Should I Use A Publisher? 10 Questions To Ask

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10 Questions To Ask A Publisher

Signing up with a publisher is not a simple decision

As the self-publishing industry has grown and matured, it is natural that new service providers are now harnessing the growth in book publishing to create new businesses.

Over the last few years, one of the biggest growth areas has been independent publishers. Many new authors are asking, ‘Should I Use A Publisher?’

For a lot of reasons, the services of a publisher can offer many tempting benefits to an author, especially for those authors new to self-publishing.

For the computer and Internet savvy, self-publishing is quite easy, yet there could well be time-saving possibilities that a reliable and honest publisher could offer.

If an author can spend more time writing rather than fighting with technology and wasting hours on social media, this may be one very good reason to engage a publisher.


Independent publishers fall into two main categories.

Those who offer ‘assisted‘ self-publishing, which is a service that is usually charged for with a ‘one-off fee‘ to get a book correctly formatted, a cover designed, perhaps a well-written book description and then publishing on retail platforms such as Kindle and Smashwords.

The second is a full-service publisher, who will manage publishing, marketing, sales and then make their money from a percentage of your book sales royalties. This type of publisher offers a more traditional route.

However, there are also some who could be classed as hybrid publishers, as they offer mix and match publishing services.


Before signing up with a publisher, ask these questions BEFORE you sign.

As with any service providers, there are good and bad, so make sure you do your homework and research before entering into a publishing agreement or contract and make sure you understand your publishing options.

If you are considering using the services of an independent publisher, here are ten questions that you really need to ask before signing up.


1. Do I retain all the rights to my book?

There should be no reason whatsoever for a publisher to ask for the rights to your book. Unless the publisher is offering you a traditional publishing deal with a substantial advance, which is highly unlikely, never sign away the rights to your book.


2. How do I terminate our publishing agreement?

So many problems can occur in any contractual arrangement. When considering a publishing agreement, never sign up or agree without knowing how the contract can be terminated.

If the terms of termination involve losing the rights to your book, do not sign!


3. What is the total cost?

For assisted self-publishing, this is very important. Make sure you get a detailed account in writing of what services will be performed, and how much you will be charged for each item.

Make sure it is a fixed price and that you will not be charged for extras at a later date.


4. What services will you provide as my publisher?

Will the publisher edit, copy edit, or at least proofread your book before formatting and publishing it? Is there a charge for these services? Or are you responsible for undertaking the expense of preparing the final manuscript?


5. What will my royalty rate be and how often or when will I get paid?

A full-service publisher will take a percentage of your book sales royalty, so be certain of what this will amount will be.

As royalties vary with every online retailer, from approximately 35% up to 70%, ask for a detailed explanation of how much the publisher will take in each case.

Most importantly, how and when will your royalties be paid.


6. Will I get book sales reports?

If your publisher manages your retailer accounts, you will probably not have access to this information, so you will have to rely on your publisher supplying you with sales and royalty reports on a regular basis.

These should be supplied to you on at least a quarterly basis.


7. Who will promote your book?

A publisher of any worth should have a solid marketing platform, and preferably one with a sizeable mailing list.

Of course, you will be expected to do a lot of book promotion for your own book, but be sure to ask the publisher how they intend to market your book and maximise its sales opportunities.


8. How long has the publisher been in business?

An obvious question.


9. How many authors and titles does the publisher manage?

While a publisher may be new and have only a small stable, this may not be a bad thing, as you may receive more attention.


10. Can I contact a couple of authors who you currently publish?

This is by far the best way to find out if a publisher is worth considering. If the publisher refuses to give you referrals, beware.

There are more questions of course, depending on what you expect or would like from an independent publisher, so make sure you ask all your questions, well before making any commitments or signing a publishing contract.


Further reading: Is This Publisher Legit? 


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Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

3 thoughts on “Should I Use A Publisher? 10 Questions To Ask

  • Given that the big five publishing houses are now insisting that their stable of writers not only write the book, but also do all of the promotion Derek, to find a small press willing to do everything but write the book, must be a pipe dream surely? As for paying for the priviledge – forget it! If you do come across a small press that doesn’t charge, and is totally author friendly, let me know. ;)

    • If by some odd chance I do, Jack, I’ll let you know! But my main point was that many authors jump into bed with a publisher without doing their homework, or at least asking a few questions upfront. On my book promotion site, I have been notified to delete quite a number of books due to author-publisher disputes, so disagreements and misunderstandings are very common. Sometimes the dream and excitement of getting published gets in the way of asking some questions first, and then making a reasoned business decision.

  • Hi Derek, Your first point about rights is confusing. A contract with a traditional publisher is all about how many rights they are obtaining. An author has to sign at least English (and usually Commonwealth) rights so a novel can be published in that territory. With short stories, the rights tend to revert to the author after a given time, say a year. There are some advantages to signing world rights when an author doesn’t have an agent. The Big Five often have vast teams who are able to sell those rights for an un-agented author, and some of them release works simultaneously into other territories, namely the US. Retaining translation and dramatisation rights are definitely things to consider before signing, but a contract can contain a clause that says rights revert to the author after a certain time if they have not been sold. Without an agent, it is very difficult for an author to sell their rights.


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