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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Researching Small/Midsize Publishers 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 friend who started writing a book. He has a lot of potential, 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? 
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 into my publisher (WiDoPublishing) there were only a few places I to learn things about them. They were not listed on BBB, had no notes on Preditors and Editors, were not on Publisher’s Marketplace, but they did have a short thread on Absolute Write started in 2010 (links at bottom). This thread’s main concern was that "it’s a family owned business with little real experience in publishing, started to publish one of their family’s first book." The last post was in 2011.

More research took me to an article on 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 read books released by WiDo and was impressed with the quality. Their growth might have seemed slow to some, but they were moving forward as they learned how the business worked. 

When offered a contract, I made a judgment call based on my personal goals for publishing, the interactions I had with the owner and other writers, 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:

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