Blue Kitty Publishing -- there now I'm a publisher, got a company name and everything. If you aren't jumping to mail me your manuscript, then read on. If you are, read on with attention and care...
There are three kinds of groups that call themselves publishers. The most dangerous of these groups are often referred to as "Vanity Publishers". These are companies whose goal isn't to sell books to the public, but instead to sell writers their own books. They are the lowest of the low, getting rich off the broken dreams of hopeful writers. Sometimes places you submit to will sell your information to these predators who will contact you making it seem like they are offering you a book contract, when really they only want to swindle you out of thousands of dollars.
Ways to Spot Vanity Publishers
- They contact you instead of the other way around
- They call over and over like bill collectors (The call center employees' job is to sell you copies of your own book. They have high sales quotas and are desperate to keep their job)
- Their website is geared towards writers and not readers
- They ask for money in exchange for print, marketing, proofread and editing services (some even promise to pay it back if you sell a certain number of books, they end up with your savings and you end up with a thousand copies of your poorly edited dreams)
The next group of publishers, I don't think have a commonly used name because they blend in with indie publishers. But for the sake of clarity I'll call them amateur publishers. Amateur publishers are everyday people like you and me, who have discovered self-publishing. And they decide wouldn't it be neato to run a publishing company. Their mom can do the editing, her BA was in English Lit. Their cousin Vinnie can draw, he can do the bookcovers. As for marketing, well, they have a Twitter account...
Amateur publishers aren't inherently bad or ill-willed. They aren't trying to jack you out of your money. They simply have about as much experience selling books as you do. Maybe a few months more. There is nothing wrong with using an amateur publisher, maybe their mom proofreads better than your mom, and their cousin makes nicer covers than any of your relatives. And if only six copies of the book sells because no one has heard of it, does it matter that the 18 bucks profit is being split down the middle? Just realize that this is pretty much the same as self-publishing, but someone else is uploading it to Amazon.
When you get published by an amateur, please don't brag about it in your queries to agents and traditional publishers, it makes you look like a n00b.
Ways to Spot Amateur Publishers
- Their webpage has "wordpress" or "blogger" in the URL
- Books? There isn't a single book on their webpage (because they haven't published any)
- Contracts? Who really needs those? (Or more accurately, who knows what they are for or where to get them)
- Marketing plan? We'll give copies of the book away for free using Amazon's KDP Select. That counts as a marketing plan, right?
The last group are the people we are really imagining when we say "publisher". People with years of experience, with staff that are paid salaries and don't stalk writers. The people who can send your books to reviewers and actually get a response back.
Ways to Spot Traditional Publishers
- They plan on selling your book to someone other than you
- They have contracts that clearly spell out your rights and responsibilities
- They offer an advance (gasp! money for the writer?!?! No way!)
- They have tons of books that are selling well (because it's what they do)
- They have marketing plans that will cost them money!
- When they accept your manuscript the attitude is that they are going to make an investment in you and your work and they expect for it to pay off
Before ebooks, being published meant that thousands upon thousands of dollars had to be invested in the writer to print his/her books and to bribe stores to sell them, then to convince readers to buy them. As writers we were asking for something. That's what gave the word "publisher" it's power.
But if the person calling themselves a publisher isn't offering what publishers used to offer, don't be so quick to bend your neck. There are options now. Amazon and Smashwords have offered to be our foster parents. We might not be eating fine cuisine, but we aren't going hungry anymore.
When it comes to your work, act like a diva. "What can you, do for me?" And if the answer is "nothing." Take your book and keep steppin'.*
*if the answer is "we can get you into Oprah's Book Club", pull out your rag and start spit shining those boots