How to research a publisher

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to hang around new-writer boards and try to offer constructive guidance. I consider it paying forward all the help I received when I was a clueless noob, plus it’s genuinely rewarding to see people finding their collective way in this publishing jungle.

below is a revised response to a question received about a specific publisher, who will remain unnamed in this post. I’ve removed items that specifically point toward a publisher and revised pointed statements to be more generalized. Overall, it is meant to give a quick rundown on how to quickly look at a publisher and filter it as not worth considering or something worth further research.


1) First stop for me is always Google.

The publisher needs to have enough pull on the market to be the most important hit. If the publisher page is way down the page, they aren’t pulling traffic and aren’t likely to have much market clout.


2) Do they own their domain name?

A business that hasn’t purchased a dot-com hasn’t made the most basic investment you can make in a business. Domains are cheap. There is no reason for a business to not have one. I don’t want to be in a business relationship or have contractual obligations to someone who doesn’t invest in the business.


3) What do they publish?

Some of the small publishers will take whatever comes their way. An unfocused genre spread means an unfocused market, which means unfocused promotion for you, the author. You want a publisher that sells your genre and your kind of book within your genre.


4) Author page on the website lists a handful of authors.

This is not surprising if it’s a startup, but any business open more than a year should have a stable of authors. I also try to determine if the owner is one of the authors listed. if so, it indicates the business was started to be a promotional tool for the owner. Oftentimes, the other authors are not given fair and equal billing.


5) Book cover assessment

Covers are a major selling point. They make the difference between glancing past your book and stopping to look. How would you feel with one of those covers on your book? Horrible graphics are a legitimate reason to pass on a publisher.


6) Next stop… Amazon.

I start with book rank.  want to find high rank for recent releases, and a moderate sale rate for older books. extremely low numbers mean they aren’t moving product, which means the authors aren’t making money.

Poor sales are never beneficial for the author.


7) The “look inside” feature on Amazon.

This is important because I can get a look at the editing and quality of their product.  I’m looking for both subjective writing quality and more technical grammar issues. You want a publisher that will have strong editing and make your writing shine.


8) Smashwords

Why Smashwords? it’s considered the go-to place for book distribution and non-Amazon publishing for most self-publishers, and a lot of small publishers will use it to put out books. This means they aren’t doing anything in terms of putting your book on the market that you can’t do yourself.



So what do I count as positives?

I want to see a professional, polished website, high Google ranking, books released on a regular schedule, Amazon sales over 50K, recent releases, focus on a genre, and equal promotion given to all authors. In addition, I wouldn’t do business with any company that isn’t a familiar name. I know what I read and who publishes it. That’s where I’d go to do business.

The most important thing when filtering publishers is to use common sense. It’s very easy to let excitement and anticipation get the better of you, to let the desire to be published overcome the reasoning part of the brain. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. A bad publishing deal will screw you over and tank your book. Take your time and wait for a publisher who believes in you and will be a strong publishing partner.