Choose Your Publisher with Care

By Deb Haggerty, @DebHaggerty

When an author begins to look at publishers to see where their book might fit, there are several things they should take into consideration. The same steps generally apply to agents as well.

  1. Does the publisher have a good reputation in the industry? With the proliferation of small, boutique publishers popping up constantly, you want to ensure the publisher you choose is honest and has a good image. Unfortunately, even in Christian publishing, there are unethical publishers who only want your money and do not produce a quality product. Investigate carefully.
  2. Has the publisher got a track record? How many books have they published? How many books do they publish in a year? You want to make sure your publisher is not a fly-by-night. They should have published books for a while and have a significant list of books available as well as a variety of authors. Ask for references.
  3. How do they operate? There are a variety of different kinds of publishers. You’ll find pay-to-print or vanity presses—who’ll publish anything as long as you pay them. Some of these presses are legitimate publishers who provide a variety of services for the money, such as EA Book Publishing. Hybrid publishers are a combination of pay-to-print and traditional. You’ll need to read their contract carefully (you should read ALL contracts carefully). Some hybrids do not offer any editing—what you send them is what gets printed, errors and all, and they require you purchase a significant number of books. Traditional or royalty publishers range from large, multi-imprint houses like Tyndale, Broadman/Holman, and Baker Books to small-medium, independent publishers like Light House Publishing of the Carolinas and Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.
  4. Does the publisher require query letters? Proposals? Do they accept simultaneous submissions? Unagented authors? Check out the publisher’s website for the format required for manuscripts as well as specifications about what they do and don’t accept.
  5. What kind of contract does the publisher offer? What rights are claimed by the publisher and what rights are left to the author—are rights negotiable? If so, which ones? How long is the contract period? Does the publisher require you to submit new works to them before shopping them to other publishers? Can you get out of the contract? Can they terminate the contract for any reason before the term is completed? ALWAYS read everything in the contract carefully.
  6. What genres do they publish? Fiction? Nonfiction? Devotionals? Bible Studies? Poetry? Children’s Books? If Fiction, what areas? Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Fantasy/Science Fiction/Supernatural?

Once you’ve carefully considered all these items, you’ll have a better idea of what publishers your book may fit. Be sure when you contact them that everything you submit is pristine from a grammar, punctuation, usage, and spelling standpoint—nothing turns off a prospective publisher (or agent) more than a messy, inaccurate query letter, proposal, or manuscript.

An informed author is smart author—and a good businessperson.

Deb Haggerty is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Elk Lake Publishing Inc., a traditional, royalty-paying, Christian publisher that “Publishes the Positive.” As an author, blogger, and professional speaker, she’s been published in over twenty books with fifty-plus articles. Deb, her husband, Roy, and Coki the Dog live in Plymouth, MA.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Choose Your Publisher with Care

  1. Deb, your information is so important for writers. Thanks for a great job describing this need. Unfortunately, as beginning writers we are often so bent on finding a publisher that will give us that dreamed of book contract, that we don’t check the vital details. I think talking with authors who’ve been published by that publisher can reveal much good information before signing a contract.

    Be blessed today,
    Elva Cobb Martin
    President, ACFW-SC Chapter

  2. Deb, Excellent advice. However, it’s also necessary to warn the not-yet-published authors that there’s no guarantee there’ll be a contract forthcoming, even if they choose the publisher to whom they’ll submit carefully. Ultimately, the writer doesn’t ultimately choose the publisher, but rather the publisher chooses the writer. It’s a tough business, but worth it.