Sussing Out Legitimate Publishers
I received a formal letter from [Name Deleted] Publishing stating that they want to publish my book. The company looks solid. However, I self published my first book and really want to work hard until I can land an industry recognized publisher this time around. How do you find out if a publisher is legit? What are the first steps new writers should take once someone says they want to publish their book? What questions they should be asking?
Excited But Nervous
I’ve never heard of that publishing company, but that might not mean much – there are hundreds of small niche publishers who are legit and whose names I wouldn’t recognize.
But you really should check them out before you decide to work with them. Research the way you would anything else: Do a thorough Google search to start with, and ask around through your own contacts to see if anyone has had dealings with them.
Check Amazon for all the books they’ve published, paying attention to titles, authors and rankings. See if you can find any of their books actually on the shelves at Borders or Barnes & Noble. You may even want to get in touch with a couple of their authors if you feel comfortable doing so, “checking references” so to speak, and ask them about their experience.
Look at the language on their website: emphasis on words like “partnership” and “entrepreneurial” might be clues that they’re a vanity publisher.
After doing all the research, have a conversation with them. Ask a lot of questions about the details of their offer. They should pay you royalties, and hopefully an advance even if it’s small. Lack of an advance is not a definite sign they’re not legit; however, if they don’t pay an advance, you may want to hold off on making a deal until you’ve tried every single advance-paying publisher you can think of.
There should be no requirement whatsoever that you pay them for anything, or that you purchase a certain number of copies, or contribute dollars for “marketing” or editorial services, or design, or anything else. If they say anything about charging money for any part of the process, beware. We’re seeing these houses get very creative in the way they get money from authors, including one that is requiring authors to pay thousands for a writing course! If they require any money from you, at any time for any reason, they’re some kind of vanity or subsidy press. If you’re not looking for a vanity or self-publishing deal, this is not for you.
You’ll also want to ask questions about their distribution. Do they sell beyond Ingram and Amazon? What chain stores are they in? Big box stores? Do they have a sales rep team that goes out and sells to independents, or are they only online? Are they also available in a Kindle edition as well as the other digital formats for Sony Reader, iPad, etc?
Ask them how many copies of your book they expect to sell in the first year. Ask how many copies of most books similar to yours they sell in the first year. See it you can get them to give you numbers.
You need to determine if working with them would be any better than self-publishing. If they are not bringing any distribution to the table, you have to think really carefully about it. It may be better to go the self-publishing route and keep all your proceeds rather than a small royalty.
Hope that helps!
The Voice of Reason
Note to readers: This author’s further research revealed that the publisher who made the “offer” was indeed a vanity press who charges the author $5000 yet still only pays a 20% royalty. Not a good deal!