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Friday, August 17, 2012

A Last Word On Research and Patience

You need to research publishers the same way you research agents. Why? For the same reasons.
  • To make sure they are a reputable publisher
  • To make sure they work with your genre
  • To see if they fit your style
  • To see how they compare to other publishers with royalties, etc
  • To find out how their authors feel about their experience
Sometimes it’s hard to be patient through all the research, but this is necessary. Let me share a story with you to illustrate why.

I have a younger brother who started writing a book. He has a lot of potential. A lot, but he hasn't learned about patience yet, or the importance of researching publishers. He submitted his first three chapters one August (read only three he had written) to a publisher (I don't know where he found this publisher) and two days later he received a sample contract in the mail to look over. This publisher was thrilled with his rough draft and said they would love to publish it if he could finish it by November 1st of that year and get it to them.
Red flags were flying all over the place when he told me this. I've never heard of any publisher who accepts unfinished FICTION. There were a few things in the contract that rubbed me wrong as well. Since I don't know everything, I did a little research. A simple Google search of the company brought up all kinds of rants about their dishonesty. Other writer friends responded to my questions with a "Run away!" type answer. This particular company received an F from the Better Business Bureau.

With all this new knowledge under my belt, I had to inform my brother that he should walk away. I felt like a dream crusher. For his part, my brother handled it quite well. He has since finished the book and is learning about the publishing world.
Now, how do WE look into potential publishers? Let me say it can be frustrating. Especially when looking into fairly new publishing companies--and it seems like most of them are newish.

We use the tools at our fingertips.

A simple google search can turn up some interesting things. The trick is understanding what you read. A new company may not have a lot of concrete info available, but that doesn’t mean they are a bad choice—just riskier. You also have to deal with people who chime in with their opinion (on forums and such) when they don't know anything about the company. They may not be intentionally harmful, just ignorant.

In the end you're going to need to make a judgment call. Talk with other authors in the company before you do, and if you have a copy of the contract, seek legal help interpreting it.

When I looked up my publisher, WiDoPublishing, there are only a few places I can learn things about them. They are not listed on BBB, have no notes on Preditors and Editors, are not on Publisher’s Marketplace, but they do have a short thread on Absolute Write started in 2010 (links at bottom). This thread’s main concern is that it’s a family owned business with little real experience in publishing and that it was started to publish one of their family’s first book.The last post was in 2011.

More research took me to an articleon the struggles of small independent LDS publishers--also from 2010. This article mentions that WiDo:
...avoids the term ‘Mormon publisher’.  Karen Gowen stated the company is “veering away from Mormon themes and characters to make our titles appeal to a wider demographic.”
The lack of information might seem like a red flag to most, as well as some of the comments on both sites. However, I’ve read books released by WiDo in the last year and was impressed with the quality. Their growth may seem slow to some, but they are moving forward as they learn how the business works. I’m good with that. In my opinion, slow growth means permanent growth. I enjoy the family feel and appreciate the fact they are looking to widen their demographics.

When offered a contract, I made a judgment call based on my personal goals for publishing, the interactions I had with Karen, and my gut reaction.

You have to do the same.

Whether you continue the hunt for an agent, or look into small publishers, follow your heart!

Here are some helpful links:


Lara Schiffbauer said...

It does seem like new publishers are springing up everywhere. Thanks for all the great links!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great advice. It's also important to read a book they've published if you can. It helps you judge the quality of their editing and what kind of books they put out. I also check out their author links if they're on their website. Visiting author blogs can provide insight on how they feel about their publisher.

Huntress said...

My cousins used a vanity press to publish their dad's stories of growing up on a farm and WWII experiences.

It is a cool book but bottom line, they PAID to have it published.

They were rather POed at me for refusing to go the same route with my manuscript.

Ink in the Book said...

It is so important to be carefeul when dealing with little known publishers. I had a similar experience with a self publishing company. He goo-gooed and ga-gaed over my writing, promised to type my work from the hand written pages, edit my work and do a fantastic cover design. Even said he would throw in a wonderful author website. After paying my money, I never received all the typed pages and what he sent me was FULL of mistakes a 5th grader could have avoided. When I mentioned this to him, he said my handwriting was too poor for him to read, cussed me out loud and clear and refused to offer a refund. With the money spent, I hated to waste it, so I kept going forward. When he sent me a NEW, completely DIFFERENT contract demanding my signature and acceptance, I told him to take a hike.

Yes, I lost money. But there was no way I was publishing with this guy. It was only after all this happened that I Googled him and found out he had tricked many others with the same scheme.

Bottom line: Do your research and homework. BEFORE you sign anything.

Huntress said...

Simply, one of the best comments I've seen on any blog.

Your experience, though painful, helps writers just starting out. They will read this, see the pitfalls and charlatans for what they are, and step around them like so much doggy doo-doo.

Thank you for commenting.

Charity Bradford said...

The publishing world is hard enough without all the con-men out there. I'm sorry you had to go through that, but like Huntress, I thank you for sharing your story.

Here's to hoping for better things in your future.

Connie said...

I followed all the rules you listed above and researched the group that offered me a contract. And on paper they looked good. I got hooked up with them through the critique website I use and felt they must be okay since I respect the online group. However when I recieved the contract the title was printed wrong. I told them it needed to be fixed before I signed the contract. That was in May. I have emailed them a few times with no response. Thankfully I touched base with another author that had signed with them recently and she highly suggested I run for it. I was so thankful that I did't get tied up in a contract, however I am sad to have to explain to people the cruel world of publishing after we celebrated the offer. I would rather be embarassed by not signing than signing and not getting anything out of it. I agree with all the suggestions above but especially the one about tracking down a current author and talking to them about their experience.
Good luck to all!