Checking Out Publishers

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I’m getting to the point in my career where I think I need to branch out in terms of publishers. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve very happy with Loose Id, and I have no plans to leave them. I’ve got several stories lined up to be written, or to finish editing, that should take me well into 2015. These plans have been in the works for a while, but the events of the past year and half have pushed everything off by about six months or more.

There are a few reasons for having more than one publisher.

One is to gain experience with different editors and pick up new skills. Every pub and every editor has their things they do well and things they don’t cover quite as well. They’ll point out different things in your writing, push you in different directions. Some market better than others, while others have a stronger editing department.

Readerships tend to be like a Venn diagram–there’s some overlap between pubs, but there will always be some readers that visit one website, and never go to the other. However, if they like the book you put out at your new pub, they might be encouraged to pop over to your old one and try some of those too.

Myself and several other writers I know are currently debating the issue of multiple genres and whether going to a second or third publisher to handle other genres is a smart thing to do, or just makes it harder for readers to find you. Would it make sense to have contemporary and fantasy at one pub, paranormal and scifi at another, and then a third for anything that doesn’t fit in those categories? In essence, using the publisher’s name as a branding tool for that genre? Or should an author make the effort to keep everything at one publisher for ease of purchase by a reader? (That being said, there are some pubs that seem to be more open to odd categories of fiction, like erotic romance in a fantasy setting, or erotic horror, or steampunk.)

So I’m probably going to test the waters on this. I have something that I’ve been holding onto, that needs some revision, then I’m going to try sending it out again. We’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out the way I’m hoping, then no harm, no foul, right?

What have I been doing to figure out which publishers I want to try? Some of it is personal experience. There are a couple I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, after either having dealings with them (or attempting to), or reading things that came out from them.

Word of mouth. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get involved in the community somewhere, so you hear things that might not be said in an official capacity. Very often, writers are reluctant to discuss concerns they have with a publisher, because they’re afraid of being blacklisted, or graylisted. It’s also the place where you’ll hear about the really good stuff too. About times when publishers went above and beyond their responsibility to an author and sorted something out, or even just made a change to a release schedule to help someone having a rough time.

Check their sales rankings for books in the genre that your manuscript would be placed in, and look to see how, and if, they promote themselves. Check Novelrank sales, check ARe rankings, check Goodreads for reviews of the books. Because some publishers are very good at the “Rah, rah, we’re a fantastic publisher!”, but the proof is in the numbers, and sometimes the hype and numbers don’t line up.

Last, but not least, read books from the publishers you’re considering. Especially, read books in your genre. Even if all you can get to is the ‘Look Inside’ from Amazon, read the books. Because that will tell you what their editing is like, if there’s a general trend in the types of characters they prefer in that genre, and it will tell you a little bit about house style.

There’s one pub I’m considering, because their sales are great, but I keep hesitating because their editing is less than stellar. There’s another with great sales, and better editing, but when I read the stuff in my genre, I DNF the books more often than I finish them, which tells me that I might not be writing the kind of stuff that they like. There’s a third with sales that aren’t quite as good, but they seem to be working on their marketing, and the style of their books lines up better with mine. And a fourth that seems to be a bit of a powerhouse, but I’m afraid I’d get lost in the number of books they put out.

These are all things that need to be considered. Each one will have a different weight, depending on where a specific author’s strengths are. Me, I don’t want to have to do much promo. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with it, and I’d prefer to spend time in my imaginary worlds than researching blogs and trying to figure out what, exactly, is the optimal schedule and number of guest posts for a blog tour. I also look at this as a chance to learn something new, so I want a place with editors that will challenge me, but also know how to show me where the path is when I get so all I can see is the trees.

And the last thing I want is a crystal ball, so I can just look ahead and see which is the right choice to make. 😛 Because, really, the only way to find out the truth is to make a choice, and jump. So, that’s what I’ll be doing, once I’ve got Loose Id looked after. A little experiment, if you will. Should be fun. 🙂

About the author: Kate Lowell

4 comments to “Checking Out Publishers”

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  1. zoexrider - July 26, 2014 Reply

    Love this post. For not feeling particularly comfortable with promotion, you do a good job of throwing yourself right into it.

    The whole publisher conundrum can keep you up all night with the various pros and cons. And then, when you finally pick one and submit, it always seems like two days later you realize Maybe That Wasn’t The Right One After All. (Well, that’s what happens to me at least. On the other hand, that does make the submission waiting period less stressful: “So, if they reject me, I can submit it this other place that I now want to submit it to!”) When you’re open to self-publishing, that just makes the decision even harder, though that would definitely not be the choice for someone who’s not comfortable promoting.

  2. Kate Lowell - July 26, 2014 Reply

    If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it well, or as well as I’m capable. I find right now, where there’s so much going on–learning to write better, keeping up with critique groups, trying to read in my genres so I’m current–throwing in the need to hunt down places to promo is like the proverbial straw. I’m already dreading making the list and sending out the emails, coming up with ideas to make the posts attractive, do I do a giveaway, do I book ad placement, etc. As I get more comfortable and practiced, this might go away. But right now, that is where my head is. I know too little, and at the same time, I know enough to have a vague idea of the scope of what I still need to learn to do, and it can feel overwhelming.

    As for self-pubbing, I am going to have a try at it some day. Maybe if the AW anthology doesn’t go this year, I’ll try with that little piece of goofiness. I’m just being careful not to put so much on my plate that I can’t keep it spinning, to mix my metaphors. Need to clear the slate a bit, though, and get a bit ahead of schedule if I want to get my feet wet there too.

  3. Ana J. Phoenix - July 27, 2014 Reply

    Excellent post! I definitely want to branch out in the future for reasons you mentioned but am currently struggling to find a publisher that I LOVE. I might just go with the one that offers the most exposure in the end.
    But I don’t have to worry about that until I get my tax thingy sorted out anyway. 😀

    Maybe we should have a talk on everything the job entails BESIDES writing.

    (Also, I feel like I can identify most publishers you don’t name here. 🙂 )

  4. Kate Lowell - July 27, 2014 Reply

    There’s a Dirty Bird topic, or several topics.

    I don’t think there’s a perfect publisher out there. But there are publishers that better suited to certain people than others. It’s going to be fun, and nervewracking, exploring them.

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