So, you've taken the time and done the easy part: you've written your book. Okay, so the actual writing of the book isn't all that easy, but it's definitely easier than what comes next: finding someone to publish it for you.
With the recent popularity of epublishing, publishers are a dime a dozen. Good for you, right? Not necessarily. It's very easy for anyone to open a publishing house nowadays and not all of them are on the up-and-up. So, how do you find a publisher who is reputable? The answer is different for everyone, but below are the steps I use when I'm searching for a good, reputable, publisher.
1. In order to research a publisher you have to first find a publisher. The two sites I always use are Duotrope and Writers Market. These sites allow you to search for publishers in your specific genre. Make a list of those you're interested in.
2. Once I have my list, the first place I start researching is Preditors & Editors and Absolute Write. They are both free sites that offer advice and insight into various publishers. I ALWAYS check these two sites BEFORE I submit anything to a publisher.
3. If your chosen publishers has a clean track record with Preditors & Editors and Absolute Write then it's time to start looking at said publishers website. Look at everything. Click through every page they have available. If there are a lot of broken links then you might want to think twice about sending them your work. If there are a ton of authors who've only ever published one book with the publisher then it's a good possibility the publisher is an author mill and you want to avoid those. If the publisher has a sample contract available--READ IT! You don't want to waste your time formatting and submitting to a publisher if their contract is one that you're not comfortable signing. Also take some time to study the book covers. Do you like them? Would you be proud to have your name on a book with a cover similar to the ones they provide?
4. Another thing I always do is look at their current published authors. I randomly pick four or five, look them up and then email them. I introduce myself, explain that I'm considering publishing with XYZ Publishing, and ask if they'd be willing to tell me about their experiences with said publisher. You'd be surprised at how helpful this can be. This is probably the best source of honest information you'll get about a publisher. A fellow author will be able to tell you things that you can't find out otherwise--things such as how it is dealing with the editing staff or if royalties are paid on time.
5. So now that you've found some publishers you like, it's time to start submitting. Be sure to read all their submission guidelines very carefully and follow them to the letter. Failing to do so will most likely result in an automatic rejection.
6. Wait for a response.
7. Wait a little bit longer.
8. Yay! You've gotten a response. It's a rejection. Yell. Scream. Call a friend and bitch until your heart is content then file it away and wait some more. Chances are you'll get several more of these. It's the nature of the business, but don't lose hope.
9. Woo hoo! Another response. Congratulations! You've been offered a contract. Take some time, jump around. Yell. Scream. Dance. Tell everyone you've ever known that you're going to be a published author. Now calm down. It's time to do some more research.
That's right. Just because you have a contract offer doesn't mean you're done. In fact, you're just beginning. Again. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to just sign that contract and send it right back, but doing so could be detrimental to you.
10. The acceptance email you just received will usually contain the contract, a pre-editing or formatting checklist, pertinent information about the publisher, a book information and/or cover art form. Take the time and read each one of them carefully.
Start with the contract. Read it line by line. If you don't understand something, ask. If there's something missing that you feel should be included, ask. If there's something included that doesn't sit well with you, ask. Ask! Ask! Ask! If you don't understand it--don't sign it! Sit down and compose an email asking every single question you have. Then send that email. Keep the contract safely in your inbox and wait for a response. If after you get answers you're still unclear, send another email asking more questions. Pay close attention to not only the answer you're given, but how long it took you to get them.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I received an email stating one of my manuscripts had been accepted by a publisher (who shall remain nameless) and that I should be on the look-out for the contract in a separate email. It took a full two weeks for them to send me the contract. That alone was enough to irritate me, but when I read the contract and sent them an email full of questions, I never received a response. Ever. Needless to say, I politely declined their contract offer.
11. Time to move on to the pre-editing/formatting checklist. Most times it specifies font style, size, margins, quotations, em dashes, etc. However, many publishers have certain things they prefer--such as using "as if" instead of "like" or saying "my gaze followed her" as opposed to "my eyes followed her." Pay careful attention to how they want you to do things.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I received a pre-edit checklist in which the publisher wanted me to remove all complex sentences, semi-colons, and em-dashes. I stopped reading at that point and politely declined the contract offer. I refuse to "dumb down" my work for anyone.
I'm not going to lie. It's a lot of work, but in the end when you find that publisher who's just as passionate about your work as you are, it'll all be worth it.
Do you have any tips or stories about your search for a publisher?