1. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    What makes a good or bad publisher?

    Discussion in 'Publisher Discussion' started by Tenderiser, Jan 3, 2019.

    Writers are warned to beware of "bad" publishers. But how are we supposed to know if a publisher is good or bad?

    It's taken me a long time to learn how to spot the good from bad, so I thought I'd share. Note that my research is focused on publishers of novels rather than poetry, screenplays, etc, which might be very different.

    Before we get into that, we need to define what is meant by "good" and "bad." For purposes of this post:

    A good publisher will sell your work to a large number of readers.

    What counts as "a large number" will depend on your genre and the form of writing, among much else, so let's say that means "many orders of magnitude more than you could sell on your own."

    Bad publishers fall into two categories:

    Some bad publishers are scams, who will extract money from you and not sell your book.

    Some bad publishers have good intentions but won't be able to sell your book any better than you could on your own.


    So, how do you tell if a publisher is good or bad?

    1. Look up the publisher on Writer Beware.

    http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/...writer-beware/ is a resource warning authors about scams and poor publishers. As always, think critically... but Writer's Beware is a well-established and very well-respected site whose only agenda is to protect authors from scams.

    2. Google the publisher's name + scam, and publisher's name + vanity press

    Dig around the search results and see if there's evidence of writers paying the publisher for their services. Don't take anybody's word for it, but look at the weight of evidence and its source and work out if you need to be worried or not.

    3. Look at the publisher's website.
    • Is the website aimed at readers or at writers? For example, does the front page showcase books for sale, or does it 'sell' the publisher to prospective writers? Are there more pages on the site devoted to information for readers, or for writers?
    Good publishers aim their websites at readers, because they make their money from selling books to readers.
    Bad publishers aim their websites at writers, because they make their money from selling their 'services' to authors.
    • Look at the publisher's staff, especially their editors.
    Good publishers are run by people who have significant experience in the publishing industry. Good editors have several years' experience editing with good publishers. Qualifications in English, good spelling, and/or enthusiasm are not sufficient.

    Bad publishers are run by people with little or no publishing experience. Bad publishers are often run by nice people with good intentions, but niceness and good intentions don't sell books.
    • Look at their submission guidelines.
    Legitimate publishers NEVER charge fees. Ever. Not for reading, or editing, or covers, or marketing, or anything else. If fees are not mentioned explicitly, but the publisher uses ambiguous terms like "investment" or "partnership" or "assisted publishing", do not submit your work without thorough research.

    Legitimate publishing houses usually focus on one genre or a few closely related genres (like sci-fi and fantasy). The smaller the publisher / imprint, the narrower their focus should be, because they won't have the staff or marketing budget to successfully sell wide-ranging genres.

    4. Look at the books they have published.

    You can find the publisher's books on their websites or on retail sites.

    Good publishers sell books you (as a reader of that genre) want to read. The books will have professional covers and the blurbs and any previews will be well-written and free of errors. They should ideally have published books that you've heard of and enjoyed.

    If the publisher sells print books, go into your local bookshops and see if any of their books are on the shelves. Note that some publishers only publish, or mainly publish, eBooks. This does not mean they are a bad publisher by default - some genres do very well as eBooks.

    5. Look at the sales rankings of some of the publisher's books.

    http://www.salesrankexpress.com/ is a free site where you can look up sales rankings. It doesn't give sales figures, which are generally hard to come by unless you know authors you can ask personally, but it gives you an idea of how well the publisher's books sell. You can look at all of a publisher's books (make sure you get the name right) or individual titles.

    For mainstream genres, you will want to see several tiles ranked in the three or four digits. For niche genres, five figures may be good. A publisher whose books are all ranked in the millions, or have no rankings, is selling very few copies.

    The number of reviews their titles attract is also a rough marker of sales figures. If most of the publisher's books have no reviews, they're not selling.

    6. How did you find out about them?


    Good publishers don't approach writers, except in very rare circumstances. They don't need to; they have more submissions than they will ever need. Likewise, they don't need to advertise to writers. Publishers who need to tempt writers to submit aren't selling books.

    7. Talk to their authors. (Thanks to @BayView)

    "I'd add, once you've gotten an offer, asking for some time and then contacting other authors who work with that publisher.

    Most authors are happy to say nice things about their publishers, and if you find an author who seems reluctant to say anything, that may be a sign of trouble.

    Not conclusive, but not something to be ignored.

    (I suggest doing this ONCE YOU HAVE AN OFFER, not at an earlier stage, b/c it's not great to ask authors for their time if there's no reason for your request to be necessary)."

    -----

    Any other tips? Any questions? Would it be useful to have a thread focusing on scams only?
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'd add, once you've gotten an offer, asking for some time and then contacting other authors who work with that publisher.

    Most authors are happy to say nice things about their publishers, and if you find an author who seems reluctant to say anything, that may be a sign of trouble.

    Not conclusive, but not something to be ignored.

    (I suggest doing this ONCE YOU HAVE AN OFFER, not at an earlier stage, b/c it's not great to ask authors for their time if there's no reason for your request to be necessary).
     
    Richard Shafer and Tenderiser like this.
  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Good one! I'll add that.
     
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  4. Philip Armstrong

    Philip Armstrong New Member

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  5. Philip Armstrong

    Philip Armstrong New Member

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    I wish I had joined this forum a month ago as this what you have posted would of saved me a lot of wasted time but now I have read it I just want to say it has helped me a lot and thank you for bring this subject up. I am new to all this so I have loads to learn and I have had my lesson of the day from you. Cheers.
     
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  6. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    A simplistic version:

    Money up front from you = bad.

    Money up front from them = good.
     
  7. Sergeant Mirror

    Sergeant Mirror Member

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    Thanks some great information there to consider
     

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