POD Series #7 – Questions every writer should ask a publisher before querying.

Before you inject your morning cuppa directly into your veins, before you freebase that jelly donut, before you brush your teeth…Research, research, research BEFORE you query/submit!

I’ve seen thousands of letters and emails of the most trusting souls who were delivering their submission into my grubby little hands. These were writers who nothing about us. They didn’t know whether we were scammers or the next best thing to sliced bread. All I would have had to do is say, “This is the best thing I’ve read since the last submission. Wanna contract?” and they would have jumped.

This, frankly, scares the bejabbers out of me.

Writers, please, for the love of all that’s holy, know who you’re dealing with BEFORE you submit. Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, they own you, and the next number of years can be wonderful or dreadful. The desire to be published should not overrule good business practices.

It reminds me of a few years ago when I returned home to see my kitchen and breakfast nook flooded in two inches of water. I panicked, as any self-respecting woman would, and called the biggest ad that screamed promises of being at my home within minutes. The stopped the flood and proceeded to suggest all sorts of things that were in dire need of fixing or my house would explode. Having just jump started my heart, I jumped at their generous offer of $1500 to make my life complete. Hubby wasn’t nearly as amused. I’d been scammed. Thankfully we charged it, and they never got paid.

But what about you? You won’t have the luxury of calling the credit card company and saying that you made a mistake and your publisher is an idiot. Lawyers have a very difficult time winning court cases against publishers. Your only protection is knowing who you’re dealing with.

I’ve put up a number of questions that I feel will give you some level of comfort as to what kind of publisher they are.

· What kind of a publisher are you? Are you a commercial press, vanity, or POD? Be very careful. Many won’t tell you they’re POD. Vanity is a bit tougher because this requires money up front. But at that, the smaller vanity presses aren’t always forthcoming until you get to the contract stage and they whip out this little tidbit.

· Are your books shelved (not just listed) with Ingram and Baker & Taylor? Be careful if they say that their distributor is Ingram and Baker & Taylor. These guys are not distributors. They’re warehouse distributors. They don’t have a sales team that goes out and pushes your books to chain buyers. Well, okay, Ingram does, but that’s a different animal.

· Are your books listed in the bookstores’ databases? If they say yes, then call up a bookstore and have them look up a few of the publisher’s released titles. If they say they don’t have it listed in their database, this means that no one can buy or even order your book through the bookstore.

· What kind of editing do you provide? Better be developmental and copy editing or walk away. Ask them what standard they use – for instance, we go by Chicago Manual of Style

· Do you do print runs? On average, how big? If not, would you consider doing it for me?

· Do you send out galleys to reviewers? If so, how many and to whom? If they don’t mention the usual suspects – Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Blooomsbury, Booklist, Library Journal, New York Review of Books etc. this is a giveaway because these folks don’t review POD books.

· Are your books returnable? Ask if it’s a standard return policy. Again, be very careful. I know of some scammers who say they have a return policy but in reality, it’s so restrictive that most bookstores won’t order their books. A standard return policy where the book is returned to either Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or the publisher’s distributor within a three-four month time.

· Are your books competitively priced? This is easy to check by going to Amazon.com.

· Does the publisher have a marketing department? Distributor?

· And lastly, ask around. It’s as simple as asking, “Hey anybody heard about Haveievergottadealforyou Publishing?” You’re bound to get feedback. Never, never, ever assume everything is okay. You’ve worked your fingers off writing your novel – treat it with the respect its due.

Happy writing! Happy submitting!

Disclaimer: I’m talking generalities here. There are a number of pretty good POD companies out there. While they still adhere to the points I’ve written about, they’re honest about who they are and what they can and can’t do for their authors.

One Response to POD Series #7 – Questions every writer should ask a publisher before querying.

  1. Jacinta says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article! It has definitly opened my eyes as my own ignorance! I am still in debacle…
    I am I right to assume the POD printing is less desirable than conventional commercial press? And that the physical production of books and therefore distribution should be as much as possible to insure maximum sales?
    Thank you again 🙂

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