Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Publisher Picking

I'm a little ticked off because I recently received an email that a certain "publisher" is following me on Twitter. Please note that I rarely tweet, so there's not much to be gained by following me.  This "publisher," which heads the Writer Beware warning list, is not one whose tweets I'd ever follow. And I'd never pick this "publisher" to publish any of my work.

If a publisher is legit, the publisher picks you. Not the other way around. You query a publisher (or your agent contacts the publisher), and the publisher decides if your book fits their needs. Mainly, can they make a profit by selling your book to readers?

In one of the online groups I belong to, not long ago an aspiring author asked the other members if we knew a "good publisher" for her novel. "I've finished mine and want to find a good one that isn't a self-publishing place," she said.

Hmmm. I'm not sure what she means by "finished." Completed the first draft? Workshopped it through a writers group and revised it? Gotten input from Beta readers and revised again? I don't know. But I do know that many aspiring authors think  a manuscript is finished as soon as they type the words "the end." It usually isn't.

Nevertheless, her question got me thinking about how to tell legit (commercial) publishers from the other kinds (vanity, subsidy, self, etc.).

One way to tell: Check the publisher's website. What is the business of commercial publishers? To sell books, of course. To whom do they sell these books? Readers, of course. Therefore, the website should show that the publisher is in the business of selling books—not touting what it does for authors, not bragging that it has revolutionized publishing, not openly soliciting authors, not comparing itself favorably to other types of publishers, not professing to support a particular religion or a particular cause. Granted, the publisher should have a link to its submission guidelines somewhere on the site, but the homepage should be about the books this publisher has published.

Check out the websites of the big-name publishers. The homepage for Random House (a division of Bertlesman) features some of their latest books as well as a list of their best-sellers, news about their featured authors and their recently-published books, and other information for readers. Clicking a book cover leads to ordering information from either Random house or a host of retailers—and to more info about the book. The website makes it easy for readers to learn about books. Way down at the bottom is a link to click for submission guidelines. Clicking it lets you know that they don't take unsolicited submissions.

The homepage for MacMillan also features books and showcases the new ones as well as the best sellers. It's easy to tell MacMillan is geared to readers. Ditto for Simon and Schuster and any imprints of the Hachette Publishing Group.

However, the homepage of the "publisher" who is following my non-existent tweets contains info about the company (but no link to its bookstore), info about how to submit a manuscript, an author guide that is basically a solicitation for you to send them your manuscript, etc. A link for comments about them takes you back to another solicitation of your manuscript. They also have a link to some "must read articles," all of which promote them as being a wonderful choice of publisher. But where are their books for sale? This company is obviously geared to new writers who don't know how commercial publishing works.

Google is your friend. Do a search for any publisher you're considering. Here's a warning from one unfortunate author about this "publisher." And this page of Preditors and Editors also gives a pretty strong warning.

Beware of any publisher who wants you to put up money. If the publisher wants you to pay them some money (which they'll "refund" after you sell a whole bunch of books), run the other way. If they don't ask for any money upfront but insist you need to buy a whole bunch of books, run the other way. Commercial publishers pay you, not the other way around. And they provide you with a box of free books for promotional purposes. And they let you buy more author copies at a discount if you want them. And they pay royalties.

Check the nearest bookstore. Are books from that publisher on the shelf? If not, why not? Maybe the publisher doesn't have a distributor. See this post on the Behler Blog: "Beware the Subtleties."

Check the watchdog sitesPreditors and EditorsWriter Beware; and the Absolute Write Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Checks are all good places to start.

Contact an author or two who have used the publisher you are considering and ask about their experience (It's a good idea to actually have read their books first.). Usually there will be contact info on the authors' websites. If they don't have websites—uh, oh! Make sure the authors you contact have had their books out for at least a year.

Meanwhile, read this Glass Cases blog post that contains good advice about both agents and publishers: "Shady Business." Maybe read it twice.




Blogger CountryDew said...

I don't use twitter either but am always being told I'm being followed by somebody. I have no idea why since I never say anything.

This is very good information!

8:49 AM  

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