Small Publishers: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part 2)

© 2009 Travis Balinas, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

© 2009 Travis Balinas, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

It is the beginning of a new year and time to take another look at small publishers. This month we will discuss the BAD and leave the Ugly for the shortest month. Don’t want to look at them too long.

BAD IS A RELATIVE TERM

What is meant by a “bad” small publisher? Probably every person who reads this blog will be able to give a definition of a “bad” publisher, and there are good odds that no two of those definitions will be the same. To our mind, a bad publisher is one who treats the author badly. What does this mean? Here’s where things get relative and we are reminded of the old adage that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Before you can define “bad,” you must be clear in your own mind what you want from a publisher. If all you want is an imprint on the copyright page and bragging rights of having a publisher as you wave your book in front of (possibly) envious friends and relatives, then you don’t need to read any more. Read Part 3 next month for the straightest and easiest path to get there.

If you are serious about writing, or even serious about the one book you have finished, you need to dig deeper. Joe Konrath wrote a full page bulleted list of what it means to treat an author badly in his blog Do Legacy Publishers Treat Authors Badly? Yes, legacy publishers treat authors badly, but so do many small publishers. After all, they aspire to be big boys one day.

Adding to all the unkind ways legacy publishers treat authors, small publishers have a few more bullet points, chief among them being taking the author’s money to publish his or her book. Small publishers of an entirely new breed are multiplying–fee based publishing. Granted that small publishers have small budgets (otherwise they’d be big publishers), there is some justification for that. It is the individual author who must decide what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. Unfortunately, all too often the author gets the crumbs from the royalty table–and pays for the privilege.

When looking into small publishers, consider which points you consider bad treatment, and search the publisher’s website to see how they treat their authors. Contact one of their authors and ask about their opinion of the publisher. Does the publisher treat the author as a colleague or a product? Ask questions. Do your homework.

For more insight on publishers treating authors badly,

Roz Morris, author of Nail Your Novel, wrote: Why do authors get treated so badly?

Jane Friedman’s blog: Climbing the walls

NEXT Month: THE UGLY

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

2005 Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio