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Selecting the right publisher is one of the most important decisions an author makes when bringing their book to market. The publisher you choose to work with impacts everything from editorial support, design, production, distribution and marketing reach. Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate publishers and find one that’s a great fit for your book and goals is an essential investment.
Here are some tips for identifying and vetting potential publishing partners:
Know what you’re looking for
First, get clear on the services you need from a publisher. Do you just need printing and distribution? Or are you seeking developmental editing, cover design and promotional support, too? Define your ideal publishing package. This shapes the publishers you target.
Also, know what rights you want to retain (film or television, foreign, etc.) and what grant and royalty split feels fair. And determine if you want an advance and how much. Outline your publishing vision to guide your search.
Related: Should You Self-Publish Your Book?
Research publisher categories
With so many publishers to choose from, segmenting them into categories helps you identify the most relevant options:
- The “Big 5” traditional publishers (Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette)
- Well-known independent publishers (Sourcebooks, Hay House, Zondervan)
- Academic/scholarly presses (Cambridge University Press, University of Chicago Press)
- Genre/category focused publishers (Familius for family books)
- Self-publishing companies (Author Solutions, Archway)
- Hybrid “partnership” publishers (She Writes Press)
Look for publishers specializing in your genre and target readership. A publisher with demonstrated success in your category suggests a strong market fit.
Related: 4 Reasons Why You Should Write a Multi-Author Book
Vet company reputation
Once you’ve identified publishers in your wheelhouse, vet their reputation and track record thoroughly. Look for how many long they have been in business and the number of books published. Vet their sales and distribution reach and who they’ve worked with. Also, look out for any industry awards and recognition — a reputation for editorial quality and good marketing efforts is crucial. A publisher with an established positive reputation gives confidence they can deliver on your behalf. But don’t assume household name recognition equals best fit.
Review comparable titles
Look closely at other titles the publisher has released in your genre/category. Gauge editorial quality, cover design and production value. Browse reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. How did the publisher position and market those books? How successful were they? This gives insight into what they could potentially achieve for your book.
Submit to prospective publishers
Once you’ve identified publishers that look like strong matches, submit to them according to their guidelines. That may involve querying with a proposal or sample chapters or simply submitting your full manuscript. Make each query personalized and compelling. Follow up diligently.
Related: Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing: Which Is Best for You?
Arrange meetings and compare offers
If a publisher expresses interest, arrange calls, video meetings or in-person meetings to discuss fit. Come prepared with questions about their publishing philosophy, operations, personnel, marketing plans, and more. Share your vision for the book and partnership. Gauge if you connect well with key staff editorially and commercially.
If you receive multiple offers, undertake careful due diligence comparing factors like the advance amount offered, royalty rates and structure and editorial commitment. Also, check out their sales and distribution tactics. Don’t simply choose whoever pays the highest advance. Weigh all components of the deal. A larger publisher isn’t necessarily better. Find the overall best fit.
Evaluate contract terms
Review any contracts thoroughly and negotiate where needed. Understand key clauses related to rights granted, territories, options on future works, reporting and payment terms, marketing efforts required, out-of-print reversions, and more. An experienced literary agent or IP attorney can help analyze contracts.
Related: How to Get a Book Contract From a Legitimate Publisher
Ask key questions
Throughout your discussions, ask questions to determine if this publisher is truly the right partner, such as:
- What do you love about my book and what’s your vision for it?
- What makes you uniquely positioned to bring this book to market successfully?
- What specific marketing activities would you execute if we partnered?
Take a long-term perspective on the publisher search. Finding the ideal match requires research, relationship building, due diligence and often some patience in searching for the right fit. But identifying a publishing partner who truly believes in your book and has the resources and passion to help it thrive makes it all worthwhile. With a spirit of collaboration and commitment, you can bring forth a successful book together.