You should check a book publisher very carefully before you enter into a publishing contract.
For new authors, it can be tempting to rush the process in all the excitement.
But there are many misconceptions and pitfalls that can lead to regrets or disputes later.
Before you consider using a publisher, take your time, look at your options, and do your research over weeks or even months before you decide.
Check a book publisher and what it offers
You have decided self-publishing isn’t for you, so you are looking for a publisher.
Unless you are extraordinarily fortunate and find a literary agent and major publisher, your choice will be between small press and vanity press publishers.
These two options are what most new authors consider.
Generally, the difference is that you pay to have your book published with a vanity press. But with a small press publisher, you don’t.
You might think that it’s simply a matter that you get what you pay for. However, that’s not always the case. Paying to have your book published doesn’t guarantee you any more chances of success.
For both options, however, you need to do a preliminary check for the most critical issues.
1. What is the reputation of the publisher?
2. What is the publisher offering to do?
3. How and when will you be paid for book sales?
Let’s look at these three areas in more detail.
How to check the standing of a publisher
Every day new book publishers are entering the market. So many that it’s impossible to keep track of all of them.
As with any service, there are many good ones and some not-so-good ones. But there are also publishing scams and fraudsters trying to make a quick buck.
It can be daunting for a new author to decide if a publisher is reputable or not.
But if you can’t find a potential publisher listed, what can you do?
The best is to check the publisher’s website and look for elements of transparency.
1. Does the publisher have a physical address? Can you see the building on Google Maps?
2. Is there a telephone number on the contact page?
3. Does the publisher display the names of the directors and staff? Can you contact them?
4. How long has the publisher been in business?
5. Are there testimonials from authors? Can you find mention of these authors online?
Other ways to check are to search for the publisher on social media or do a Google search for reviews about a publisher.
If you can’t find much information online, it’s a bit of a warning signal, so you should be extremely wary.
What will a publisher do for you?
It is probably the most challenging aspect when you try to check a book publisher.
The most common pitfall for new authors is misconceptions and making assumptions about what a publisher will do.
Here are a few areas that can cause confusion.
1. The publisher will promote and market my book.
It is rarely true. Most publishers, especially vanity press publishers, will not do any of this and will leave it to the author to promote their book.
2. The publisher will edit my book.
Professional editing of a novel costs thousands of dollars.
Even if a publishers say it will edit a book, it usually only means a quick check with Grammarly or Prowritingaid for basic errors.
3. The publisher will distribute my book to bookstores.
Yes, it will. But it doesn’t mean your book will be on sale in bookstores.
It is a trap for many new authors. What this means is that your book will be available for expanded distribution through IngramSpark or Amazon.
If readers want to buy your book, they can order it from most bookstores.
But how many book buyers would ever do this?
Expanded distribution is available through most free self-publishing companies, so it’s nothing special at all.
4. The publisher will sell my book.
Yes, a small press publisher might make some efforts to sell your book. But it is never the case with a vanity press.
With any publisher, don’t make any assumptions about this. It is usually up to you to sell your book.
5. The publisher will publish a high-quality book.
Yes, it can be somewhat true. But most are using technology and free services that are available to self-publishing authors.
The book might be of a higher standard than what you could do yourself. But all publishers use print-on-demand, so it will never be as good as a book produced by offset printing.
When you investigate a potential publisher, don’t assume anything.
Check every detail, ask questions, and make sure that you understand exactly what a publisher will and will not do for you and your book.
How and when will a publisher pay your book royalties?
By far, the biggest problem in this regard is knowing if you sell any books.
A publisher might tell you that they pay your royalties quarterly into your bank account.
But if you have no access to see how many books you have sold, you have no idea if a publisher is being honest with you.
Of all the messages, emails, and comments I receive about publishers, this is the number one concern and complaint.
A reputable publisher will share detailed book sales information with you.
If not, you can expect a lot of problems after you publish your book.
You also need to check the royalty percentage the publisher is offering, how it is calculated, and if you will have a deduction for withholding tax.
Be aware of common tactics used by scam publishers
I’ve heard many tales of buyer’s remorse from authors, especially with vanity publishing.
High-pressure selling that takes advantage of the enthusiasm and expectations of a new author is commonplace.
Here are some of the telltale signs of publishing scams.
1. You receive an unsolicited offer to publish your book.
2. You are offered a free publishing guide but only in exchange for your contact details, including your phone number and address.
3. The publisher tells you that you are an exceptional writer and quotes lines from your book. But these are usually from the first couple of pages of your book. It’s a common ploy and easy to be suckered in by it.
4. The publisher tells you your book has all the hallmarks of a bestseller.
5. The publisher doesn’t mention anything about money until you are close to signing a contract.
These are some of the common signs of a scam, but there are many more tricks and underhand tactics that unscrupulous publishers use.
Always be on your guard, and never rush into publishing because a publisher is stroking your ego.
Do I have a publisher?
Yes, I do, but it took me months to decide to go ahead.
While I self-publish in ebooks and paperback, I now have a small press publisher for my audiobook versions.
From the time of the first contact, it was about three months before I agreed.
And even then, it was for one book only, which was a short novella.
Then it took a couple of months to produce the book, pass quality control, and finally publish the audiobook version.
Everything went to plan, and I was pleased with how everything went.
But before I committed to any further books, I waited for two quarterly payment cycles. Both times I received a fully detailed report of my unit sales and royalty income.
Since then, I have published more books and recently signed new contracts for two more.
So yes, I’m very happy with my publisher now.
But I did my homework first, asked lots and lots of questions, and did as much background checking as possible.
There are some terrific, hard-working, and honest small press publishers who can help you get your book published.
As for vanity press publishers, it’s not quite so clear. Most of them offer little value for often exorbitant amounts of money.
When evaluating a book publisher, keep your eyes open and never get carried away with the excitement of publishing a book.
If you do, you could easily come to regret your decision.
Remember that a publishing contract is extremely difficult to terminate, especially if you sign over the rights to your book.
Once you agree and publish your book, it is almost a forever decision.
Take your time, check a book publisher thoroughly and be sure you are making the right choice to avoid regrets later.