By Deb Haggerty
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 Gilead, 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 a published author, freelance editor, and professional speaker. For over thirty years, she’s been writing stories and has been published in over twenty books with fifty-plus articles.
Currently, Deb is the Publisher of Elk Lake Publishing, Inc., an independent, royalty-paying publisher that “Publishes the Positive.”