Publishing considerations

How to Identify a Reputable Publisher


Here are some basic guidelines to consider when searching and identifying a reputable publisher – independent or trade – and what some might describe as the “Big Five”.  But first a word of caution if you seek a publisher:

1. Don’t expect that trade publishers actively market your book – unless you are a celebrity.
2. YOU will need to proof them your author platform / potential readers.
3. Print books have only a couple of weeks to fly off the shelves in bookstores – or they become remainders.  Books that are not selling well in the first weeks will be returned to the publisher.

Where Can You Find Traditional Publishers?
Here are some examples of publisher listings:

Writer’s Market
For over 10 years, has been providing up-to-date listings and tools to help writers like you accomplish your writing goals. Over 9,000 listings for book publishers, literary agents, magazines, online publications, contests etc.

Publishers Global
A directory of global publishers, where you can sort by country, genre, language, city etc.  Browse through thousands of international service providers: editors, cover designers, printers, distributors, agents, publishers etc.

Publishers Weekly
Check out the yearly listing of the largest publishers.


… and certainly your local bookstore and library where you can find their books sorted by genre / category.  Booksellers or librarians will often know the names of many publishers, even small niche ones, mid-size houses, independent publishers, university presses etc.
Reputable trade and independent publishers don’t advertise for authors in newspapers and writing magazines.  Real Publishers are swamped with submissions.  They don’t need to look for authors!

Steps to Getting a Book Published:
Writing is an art – publishing is a business.  The first thing you need in every business is a plan, mapping out where you want to go and how to get there.

  • Determine your genre or category of work.
  • Calculate the commercial potential of your book.
  • Research appropriate agents or publishers for your manuscript.
  • Read submission guidelines of agents / publishers.
  • Submit a professional staged pitch to agents or publishers.

AVOID any publisher advertising for new authors
in newspapers, magazines and online.

Reputable trade and independent publishers don’t ask the author for money, ever, for any part of the publishing or marketing process.  A good publisher’s website is full of books and is aimed directly at the reading community – not to authors.  However, don’t always expect an advance (or a large one) on royalties from a small or niche publisher.  The size of advances is reducing quickly and some small publishers cannot afford anything more than a few hundred dollars in an advance.

Reputable trade and independent publishers
sell books 
– not author services. 

Unfortunately, more and more trade and independent publishers are developing imprints, and are offering publishing services.  Be very cautious of the motivations of editors or agents from publishers who refer your rejected manuscript to a paid-service imprint (of a well-known publisher or their affiliated self-publishing service.  You might be wondering why your book is not good enough to be accepted by the publisher, but still good enough to be published – at your own expense by an imprint or business affiliate the publisher owns or receives a commission.

How to Submit to a Publisher:
It’s difficult to directly submit to reputable publishers in the USA and internationally.  Some literary agents have insider contacts with specific editors and know better than writers what editor or publisher would be most likely to buy a particular work.  However it is somewhat easier in Canada to submit without an agent.  Publishers that accept unsolicited pitches, almost always require a letter of enquiry detailing a brief synopsis of your book for consideration.  Never send your whole manuscript to a publisher, open to direct submission, and be suspicious of the ones who are welcoming full submissions.  Here are 9 tips on how to write a query letter
and here is how to avoid errors when submitting.

Reputable publishers often have specific open and closed times each year for submissions due to the volume received.  Adhere to these guidelines and always study a publisher’s list before your submission.
Be wary of publishers you have never heard of – unless it is a large publisher listed in an official handbook – accepting anything and everything in all genres, especially poetry and short stories.  Most publishers, even independent ones, have specific imprints for various genres.

The “Other” Side.
Mike Shatzkin wrote in an article about the “indictment of the big publishers” that bestselling author Barry Eisler listed during a session at the Digital Book World 2015:

1. Trade publisher’s basic contract terms are all the same, which it felt at the time he was suggesting demonstrated collusion, but which in our subsequent exchange he clarified he interprets as evidence of “asymmetrical market power and a lack of meaningful competition”;

2. They pay too low royalties on ebooks, which he also attributes to their “asymmetrical power” and “an implicit recognition that publishers come out ahead if they don’t compete on digital royalties”;

3. They only pay royalties twice a year, rather than more frequently or more promptly, which Eisler also attributes to a lack of competition;

4. The term of big publisher contracts is normally “life of copyright”, which Eisler calls “forever terms”, and;

5. They reject a lot of authors. Here Eisler clarifies that this is not an “indictment, just an axiom”. I agree when he applauds self-publishing for creating a better world where “readers have more to choose from”.

Conclusion:  If an author has all these challenges, including  often unfair publishing contracts and waiting times, low royalties – and cannot even do the necessary marketing without huge problems, what is the point in having a publisher?  Why not author-publish, and be totally independent when it comes to your books’ design and marketing?


Top 10 Commands for Author-Publishers




Do you have a clear goal for your writing career – and a plan how to reach your “dream job” – becoming a successful full-time writer?  Or do you want to keep writing  just as a hobby?

Let’s assume you are a very talented writer and want to become a bestselling author. What are the requirements for your success?  Before starting to consult authors how to establish their platform and brand – and long before the first book marketing campaigns, I am sending clients a questionnaire in order to evaluate where they are standing in terms of publishing. Often it turns out that they want money and fame – but never really thought about how to get there. Here are the basics:


1. Have a Plan
Writing is an art – becoming a professional writer and selling your art is a business.  The first thing you need in every business is a plan, mapping out where you want to go and how to get there.

Bestselling author Brendon Bouchard said famously: “The time for a map is before you enter the forest. The same holds true when you set out on your career as an author. You need a map of where you are going—where you want to end up—before you start writing and before you enter the “forest” of your publishing career.  Ask yourself these questions that I listed in a previous article and give yourself honest answers before starting your book.  If you ever want to pitch a book idea to a publisher or an agent, you will be asked the same or similar questions.

2. Know Your Competition
The first thing a future business owner has to learn: who is the competition, how big are they, how do they run their business etc.  Oftentimes writers have never studied which compatible books are out there.  How can you research your competition?  First of all make a long list with possible keywords that readers might use to find a similar book.
Check out the complete categories / genres at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Sony, Google Books, Waterstones etc. and study all the books, that could be comparable to your future work.  Read the online reviews of their books carefully!  Visit not only book stores, but also public libraries to learn about your competition.  Borrow the most interesting ones, not only to read them, but also to study the book layout, list of contents and design.

3. Learn, Learn and Learn Even More…
To grab potential readers and book buyers attention you need to write an enticing blurb. Learn how to write it, it’s your most important selling tool. There are seven more reasons to make use of this blurb in your writing career.

Learn the 30-60 second description of your book, called the Elevator Pitch – but not what the book is about, rather the benefit for the reader to enjoy your book. Remember: number one rule in marketing is to show the consumer the benefit they will get from purchasing a product. The same applies to books and entertainment.

Learn to write for the web.  It’s extremely important to set up blogs, online articles and even your e-books in a way that makes it easy for readers – they are scanning, not reading on a digital device.

Learning how to layout print and digital books  are basics of an author-publisher.  If you don’t want to learn it, outsource to a reliable company with a proven track record (and talk to their clients before you order).  More and more writers are taking advantage of Print-on-Demand (POD) and create and publish their own books.  Authors who are “do-it-yourself” book lay-outers need to avoid an amateurish look of their books.  Visit a bookstore or library and browse through traditional book titles, or check out the first pages of Amazon print books and see how book layout is professionally done.

An author-publisher has to wear many different hats: writer, researcher, entrepreneur, accountant, book promoter, book lay-outer, web and blog designer etc. Not all of these tasks, beside the writing, might be desirable for you, and some have to be outsourced. However, learn about them too, so you can make educated decisions and know what exactly to order. Do your research and get lots of recommendations before you decide on a service.

4. Have a Platform
First comes the platform on which you build your marketing efforts – and later your book sales. Platform means the tools to get the word out for your books, such as Social Media, groups, your web presence, blogs etc.
Barely any author has an education as a marketing specialist, nor do they often know the difference between marketing and selling.  However you can learn it!  And you understand that the amount of potential readers increases as wider and larger your platform is built – on and off-line.
You do whatever you can to get your potential readers (buyers) to know, like and trust you so they purchase your book once it hits the bookstores – or when it is available for pre-sale.  If you want to sell something, you have to have access to potential customers.
With a platform, you promote directly to people who are eager to buy the product you offer. A medium to large and engaged platform will help to produce a bestseller easily.  If you don’t have a platform you won’t be able to create a bestseller even if you spend thousands of dollars for book promotions.

5. Know Who Are Your Readers
I know: the word research is often not very popular with authors – but unfortunately many writers can relate the lack of success for their book to the lack of research before writing, publishing and marketing. So:

  • Who are the readers in your genre?
  • Who are the readers of your competition?
  • Who are the reviewers of your competition?
  • Which bloggers write about your books competition?
  • In which communities / forums can you find readers in your genre?
  • Where are they on Social Media?
  • Do you follow or invite them to follow you?

There are thousands of reader communities on Goodreads, Google+ and other forums where you can meet your future readers.  Know your audience before you write rather than look for one after it’s done!

6. Have a Tribe
Engaged readers spread the word about your writing. To find engaged readers you have to reach out first: Following readers, reviewers, network, offer free writing examples, post single chapters on reader communities. Join writing / reading groups, and create excitement for your new books.

Success Coach Nina Amir explains: “If you haven’t developed a foundation of potential readers in your target market, your promotional efforts will fall flat.  You won’t have anyone to whom to market.”

Your tribe is everyone who follows you on Social Media, on forums or reading / writing communities or subscribes to your blog or email list.  It also consists of everyone who knows you, has heard of you, has purchased one of your books, wrote a review or even an author interview.  Ask these people to tweet about your new book releases or offer them a free e-book “for the price of a tweet”.


7. Write More
Not only books.  Write Magazine and newspaper articles.  And short stories.  Write a regular blog.  Practise, practise and practise more.  Every artists does it! Use your writing skills and even details from your research or your manuscript to create new content. information can be repackaged for any particular target audience.  It doesn’t take creativity, it just takes some editing, rewriting, adding a few stories, new ideas, and resources.  Then, you put it together in an organized, short, and simple format Start to make way more money with magazines articles or online content – and at the same time promote your books in the byline through links to your website and sales page.
Successful authors, such as Stephen King, Margret Atwood, the late Ray Bradbury etc. wrote / write short stories and articles.  Why not you?  People love to get samples.  Give them a sample of your writing.  You don’t earn a living from the sales of just one book. Think about how to build a business around your books, articles and products.  Don’t miss this huge opportunity of creating a career as a successful author.  Learn from bestselling author Steven Raichlen how this can be done.  Or think about R.K. Rowling: if she would have written just one Harry Potter book, she wouldn’t be now the richest women in the UK…

8. Have Realistic Expectations
Many writers with one single book, uploaded to Amazon – and nowhere else – become easily frustrated when their work doesn’t sell like hot cakes.  Three great books are the minimum to be recognized as an author and five books are the minimum to become a full-time writer, or in cold, hard numbers: 10,000 writing hours.  One way to succeed is to never give up!  When you study the life of the most successful writers in the world, you will learn that almost all of them struggled for many years, before they slowly, slowly were recognized and eventually became successful writers.

To speed that up write short stories, newspaper and magazine articles and even guest blogs to get the word out there about you as writer and about your books.  After all writing is what you like best!  As more diversified your writing is, as larger your audience becomes.


9. Study How Publishing Works
Avoid costly errors and traps that can rob you of your rights to use your own manuscript and avoid vanity tricksters.  Research every step of your writing and publishing career and don’t rush your book out.  If you would want to become a lawyer for example, you would understand the need of studying for years, to apprentice in court or at law firms etc.  So why would learning how to become a bestselling author-publisher any different?  Read this free blog with thousands of valuable tips (and warnings about scammers) or buy books about every aspect of publishing and book marketing, join writer groups and forums and learn from the errors of others.

10. Don’t Give Up
Sure, there is lots of competition out there, millions of books vying for readers.  Making a living from writing needs sometimes the will to gracefully blend art and commerce. Adjustments to a writers thinking might be necessary, in order to be able to sell the writing, but is usually well worth it.  And it is necessary too, no matter if you self-publish or if you go with a trade publisher.
Bestseller authors often need years and years to build up their audience, so it is surprising, that authors dream of their first book as a potential bestseller, and don’t realize that it takes a long time and hard work to get an audience, one reader at a time.

Get professional help, mentoring, counseling and support.
Become a successful author in 2015, maybe even a bestselling author. If you follow the 10 commands above, and writing book after book, and article after article, you will succeed!



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Comparison of Trade Publishing – Vanity – Author Publishing




Every writer, no matter if they author-publish (self-publish) or if they have sold their manuscript to a publisher, have to do their own marketing. But how can you promote your book, if you are on the mercy of a publisher – trade or vanity?  What if you don’t own the ISBN and if you have no access to the retailers’ publishing / author pages, such as Amazon, B&N or Apple?  We had clients who’s publishers where not able to properly set up the Amazon page, did not choose the proper category, took weeks to make changes to a wrong price and months to add the images and text the author had provided for their Goodreads or Amazon page.

This is a huge problem (among many others) that authors face after they have given away their work for a pittance – or worse, have paid thousands of dollars to a vanity publisher. So, what’s the difference between both, beside the fact that they make it difficult for their authors to market their books?


  • Author needs to have a platform
  • Trade publishers accept very few submissions (average: 4%)
  • Authors might have to pitch dozens or hundreds of puplishers / agents
  • Authors receive a small advance and even smaller royalties
  • They do not use POD (single or few books), rather print large quantities
  • Authors have barely any say to cover image, publishing date etc.
  • Authors cannot decide the sales price, e-book prices are often un-competitive
  • It takes very long until the book is published (12-18 months average)
  • Publisher pays for printing, editing services and cover image
  • Distribution services are covered by the publisher
  • Professional marketing services available – but only for celebrity writers
  • They own the ISBN for the book


  • Author needs to have a platform
  • Accepts almost ALL submissions
  • Author never receives any advance in this “partnership
  • Author contracts are often worse than those of trade publishers
  • Author pays for printing or ebook-formatting, editing services, cover image
  • Authors have barely any say to cover image, publishing date etc.
  • Authors cannot decide the sales price
  • Mostly Quick turnaround and Print on Demand (POD)
  • Barely any distribution services, compared to commercial publishers
  • Vanity publishers don’t live from book sales, they live from printing/author services
  • No professional marketing services
  • Very few royalties – if any at all
  • They own the ISBN for the book
  • Your book has only 3 months time in bookstores to sell – before being discarded!
  • Bookstores generally are wary of vanity books (except maybe local writers)


  • Authors needs to have a platform in order to build a brand
  • Needs to learn about the publishing / book distribution industry
  • Needs to plan the publishing / marketing process
  • Authors have to find / compare author services (POD, distribution, formatter, designer)
  • Authors pays for printing or ebook-formatting, editing services, cover image
  • Authors can decide everything: cover image, publishing date, retail price etc.
  • Authors can do their own or hire marketing services
  • Authors get up to 70% from the books retail price (or 100% if sold from own website)
  • Authors own their ISBN – which is FREE in Canada! and low-cost in other countrie
  • Bookstores generally are wary of author-published books (except maybe local writers)


If an author has all these challenges, waiting times (or costs to cover, in the worst scenario) – and cannot even do the necessary marketing without huge problems, what is the point in having or even paying a publisher?  Why not author-publish / self-publish in the first place, and be totally independent when it comes to your marketing?
Whatever you will decide, take your time, don’t rush in anything and don’t let you sell any services, before you have thoroughly evaluated them. It does not matter if your book launches a month or a year later – important is that you have a platform as a writer and that you find a way of publishing that suits you and that gives you the freedom of your own decisions. If you decide to go with a publisher, don’t forget: Real publishers sell to readers – vanity publishers sell to writers!



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Tagged: author-publishing, Book distribution, never go with a vanity publisher, platform in order to build a brand, Publishing Comparison, Publishing considerations, Trade Publishing, traditional publishers pro and con, vanity publishing, ways of publishing

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