Monday, May 9, 2011

How to Pick a Publishing Company, Part 1

I am an editor for a book publishing company, and one of the most frequently asked questions I get from people is, "How do I pick a publishing company?" The answer is very involved, so I'm breaking it down into a series.

In this installment, I'd like to cover what you need to know as you begin your search. You must know this:

There are lots and lots and LOTS of publishing companies out there.
Each publishing company is different.
Some are big and some are small.
Some require you to submit your manuscript via an agent, some do not.
Some take longer to respond than others.
Most publishing companies are taking a financial risk if they sign on a new author, as you don't have a publishing history and they don't know your commitment level or if your book will resonate with readers.
They want to publish the next biggest hit! But they don't know what that is yet.
Some are upfront and honest, and some are not.
And on and on....

If you have already tried Googling publishing companies, you may already know that the number of companies is overwhelming. How do you wade through all of them? Here are a few ideas.

What is your genre?
Some companies specialize in certain genres. If you look at a publishing company's website, it'll probably list which genres they prefer, though some will take all.

What books in your genre do you already own/read?
Check out the copyright page and see who published them. That can give you some ideas.

Do you want a traditional or vanity publishing company?
This is a much bigger question than can be answered in this post. I urge you to read this article: How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Traditional and Vanity Publisher? It explains some great pros and cons to each. Basically, for most traditional publishers you will need to submit via an agent, so consider if you are able and willing to do so. If are thinking about vanity, it's important to know that they typically don't edit your material and there can be a bad stigma with being publishing via vanity. Spend time figuring out which type is right for you and your book.

Does the company have a high BBB rating?
It's true, there are some publishing companies out there trying to scam would-be authors. But there are also good companies out there that have been tainted by false information online. It's quite a mess. The best way to tell if a publishing company is what it says it is? Go to the Better Business Bureau and look up its rating. Pay attention to the particulars. How long has the company been in business? How many complaints has it had? Does the company address those complaints? Remember that every complaint is two sided, and that every company has its fair share of wacky customers. But also be careful and protect yourself.

What does its published authors think?
Some companies put its author feedback right on their website. If it includes the full name, book title, etc along with the comment, and you can look up and see the book is in fact real, then it is a credible comment.

What else do you want to know about how to pick a publishing company?

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