It is time to discuss this aspect of publishing once again, in greater depth.
This a post is a variation from one I wrote many years ago. I will expound in detail on a wide variety of matters authors must consider before selecting a publisher. We have plenty of manuscripts coming in, so I am not hunting for more material. So what is driving me? Watching authors make clear "rookie" mistakes in choosing publishers that all but guarantee a mediocre (at best) product, low royalties (or no royalties--a couple publishers out there are crooks who do not pay), and a waste of years of hard work.
A Cautionary Tale: A well-known Civil War author worked on a Civil War biography for many years. In the
early 1990s, he placed it with a well known university press. The press made a few demands, he modified his text accordingly, and
that was it. There was little or no further input on anything else of real substance.
the finished books arrived, he opened the box with eager anticipation.
The first thing he saw was the dust jacket. It was, to use
his adjective, "hideous." He skimmed through his labor of love and
discovered the paper was heavy but cheap, and that advertised "cloth" was not
cloth at all. The binding was also inexpensively done, and glue was
visible between and around the signatures. He stuck the book on his shelf and, according to him, never opened it
again. Five years of research and the disappointing finished product
was something he would have to live with forever.
He was never offered a chance to see the jacket design or the interior design.
But it did not have to be this way.
this time, some of you are likely wondering why I am sharing a story
like this. The answer might be posed as a question: Would you marry a
girl you have never seen? Would you buy a car you have never driven? For most of us, the answer is obvious. And yet, authors often
jump at the first press that says "yes" to their manuscript.
acceptance minuet performed prior to signing a contract should not
simply consist of a press accepting your manuscript, but must include a
thinking author willing to "accept" the press--and all that entails. It
is a bilateral arrangement, one both sides should enter with eyes
wide open. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a partnership (at
least, that is how we think of it at Savas Beatie.)
it well designed? Does it have a dust jacket? Is the jacket
professionally designed? Look at the flap credits and try to determine
if the designer is an outside professional. Is the interior formatting
pleasing, readable, and cleanly presented? Is the paper appropriate and
of good quality? How is the binding? Tight and square, or loose and
inexpensively done? If applicable, does this press use maps, photos,
footnotes, or end notes? If so, are they plentiful, well done, and
helpfully displayed? Is the text well edited? Generally speaking, look
to see if the books by this press are reviewed positively or negatively
by readers. Is the company brand (think r-e-p-u-t-a-t-i-o-n) strong and
well respected within its publishing niche? Will the company give you
the names of 3-4 authors and allow you to contact them?
are not an exact science; human eyes and hands create them. However, a
good sampling of a publisher's titles will give you a strong sense of
what your finished manuscript will look like.
submission process is, in many respects, caveat emptor--buyer beware.
When you go onto a car lot and open your wallet, you know whether you
will be driving away in a Mercedes or a Chevy. If your eyes and ears are
wide open, you will have a pretty good idea what your final product
will look like before you sign on the dotted line.