Again?

So yesterday, if you missed it, we had another incident of publishing woes.  And though I’m not going to get into the specifics of it, it did make me think about how I choose the publishers I submit to.

It’s probably one of the trickiest aspects of the business.  And one that is definitely going to color your publishing experience.  So how do you know who to submit to?  I’m by no means an expert on the subject, but since I’ve had to submit I decided to share my process so you can glean whatever it is you can from it.

The first thing I do when thinking about a new house is check out their covers.  Sad but true, many people do judge a book by its cover.  And, though a good one might not be enough to sell the book on its own, a bad one has been enough to make me move on to the next book.

If the covers are generally good, I then buy a book from the publisher.  Are the prices at a scale I’d pay?  If I, as an author, wouldn’t pay the prices they’re asking then I can’t really expect my readers to.  Also, this lets me know what formats are available and how easy the process is.  Customers want the process to be quick but friendly and secure.  And then, of course, I read the book.  This helps me find the level of editing used at their house and the skill of storytelling they contract.  I really do like to give each house the benefit of the doubt, though, so if the book is so poorly written or edited that I can’t finish it I’ll buy another to see if it’s a fluke.

If I like the covers, the buying process, and find a book I enjoy but I’m still wary then I e-mail a couple of their authors.  It may be skewing the data, but I’d probably tend to start with the authors who’ve only published one story with the house.  Did they have issues or are they just a slow writer (I’m a slow writer so I’m not concerned if that’s the cause).  And I do an internet search to see if there are any interesting blogs or stories out there that may impact my submission.  Why do I do this step so late in the game?  Honestly it’s because there are some complaints that won’t affect me because they’re length and genre specific.  If you’ve had issues with a house’s print policies, I’m not too concerned about them until I have a book that’s print length.

If, after all this, I still feel okay about a house I submit to them.  Then wait.  If I get a contract there are several specific clauses I look for and I do read the contract several times checking the language of it to see if the publisher is being fair with the clauses I feel rather ambivalent about.

Then I do my best to be professional and have my edits in and I expect my editor and all representatives of the house to be professional in all correspondence as well.  I join the loops and I read my e-mails.

Why?  After all, I’m already contractually obligated to the house?

True, but here’s the last bit of my selection process.  I won’t submit anything else to a house until I’ve gone through the entire process with them.  And by process I mean from contract signing to first royalty check received.  Yes this means there will be a lot of time between the first and second books (though I only have to go through the process once to feel comfortable so hopefully my subsequent books will be faster).  But I’m willing to accept that short term loss if it means I’m limiting the damages to my career in the long term.  Some people aren’t and I’m okay with that.  This process is varies with each person’s comfort level.

Like I said, I’m still fairly new at this process though and wouldn’t dream to think I’ve thought of everything.  I’m going to make mistakes, but I do sincerely hope I’ve covered as many of them as possible by being as dedicated as possible.

Did I miss something?  Is there a step you do that I don’t?  Is there a step I do that’s not necessary or a waste of time?  I’d love to hear it and I’m sure everyone else would as well ’cause I think we all cringe when we see fires burning around the industry.

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Comments
7 Responses to “Again?”
  1. Suzanne Rock says:

    I’ll have to confess – I had no idea what you were talking about. After a quick internet search, I think you are talking about a certain ebook publisher who is having problems, yes?

    It sounds like you have a good plan to find a publisher who is right for your story. I have a similar method. I think that the only difference is that I do a little legwork before I visit the website…

    I normally filter for companies who have been in business for at least three years. This way they have a sales history and a proven record. If they can consistently sell quality books for three years, then they are worth my consideration. The only exception I would make to that rule is probably Carina Press, or a company like them. Since they are affiliated with a strong print publisher (Harlequin), and have well known people from the industry on staff, I might shorten the time to a year.

    Now, will I miss some opportunities? You bet. But I’m conservative by nature. More often than not, companies who are shady will start having problems in the first three years. There will be some sort of record online of those troubles, and I will be able to find that record before I submit.

    If they pass my first test, I go over to Piers Anthony’ website (http://www.hipiers.com/publishing.html). He keeps a fantastic pulse on the ebook market. Sometimes, he’ll even put up what they pay for royalties. If there is nothing that raises a red flag, then I go to the website and do what you describe.

    It’s a tough business, and there are many people out there looking to take advantage of authors. Placing your precious story with a publisher — whether it be print or ebook — is one of the toughest parts of the job. A writer should always do this with 2 eyes open. 😉

    • chandraryan says:

      Too true, Suzanne. I always get a little nervous when I submit. Even to a house I’ve worked with and have had a great experience with. Thanks for the link to the Piers Anthony site.

      • chandraryan says:

        Sorry, Suzanne. I meant to say, yes it was in regards to an e-pub in the reply but forgot by the time I got to the end of your comment. It was a very good comment :). And I actually hadn’t heard about it until my writers group last night when one of the members mentioned it. I had to look it up when I got home.

    • Wendi Zwaduk says:

      Hi Chandra,

      I feel your woe when it comes to finding a publisher that’s decent. I’ve been lucky with both my publishers, but I completely about the cover issue. I’ve gone shopping at enough publisher sites to know that some are really skunky and some are beautiful. Actually, covers had something to do with the ones I chose–not all, but some.

      Keep in mind that some pubs have decent editors and some that are not so much. Some are a luck of the draw. It’s no fun to have to search, but it’s worth it when you find the right fit.

      And yeah, you’re smart to ask authors. I’m always willing to help when asked.

      Wendi

      • chandraryan says:

        I’ve been very blessed as well. I feel very fortunate when I think about my experiences with publishing. You’re right, finding the right fit is very much worth it.

        And a huge thank you for being willing to help other authors. I can’t tell you how appreciated it is 🙂

  2. Grace Conley says:

    Hi Chandra — I really enjoyed your post! The only thing I would add on researching an e-publisher is networking through your local RWA chapter. There are a number of e-pubbed authors in mine, and they’re all opinionated as to the pros and cons of the major e-publishers! And sadly, one author just had a year-long nightmare with a certain e-publisher that has ended quite badly — so I’ll know to avoid them in the future. You can’t beat RWA member-feedback in this process!

    Thanks again for a terrific article — it gives a lot of food for thought…

    • chandraryan says:

      That is an excellent idea, Grace. My writer friends have been such a wonderful resource. I would’ve never made it as far as I have if it weren’t for them 🙂

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