It’s the age old story. You have so many hopes and dreams. You have all these wonderful stories to tell. You know that it will take an attachment, a proposal and perhaps a big commitment to make you moderately rich and a teensy bit famous. So you, the perfect Lizzie Bennet, who will only writes for love, not necessarily £10,000 a year, will be happy just to attach yourself with a publisher who respects you.
Never fear. This list will help you. (Last week, we mentioned the first five. Today we add five more!)
1. You should get a third party to look over a contract or legal document. If this potential publisher wants you to sign something, it is in your best interest to ask a lot of questions. Find a lawyer that specializes in contracts, or ask an agent to look something over for you. You don’t have to sign with an agent to sign a contract, but if you should be fully informed about what you’re signing. This is not one of those moments when I agree to the terms and conditions should be your knee-jerk reaction. And if your potential publisher doesn’t have a contract to sign, that means they’re depending on verbal agreements. This should be a red flag for you. A reputable publisher will be happy to provide you a contract, make adjustments, be patient with you while you get someone to look over it, and calm your nerves.
2. Make sure that they have professional editors working for them. Get names. Ask for specifics. Just because they say they’ll handle the editing, doesn’t mean that they will. You would hate it if your ARC was full of spelling and punctuation errors. It would be as embarrassing as having your petticoat six inches deep in mud. Need to find an editor? This is a list of reputable editors who would be happy to help you prepare your manuscript for publication. Check them out.
3. Make sure that they have professional graphic designers working for them. Ask what happens if you don’t like the cover. Ask other authors if they liked their covers. Ask for them to show you all of the covers that they have been responsible for in the past. If you don’t like what you see, you may want to rethink this relationship.
4. Know the difference between a self-publishing house, an indie house, and a vanity press. More importantly, know what kind of publishing house you are working with. Check out this article that explains what a vanity press is and why you sign up with on, you just may regret it.
5. Don’t be desperate. Beginning writers think that having the word “published author” is like a halo of legitimacy. In some ways it is, but waiting to get published with a reputable, trustworthy publisher is far better than rushing into a relationship that you’ll want to get out of in a few months. Take your time. Do your homework. Someday I’ll use your book to teach your ten children how to play their instruments very ill.
You want to be published! That’s been the goal all along! Your mother has four other writers in the house who need to marry well because if they don’t the estate will be entailed away to Harper Collins! (Oops, sorry. I got carried away!) But trust me, you don’t sign up with the first soldier that comes along.
You do have choices. While being published is a great accomplishment, it’s not the only opportunity for writers.