How to Evaluate an Independent Digital Publisher
There is now a bewildering choice of independent digital publishers looking for authors in most commercial fiction genres.
I am deliberately focusing on those publishers who pay a Royalty fee for every book sold. Some may also pay a small advance on signing the contract, but the income for the author will usually come from the eBook sales.
Subsidy publishers are publishers who offer authors a full service publishing and distribution process in exchange for, what can be up to several thousand dollars per book. I am sure that most offer an efficient service, but as a full time author, this business model does not work for my kind of genre fiction book.
WritersMarket has links to over 60 companies of all types which offer self-publishing services for the independent author.
You can find up to date lists of Digital Royalty Paying Publishers through an Internet search, and from online resources such as The Independent Publishing Magazine and Digital Book World.
It is worth taking the time to carry out extensive research, and draw up a shortlist of those digital publishers, or e-publishers as they are sometimes known, who could be a good fit for your kind of novel, based on the same criteria that you would use to select anyone you want to do business with.
Perhaps you have read an eBook from that publisher in your genre and liked it?
Or have friends who have published with them in the past and can offer positive feedback that the management team are professionals who treat their authors well.
If in doubt ask your network and writing loops/Facebook groups for feedback in confidence, and scour the internet for any complaints or problems.
After all, you are going to have to rely on them to produce and publish YOUR book.
Here are a few of my personal first pass checks:
*Do they specialize in your kind of books, which can help readers find your book, or are they more general publishers?
For example. Many of the early adapters, such as Entangled Publishing, Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave Publishing Inc , Total-E-Bound Publishing specialise in all types of romance fiction from erotic short stories to mainstream novellas and commercial women’s fiction.
*What is their online presence like? Do you love their website? And what kind of social media platform do they have? It must be professional and credible. This is where YOUR book will be promoted. Are they honest and open with who they are and how they operate? Check the contact details.
*Book covers. This is crucial. If the publisher is not prepared to invest in professional cover design then they are not for you. Same with the book descriptions and layout. Have they taken the effort to make all of the books they publish look appealing and interesting to a casual browser on their website?
*It should be crystal clear what kind of business arrangement they are offering authors. How often are royalties paid, and what is the rate? Is it based on the cover price or net receipts after the discount to the online retailer has been deducted?
*Contracts. What does this publisher want to licence from you? Many expect worldwide rights and all media, including print and audio. Do you want this publisher to have those rights? And at what point does the rights for the digital book revert back to you. Technically, there is no reason for an electronic book to be ever out of print, so it should be clear when you get the rights back for your book. This is usually when the sales per year or quarter, fall below a fixed number.
*Editing Services. Look through their catalogue and buy a book from every digital publisher on your shortlist if you have not already done so. Be ruthless in checking layout and formatting. Spelling and grammar.
*Speed to Publish. Narrow down your shortlist to three choices and check the submission guidelines. How long will you have to wait to hear back from them? If it is longer than 8 weeks, think hard about how long you will have to wait to see your book available for sale. It could be another 4 to 6 months depending on the publishing schedule.
If you are going to wait 6 months to see your book released and then have to work on the launch plan alone – then I would walk away and either chose another digital publisher or decide to self-publish.
*Do they give any clue about who is responsible for marketing and promotion, or is it all up to you?
Remember. This is your self-employed business. Unless your work is available for readers to enjoy, then you are not making any income.