I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read. You can read it here.
If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.
- Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.
- Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.
- Who are they?
- How long have they been publishing?
- What exactly is their background and experience? You want specifics about this. Who have they worked for? Where did they get their experience? How many years?
- Who will your editor be? What experience do they have? Again, specifics here not vague assertions and statements.
- How many editors will be involved?
- Who else have they worked with? Once you know this you can see for yourself how well their books are doing.
- What can they offer you? Editing? Book cover? Promotion? What sort of promotion?
- What do they expect from you?
If you get through all this and still want to go ahead, then make sure you read the contract really closely. Look for things like cover design, for example – who has the final say? And how many editors will be involved? How does the editing process work? What about copyright? What happens if you aren’t happy further down the line?
Always get a lawyer to look at your contract. Always.
Some warning signs:
- Companies that state they don’t deal with agents or lawyers. Why don’t they? What are they afraid of? Surely it’s up to you if you want to have an agent.
- Companies that insist it’s like a family. Why do they think that’s a good thing? This is a business relationship and it should be treated as such.
- Staff that are vague about their experience.
- Companies that approach you. If they’re any good, they will be fending off submissions.
- Dreadful covers on current books.
- Glowing five star reviews on current books by other authors also published by the company.
- An insistence that you read and review their other authors’ books.
- Reviews of other authors’ books that mention typos, grammatical errors, poor editing and poor formatting.
Any one of these things should give you pause for thought. At the end of the day it is your choice, but do ask yourself what it is exactly these publishers are doing that you can’t do yourself. OK, so they might offer editing. You can hire a freelance editor. OK, so they format and do covers. Again, you can source that yourself. You can even learn how to format and do that bit for nothing. They promote? How much? And how much will you have to do?
Now be truly honest with yourself. If you can do, or can learn to do, what they are offering, if their books aren’t really selling that well, if they’re vague about their experience, then why are you even considering signing with them? Is it because you’re flattered? Is it because someone is actually interested in your book? I do understand, after all, we all want to be told that someone loves our work, that they value it, but unfortunately that’s what some of these companies are relying on. Don’t waste your time. And do do your research!