Where to Look for Answers

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Before you commit your novel to a publisher, do your homework. Make sure you are a good fit. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all. How do you do this? Where do you look for answers?

  1. The first stop is to look at the website. If you like it, write down some of the titles they publish.
  2. Go to Amazon and look at the books. Use the Search Inside feature and read some of the book. Is this a book you would be happy to have sitting next to yours? Look at the cover, the formatting, and particularly at the writing. The reviews are also important. It’s not so much a matter of how many reviews as what they say. Do any of the reviews mention the writing or the plot or the characters?
  3. Preditors and Editors is a website (pred-ed.com) with an extensive database of writing related information. The Book Publisher and Distributor Listings are alphabetized. Some are recommended, others not. If your publisher does NOT appear on these pages, go on to there sites. But, if you publisher is “not recommended” proceed with caution
  4. Poets & Writers (pw.org) also has a listing of small presses. Since a lot of their readers are poets, they concentrate on publishers who offer to publish poetry. Again, lack of a listing is not a black mark.
  5. Writers Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/) is sponsored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, but the website is a valuable resource for any writer, regardless of genre. There section on small presses begins with section that includes Issues to Consider before Submitting, followed by a section on Evaluating a Small Press–both well worth reading.
  6. Last and probably the least reliable is Google. You can type in the name of the publisher and add the word Reviews. This can warn of some egregious practices, but it can also bring up rants by rejected authors.

If you have looked at all of the above and still believe your chosen publisher might be “the one,” it is time to contact someone and ask a few questions. Here is an example, but you will have many of your own to add.

  • What do choicesyou do for me as an author?
  • What do you expect from me?
  • How do you publicize your books?
  • How much will it cost me?
  • Do you have a succession plan?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, you are entrusting this company with your baby–the one you spent months or years writing. Make sure you have a good fit. Divorcing a publisher can be more difficult than divorcing a spouse.

NEXT TIME – HINTS ON EDITING

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The Ugly

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

Stephen Pierzchala, Flickr via Wylio

The Ugly Publisher not only treats authors badly, but does so with malice aforethought. The Granddaddy of ugly publishers is Author Solutions. Our August post Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, made it clear that discovering the underlying publisher is not always easy. Author Solutions has a gazillion imprints, and many of them are associated with otherwise legitimate publishers.

Dr Judith Briles, in her excellent blog The Book Shepherd, says the following: “Author Solutions has gotten into bed with Hay House (Balboa Press), Thomas Nelson (Westbow Press), Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing packages start at $1599 and can go up to $24,999), Guide Post/Writers Digest (Abbott Press) and others. With Penguin recently acquiring Author Solutions, who knows what Penguin will turn over from their slush/pass piles to Author House to ‘follow up’ on.”

http://thebookshepherd.com/ripsoffs-scams-and-authors-oh-my.html 

According to Publishers Weekly, the class action suit filed against Author Solutions in spring of 2013, “alleges that Author Solutions misrepresents itself as an independent publisher, luring authors in with claims of ‘greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors,’ and then profits from ‘fraudulent’ practices, including ‘delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate correction fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise.’

In the initial complaint, three named plaintiffs (Kelvin James, Jodi Foster, and Terry Hardy) detail their experiences of paying thousands of dollars, and being upsold into ‘developmental’ packages for editing and marketing services which either “did not materialize, or provided subpar service, while generating fees for Author Solutions.’” http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/62144-pretrial-schedule-proposed-in-author-solutions-case.html

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, called Author Solutions one of the companies that put the “V” in vanity. Author Solutions earn 2/3 or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors’ books to readers. http://www.adweek.com/galleycat/smashwords-founder-criticizes-penguin-author-solutions-acquisition/55998 For anyone not familiar with Smashwords, Bowker named Smashwords the largest publisher for indie e-books in its latest report “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2007-2012,” after publishing about 90,000 e-books in 2012. http://www.teleread.com/smashwords/smashwords-named-top-indie-e-book-publisher-createspace-tops-in-combined-print-and-digital/

In conclusion: DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you choose a publisher.

NEXT: WHERE TO LOOK FOR ANSWERS

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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

All Roads Lead to the Same Place–and it isn’t Rome

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Looking for a publisher should be simple, right? How hard can it be? Do a Google search and surely pages of publishers will pop out. I decided to try doing just that. I even found pages of websites willing to help me find exactly the right publisher for my book.

I started through the first few of these “helpful” websites, and the first one on the list was: “Publishers List – Find Book Publishers That Can Help” and I followed the link www.findpublishinghelp.com A click through reveals the fact they are more interested in selling services than in publishing. 

 Another website, www.searchforpublishers.com begins by asking what your budget is for publication. Ooops, that sounds like they have a list of wolf publishers waiting in sheep’s clothing for an unwary author.

On to the next listing: “Find A Book Publisher Now – Stop Searching For A Publisher” links to www.findyourpublisher.com In the fine print at the bottom of the page: Copyright 2014. Powered by Author Solutions, LLC Not only does Author Solutions accept anything that comes through the door, it charges money for services, overprices the resulting books, and gives the author very little if by some miracle books do sell.

Moving on to another listing, “Seeking a Book Publisher?” The link is to a website www.ChooseYourPublisher.com and guess what? Surprise! The exact same Copyright notice as FindYourPublisher.com.

If you start typing Author Solutions in your Google search bar, the first thing that comes up in the autocomplete is: Author Solutions lawsuit. Another result, by the way, in spite of the gazillion bad reviews floating around the internet, Penguin (a publisher I have always admired for putting out good yet affordable books) now owns Author Solutions and has no intention of changing the business practices.

Next time: Researching a prospective publisher