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I’m embarking on the task of comparing publishers and publishing methods, to decide which way we should go to publish a novel written by Monica Hadley, founder of Writers’ Voices.

Now, my nature is to want to get a comprehensive list of all the publishers IN THE WORLD, or at least the country, and compare and contrast them all.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, there are way too many choices out there to consider them all.  They even defy categorization by offering a huge range of financial arrangements. It would be neat and clean to draw a line between “traditional royalty publishers” and “subsidy publishers”, or between publishers who carefully select what they’ll publish and those who don’t. But, some publishing houses who publish anything will pay royalties, some do-it-yourself companies are free, and some have traditional royalty arrangements and take submissions from anyone.

The good news is that if you look around enough, you can find just about any arrangement you feel comfortable with.

The main questions to ask seem to be these:

SIZE AND REPUTATION OF PUBLISHER

How does one submit a manuscript?

Is an agent needed to submit?

Does the publisher specialize in a certain genre?

What percentage of submissions get accepted?

What is the reputation of the publisher in the industry?

What well known books has the publisher published?

PRODUCTION

Who pays the cost of printing the book?

Does the author pay to get copies of their book? How much?

Is the book printed in large batches or is by print on demand?

Does the publisher offer editing services or print the book as submitted?

Who covers the cost of these services?

Who makes the final decision on editing? The author or the publisher?

Does the publisher offer graphics services?

Who covers the cost of these services?

Who makes the final decision?

Does the publisher offer page layout services?

Who covers the cost?

Who makes the final decisions?

DISTRIBUTION and FULFILLMENT

Does the publisher have the ability to get your book onto mainstream book store shelves?

Does the publisher have the ability to make your book available by order through major book stores?

Does the publisher fulfill wholesale orders?

MARKETING

Does the publisher market your book on their own website?

What else will the publisher do to market your book?

Does the publisher reserve the right to discontinue marketing efforts?

What are the publishers expectations of the author in terms of marketing efforts?

What are the consequences to either party if marketing follow through does not meet the agreements?

RIGHTS and ROYALTIES

Who maintains the copyrights to the book?

Are royalties paid to the author for books sold by the publisher?

Generally speaking, a mutually beneficial relationship has to be established where the author and the publisher strike a balance between risk and reward. Publishing companies advertise what they are offering, and the savvy author will shop around until he or she finds a company that offers an arrangement comfortable to their situation and goals.

A publisher who takes all the risk by paying for production costs, may retain more of the rewards, like keeping the rights and a healthy share of sales proceeds. Whether this is a good deal for the author or not depends on the size and reputation of the publisher and their marketing prowess. It’s better to end up with 10% of $100,000 than 50% of $100.

Another thing to consider is that a publisher who is willing to take a large risk by putting up all the money upfront and even paying the author an advance, is more likely to want more creative control.

Choosing the right publisher involves clarifying what is more important to you, the author. Creative control? Retention of rights? Financial reward? Financial risk?

In future blog posts, I’ll be reviewing and comparing some of the more prominent and interesting non-traditional publishers and self-publishing methods.

About

Monica Hadley is co-founder, host and producer of Writers' Voices on KRUU 100.1 fm in Fairfield, Iowa, a community low power radio station, and webmaster at writersvoices.com.

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