website, send them an email, and find out as much about them as you possibly can. If there’s anything about them that makes you even slightly uncomfortable, or that you’re unsure on, ask more questions.
Don’t sign any paperwork until you’re completely comfortable with them. And I do mean completely.
And don't keep thinking about a publisher if they refuse to answer your questions.
2. How wide their audience reaches
This one is especially important if you’re looking at small publishers, but you want your work to reach as far as possible. As someone who works for a small publisher, I can tell you, sometimes you want to look for a place that’s a little more longstanding than us. I understand that. But sometimes, you’ll be looking for someone smaller, someone who will spend some personal one-on-one time with you and make sure the work we get out there is the work you want to put out there.
You won’t always get that with a big publisher, I’ll tell you.
But if it’s important to you, that your book reach as many people as possible, then you’ll want to look at the bigger houses. And you probably won’t want to go with self-publishing. It’s still a young market, and the majority of people still don’t take that market seriously.
3. Whether or not you’ll have to pay them
With a lot of small publishers, and the vast majority of self-publishers, you’ll have to pay to get published. And with a lot of them, you’ll have to pay a lot. For some of you, that’s not an option. And that’ll remove a lot of contenders, right there.
What you want to look for, in that case, is a publisher that’s not going to ask you for any money when you sign the paperwork.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample of their contract, while you’re talking with any given publisher. If they’re one of the better companies, they’ll let you see what they expect you to sign. If they’re not so great, they might try to hide it from you.
4. What their editors are like
We all have our views on what a good editor is like. So look up the editors that work at the publishing houses you’re looking at, and see if their style matches yours. Find out if these are people you might actually want to work with, or if they’re people you might try to avoid.
This is very important to know. And if you’re going with a self-publishing company, be sure to find out if they outsource their editing. When I had Telekinetic edited, they outsourced it to India and screwed it up. And wouldn’t even admit that they’d messed up, so I had to fix the problems myself. You don’t want that.
If you want to have an editor who will give you some one-on-one time, then I highly suggest looking at the smaller publishers, even at RAD. Our editors try their best to get to know you, to make sure that we’re putting out your work, and not our edited version of your work.
5. Their customer service standards
Find out if they’ll actually answer you. To do this, I’d suggest ignoring them for a while, and acting aloof. Yeah, it might sound and feel a little weird, but you need to find out if they’re nice enough to actually work with.
On top of that, go look up reviews. Any reviews. All reviews. Find out what other authors have gone through when working with this publisher, and decide if you think they’ll be worth it to work with. If you can, get in touch with one of their authors personally, and find out what they think about this house’s customer service.
If even one of those things doesn’t meet your standards, I’d say don’t sign.
Honestly. You want to find the publishing house that works best for you, and nobody wants to work with someone that they hate.
Do your research. This is a company you’ll have to work with for a long time, once you sign those papers. And you don’t want to be tied to someone who annoys.
Trust me. I know what that’s like.