I’ve been lucky and privileged enough to be given the chance to work with many publishers over the last few years. I’ve had the chance to read and review books for both traditional and independent publishers as well as work with them on guest posts and author interviews on my previous blogs as well as this one. But as a future author (hopefully!) who wants to go down the traditional publishing route, I’m keen on finding a publisher who will not only do a good job of producing and marketing my book but one who’s best interests are to help sell my book for both my benefit and theirs.
While working with publishers over the years, particularly independent ones, I’ve discovered that not all of these indie publishers are equal and while the far majority of them are very good and do have their authors best interests at heart, there are a small few who do a bad job of creating books, they’ll create a bad rapport with authors and reviewers…and in some rarer cases some they will even work against authors for their own interests.
Is bigger better?
Many indie publishers start out small but some manage to grow to rival theold established publishing houses. Their size does have a positive effect for authors if you manage to be published by them. With these big indie publishers you can expect your books to get into many bookstores across the country and for there to be some significant marketing gone into selling your book so when it comes to publication day, your book will have a great head start in getting sold. These bigger independent publishers might also sometimes pay an advance and will definitely put in a lot of effort into making your book look good, creating unique and asthetically brilliant covers, editing the text to make it read better, including no typos (or rarely any) in the finished books and sometimes fit the text to the style they want to use in-house. So getting published by a bigger independent publisher is much like being published by one of the old traditional publishing houses.
But with bigger publishers the downside is that they can afford to be picky and the competition for a place on their publishing list is high. Some of them are also closed to being approached directly by authors so the only way to get published by them is to find an agent which some authors may or may not be keen on. And these bigger indie publishers will often published books by authors they already know, making it harder as a first time author to break through. It happens but the competition is fierce.
Small but mighty?
Smaller indie publishers are popping up all the time. Most of these publishers do want to emulate the quality of the bigger publishers and be considered equal so there will be people keen to take your manuscript and work hard to turn it into a beautifully published book to rival any of the bigger publishers. Smaller indie publishers are sometimes picked and preferred by authors as they are also more keen to involve the author in some of the decisions of what happens to the book. Some publishers let the author have a say on the book cover design, some even let the author design it themselves! Smaller indie publishers are also keen to get hold of any books that sound like they have potential and so you are more likely to get published by a smaller one as they have less manuscripts landing on their desks. And in many cases these publishers are also happy to hear from authors directly, without needing an agent, which is a big deal if you are a first time author trying to break into the industry.
But there is also a downside to these smaller publishers and I’ve observed many problems from some of the publishers I’ve worked with over the years. Many of these smaller indie publishers are often happy to publish books with stories or writing quality that…let me be brutally honest here…would be rejected by a bigger publisher as not good enough. It doesn’t mean thar the books written are bad, in fact many of the story or book ideas are very good, but they usuallly need further editing to make them stronger, more memorable, more exciting, or to have them make more sense. While other publishers might reject these books or ask authors to edit certain parts if they can see it’s going to be good if fixed, the smaller indie publishers sometimes don’t see the further potential in books, or just don’t have very experienced editors to fix them. The result is a book that’s good, but never truly great (sorry but it’s true 😦 ).
Another problem with some of these smaller indie publishers I’ve worked with is they lack the funds to get proper proofreaders in so some books are filled with silly typos and the occassional grammar mistake too. some also lack a good artist to design a cover and so you get books which could have been brilliant but through a bit of rushed work they just aren’t up to the standard of other books published by the bigger houses. A few of these publishers have also had trouble communicating with their authors or people they approach for book reviews (*more on this later) which can lead down a road of frustration for authors and negative opinions from bloggers.
How to find the right one?
Finding the right publisher is difficult especially if you are a new author and haven’t been through the publishing process before. There is no easy way to find a good publisher but the best thing you can do is research them. Despite your eagerness to get your book into print, taking the time to research publishers properly can be the difference between one that will help create a beautiful and professional book, marketed to the right people that you can be proud to show off to people for years to come; and a very costly mistake that will result in a poorly produced book, barely marketed and in some cases a loss of your own money!
When researching publishers take the time to look at the books they’ve produced already. Do the covers look professional? Do they look like they use a lot of free cco (creative commons license) images? There’s nothing wrong with these free images but from the publishers I’ve worked with that produce what feel like better and more professional books, are more creative with book covers. They sometimes use free images but they usually adapt them in some way or incorporate them into a partially originally designed cover, or just draw/design the whole cover from scratch. You want the book covers to look good, professional and enticing while also looking original. While looking at the books, try to get hold of some to read if you can, see if there are any obvious erros in the text, or if the stories written make sense, be critical when reading these, are ther eany obvious issues with the text, or do they look professionally published?
Another thing to do when researching a publisher is to ask around online. With the internet today it is easier than ever to ask people who have used a publisher before, what they think of them. Ask questions that go beyond “Are they good?”, try to find out how much marketing or editing they do? Do they ask authors to do anything specific? Do they ask you to contribute anything to the publishing of the book? Ask people to recommend a publisher but in doing so ask why they recommend that publisher and ask how well their book is doing having been published by that indie.
Also while you are online looking for reviews, don’t just search for the publisher’s name and the word ‘reviews’. Some publishers are known to falsify reviews to make themselves appear legitimate (shocking but it’s actually true! – more on this later) instead look for the publisher’s name and the word ‘bad’ or ‘bad review/negative review’. Search for key words you might use if you were the one writing a bad review of them. This makes search engines results show you the bad reviews and not just anything positive. While some bad reviews can be an author ranting about not getting published or their own personal grievances, there are sometimes genuine people with bad experiences who will let you know important facts about the publisher you are looking to use.
Once you’ve researched a publisher and have decided to approach them be wary of one more thing before signing a contract. It’s simple but many authors might not do it, being so eager to get published in the first place….READ the contract you are given and if there’s anything you are not happy about then don’t sign, instead talk to them about what you aren’t happy about. Most publishers won’t ask authors to pay money for instance but there have been cases where this has happened( *more later). Contracts are difficult documents to read and I understand that many will find it tricky so in this case find someone who can understand the contract to see if the publisher has any special conditions that will affect you. Most times you will be presented with a great contract, but just be wary that you aren’t signing into some deal that you don’t want.
Indie publishers are great – don’t be afraid
While there are problems with some indie publishers the vast majority of them are great and they do such brilliant professional jobs of publishing books by authors like you. Don’t be put off from approaching indie publishers if you are looking to get published. The old traditional publishers and bigger indie publishers can be hard to approach and impossible if you don’t have an agent. But the smaller publishers are just as good with top quality books that are often overlooked by the bigger publishers, not because of quality but just because they can only publish so many books a year.
Going to an indie publisher can be a better choice than self publishing if you are the type who struggles to sort out all the details of self publishing, or just doesn’t want the hassle. It’s also easier as those publishers will sort out isbn numbers and may even help get some books into shops and market you a little (or a LOT!).
Indie publishing is a growing market and there are so many wonderful publishers out there now who I have had priviledge to work with and still work with today. These publishers are so nice to talk to and the books they publisher are so professionally made, brilliant to read and are ones I never would have had the chance to read if it wasn’t for the indie publisher taking a chance on a new author.
But there have been a small few who have not been professional and in dealing with them I’ve learned some dark truths about how bad some of them really are. Some of them even claim to be indie publishers when they aren’t…What do these publishers really get up to? What sort of things have they done to authors? *You’ll have to wait until next week to find out!
– Not all independent publishers are bad. Most publish quality books. The points raised here are my personal experiences with specific publishers.
*-Read part two next week.
Are you looking to get published or gone down the indie publishing route? What publishers would you recommend to other authors? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂