If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

WWK--Better than ever--Look for the return of blogs by Linda Rodriguez! She's back--on 1/4. Watch for our new blogger Tammy Euliano--debuting on 1/17

January Interviews

1/06 Sherry Harris, Absence of Alice

1/13 Jane Willan, Abide with Me

1/20 Kelly Brakenhoff, Dead of Winter Break

1/27 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones

Saturday WWK Bloggers

1/02 V. M. Burns

1/09 Jennifer J. Chow

1/23 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

1/16 Shea E. Butler

1/30 Gray Basnight


Congratulations to Jennifer J. Chow for garnering a 2021 Lefty Nomination for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. We're crossing our fingers for Jennifer!

Congratulations to two WWK writers. Paula Gail Benson's "Reputation or Soul" and Keenan Powell's "Miss Millie Munz" have been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Dealing at the Dump" will appear in Cozy Villages of Death Fall 2020.

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Black Market Baby" and Debra H. Goldstein's "Forensic Magic" will appear in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories Fall 2020.

Two new books for WWK members: Jennifer J. Chow's Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines (look for the interview on WWK on 11/11) and Judy Penz Sheluk's Where There's A Will. Both books will be released on November 10.

For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" has been published in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ten Areas to Evaluate a Small Publisher

Have you ever looked at a massive restaurant menu and had a difficult time deciding what to have because there were too many choices? For many authors that is where the publishing industry is today. Options range all the way from trying for a contract with one of myriad imprints of the big five publishers to obtaining a contract with one of the growing number of small independent publishers to indie publishing. Today, I will concentrate on areas to consider when evaluating a small publisher.

To properly evaluate a small publisher you should have access to three things: their contract (it’s what’s legally binding), their authors (they have had actual experience), their books (judge the quality for yourself). And let’s just be clear: publishers pay you; you do not pay a publisher.

1. Editing: Do they use your Word document or PDF file as is? That’s not a publisher, it’s a printer. You can do that on CreateSpace, IngramSpark and their competitors. Quality editing is one of the most valuable add-ons a publisher can provide. Do they have on-staff editors? Use freelance editors? Are story edits included or only copyedits? How satisfied with the editing are their authors? Read one of their books—how was the copyediting?

2. Layout: As long as you are looking at a book for its copyediting, let’s jump ahead and look at the layout. Is it attractive? Meet industry standards? Or does it have words oddly hyphenated, print crammed onto the page, or other things that attract your negative attention (and therefore take away from the reader’s experience)?

3. Book covers: Look at their catalogue. Can you visualize your book selling well with their cover designs? People pick up books because they look interesting.

4. Print, ebook, digital audio? Some publishers only handle ebooks; a few only handle print.

5. How do they distribute books? Will the book be pitched to retailers or distributors by a sales team? Most small publishers do not have a sales team, but some do—and those are probably investing in a print run (see item 5). If not, do they have a plan to get books into bookstores? (Being “distributed through Ingram” is not enough—you can do that yourself—it just means a bookstore could order your book.). Do they utilize book club distribution?

6. Print Run: Do they employ a print run or publish Print on Demand (POD)? A print run implies a larger investment in your book. Anyone can do POD using CreateSpace, IngramSpark or their ilk.

7. What marketing do they do? Do they send ARCs to reviewers? (To whom? Do they get reviews?) Do they prepare press releases? (Sent where?) Send media release copies (To whom? What success?)

8. Remuneration: [Did you notice we are all the way down to item seven before considering money? If the book sucks because it didn’t have decent editing, or it is unattractive, or no one can find it, it won’t matter how good the royalty scale is because you won’t sell many copies.] What are the royalties? Make sure you understand all the terms and how they compare to other publishers. Is there an advance? The larger the advance the more the publisher has invested in making sure your book succeeds.

9. What rights are they asking for and how can you get them back? Does the publisher utilize the rights they ask for or does their contract make a huge grab (audio, foreign languages, etc.) but only produce English language material sold in North America?

10. How long is their process from acceptance to publication? Have their authors experienced unexpected delays?

Okay – here’s a bonus question, because my readers are special and deserve something more. [And truth be told, I had two number 3s and only caught it when I went to post this.]

11. When you talk with authors, what vibe do you get? Most authors want to promote their publisher (because it validates their decision to go with that publisher), so if there are hesitations, pay close attention. Make sure to ask about communications with the publisher.

Naturally these questions don’t cover everything you need to know, but if you feel good about a publisher after considering these things, you might just have a good fit and a reason to use a small publisher rather than self-publish.

~ Jim


Warren Bull said...

An excellent list, Jim. I would add when you talk with a publisher's authors, select one (or more) whose book was published some time ago. That way you could ask about what happens over time after publication.

Jim Jackson said...

Good thought, Warren. Is the love affair still going strong after the initial mutual admiration is over. :)

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I like your criteria, Jim. I've often noticed that some small publishers seem to offer services that don't have much value. Like you said, POD can be done by the author. Having no publicity arm or limited distribution doesn't add value beyond what authors can accomplish on their own. I've been contacted by publicists who have either been hired by the authors or publishers, and I've wondered why spend money on a middle man when most of the time authors contact me directly for interviews or guest blogs. Although I haven't done an exhaustive sampling, when I've looked into a few small publishers, I've often thought-- Why not just put in on Amazon and promote, POD, and distribute yourself? I understand the need and want to be traditionally published, but not to the extent of giving money away in exchange for the "status."

Jim Jackson said...

EB -- as much as Indie authors wish it were not the case, many, many people believe that being traditionally published, even by a small publisher no one has heard of, is a mark that your book is "worthwhile." Because anyone can (and many that should not, do) self-publish, self-published books will probably continue to be tarnished a bit UNLESS you have a big name.

I'm not saying it is fair or right, but it is a current fact in these United States.

~ Jim

judyalter said...

An important list, Jim. I would add one thing: look at the publisher's list to see how heavily they are invested in your genre. I had a good experience with my publishers, but they were clearly more interested in romance than mystery.

Jim Jackson said...

Judy - point well taken. You can get a feel for that when you look at their catalog (even if online) and their covers (many publishers have a cover style that leans toward their favored genre).

~ Jim

KM Rockwood said...

One other factor to consider is whether you, as an author, are actually capable of navigating all the details needed to self-publish, and can you trust your own judgment concerning things like how much editing is needed, etc.

I have a great deal of difficulty navigating many aspects of the process, and I value the things that small publishers provide, both in the editing field and in technical expertise. I have self-published a book of short stories and a single, longer short story, and the process was fraught with frustration. Even the editor I hired didn't catch things that now make me cringe when I look at them. I know that correcting them should be possible, but I also know I will spend days trying to do it if I make the attempt, and there is no guarantee I will succeed. I also haven't go the talent to make my own covers. By the time I add up what it will cost me in both money and time,not to mention frayed nerves, I see no advantage to self-publish. For me, at least.

My books were originally published by Musa, which closed its virtual doors in February, and now by Wildside. Since they both operate (or operated) on limited budgets, distribution and promotion are not top flight, but I am quite happy with what they have done for my books.

Shari Randall said...

Great list, Jim. Makes me jealous of folks who have a publisher who actually does all this stuff well. It seems like a luxury for an author to be able to just write these days.

Jim Jackson said...

And Shari, when it comes to small publishers, I don't know of any who do everything well. It becomes a matter of understanding what they do or do not do well and deciding which things are most important to you.

~ Jim

Lida said...

Very informative post, Jim! Since I'm on my first outing and with a small press, I'm glad to see that I followed your list since so much is an unknown to the newbie. How responsive the publisher is was a factor for me as well, along with how thorough the replies to my (many) questions.

Jim Jackson said...

Lida -- Wishing you all the best with your debut. Great that you covered all the bases.

~ Jim

Kaye George said...

A post to be recommended, many good points! 11, as it turns out.

Jim Jackson said...

Thanks Kaye -- When I went to post this I realized I had two number 3s -- so I renumbered and modified the post a titch because who is going to want to read a blog with "11 Areas ..."

~ Jim

Kaye George said...

That's OK, Jim. Not everyone can count .

KB Inglee said...

Good list made better by the readers additions. Thanks.

Grace Topping said...

Very valuable information, Jim. Thanks very much.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Not everyone has the same experience with individual small publishers. I know some who have left publishers because their book didn't sell--but the author didn't do much promoting either.

I'm with two different small publishers--both have strengths in different areas, but I spend a lot of time promoting book I have with both.

Polly Iyer said...

Great list, Jim. Even large publishers don't do many of the in-depth things you mentioned anymore. Promotion money goes to the tried and true earners, and newbies still have to do much of their own heavy lifting. I have three books published by two e-publishers, and I have to say, they both did great editing. As far as publicizing, it was up to me. Those publishers that publish in hardback for a year or so limit the how many people will be able to afford their books. But the writers are going after library sales. That one is a trade-off. You always have something valuable to offer in this crazy business. Thanks.

Jim Jackson said...

Marilyn & Polly: You both make excellent points. Hopefully in just a few days, Polly, you'll have a third ebook publisher with Kindle Press after your Kindle Scout nomination process is completed.

Blog readers: only 3 days left to nominate Polly's Indiscretion on Kindle Scout. If Polly wins, you'll get her book free from Kindle Press when they publish it.

~ Jim

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Good list, and noting the fact that getting info from authors may be the weakest link, as unless they're very disgruntled, they're not going to be overly negative. Another aspect is to see how professional they are, in communication and otherwise.

Another thing to do is to do what you can to see if the publisher's books are selling. Amazon/B&N/Kobo ratings, checking ranks on Audible (by comparing the publisher's titles, and cross reference with various narrators' titles and more. If every title is in the millions for Amazon, and especially titles that are relatively newly released, that's not a very good sign.

Finally, I'd like to emphasize that a contract can (and should) be negotiated, and if it's a bad contract, the author should walk away.

Jim Jackson said...

Terry -- some excellent suggestions. With everything that folks have added, I may have to do a revised blog: something along the lines of 20 Areas... :)

~ Jim

Unknown said...

Learning a good deal from your various postings, Jim. This book is my first time out. I expect I''ll pick things up both from experience as well as a little help from my friends. I must say that I appreciate the editing support enormously. I don't know what to say about communication yet. As for promotion, on observation, it seems to me that almost all authors pretty much need to take responsibility for promotion.

Jim Jackson said...


I think you are correct that authors need to take responsibility for promotion. However, small presses vary in their support from those who print your book and wash their hands, to those who are engaged with you in your marketing efforts.

I'm glad your editing has gone well. That, as you know, is really important.

~ Jim

Susan O'Brien said...

Great post! Thank you!

Jim Jackson said...

You are most welcome, Susan.