How to Recognize a Bad Publisher (part 2)

Publishers, even small ones, are most often thought of as the ticket to your writing success. If you can get one to like your work, it’s all money and movie deals from then on, yeah?

Unfortunately, there are plenty of small publishers that don’t have the means to deliver on their promises to help you do well and sell.

In part one, (catch up and read HERE!) we talked about three major warning signs to look out for so you can avoid contracting with a BAD experience.

Any publisher that asks for money, doesn’t have active marketing campaigns, and doesn’t bother reading your manuscript is one you should run from. And quickly.

As if those warnings weren’t scary enough, here are three more for you to watch out for-

Sign #4- Cover art looks amateur

What you see is what you get. If you are not impressed by the cover art they are doing for others, you can’t expect you’ll somehow be the exception.

Due to their lack of budget and/or design team, small publishers are often open to utilizing concept covers you may have created yourself. But here’s a word of warning- just because you have a great concept doesn’t mean the in-company person making your cover will know what to do with it.

For example, the startup publisher I was with had a fairly nice looking logo. Unfortunately, it had the wrong pixel ratios so it rarely looked clean and focused. We actually had the same issue on some of the book covers. Even though the company “design artist” had nice original images, he never used proper resolution. Therefore, the images couldn’t be manipulated into various sizes for media needs. Nearly everything looked a little fuzzy, which was downright embarrassing.

If you have a great cover you’d like to pitch to your future publisher, be sure current designs by that publisher prove they’re capable of handling it. You don’t want to look cheap.

Sign #5- Too big a range in genre

One downfall of many startup/young publishers is they show little discretion in what type of book they will sign. They start out with zero books so it makes sense. They’re eager to add anyone that shows interest in them. Or perhaps they are simply striving to be extremely diverse.

Either way, it quickly becomes a problem when a reader comes back for more books and doesn’t find anything of similar interest.

In my experience, I have seen a fictional retelling of the Biblical book of Genesis signed right next to an adult fiction drenched in profanity. I don’t see that duo having many crossover fans, do you?

One of the fastest ways to find acceptance in the publishing world is to find out where you actually belong.

You may want to stand out in a crowd of misfits but you won’t benefit from shared readership. Go be with your own genre. They’re not your competition. They’re your supporting neighbor. Look for a publisher that focuses on a specific genre range or properly divides diverse genres into separate branches. They will be far better suited to meet your genre needs and provide you the correct genre audience.

Sign #6- Only offer eBooks

This one may surprise some of you, considering the rise in e-book popularity and its many benefits. My warning here is not that you can’t be successful as an e-book only writer.  But no matter how much success you have via e-book, you’re missing out on the extra success a hard copy will bring you.

A publisher that stays online is not going to be able to provide you with much in the way of physical promotion. (Not to mention, they’ll be the one pocketing the most profit since e-books don’t cost them a thing to make.) There’s a lot of support to be gained from your family, friends, and local community when you first start out as an author. It’s rather hard to gain momentum with this type of advertising when you don’t have hard copies. Especially when you need them for signings, giveaways, stock in local libraries and stores, book clubs…you name it.

Your book is a product, one that people want to easily get their hands on. Interest level decreases when access to your product is dependent upon reader effort.

There are far more hands and eyes available to consume your book than there are Kindles. In our world of household tech, it’s hard to remember there’s still a vast population without means or access to online reading.

This is especially important to note when you’re a Young Adult author. The majority of your audience will be looking for their books in schools and local libraries. While I can’t deny that it LOOKS like every teen has a phone and computer, the REALITY is a different story and one that is critically important for your popularity.

You must consider your reader’s needs as you make important publishing decisions.

Thanks for reading!

That’s all the warnings I have for now, though I’m sure I’ll come up with more to share later. If you missed out on part one, be sure to click HERE to catch up on warnings about publishers that don’t offer advance pay, have an empty marketing and media presence, and fail to get to know your writing.

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